By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

As events surrounding the death of Freddie Gray in police custody continue to unfold in Baltimore, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) civil rights leaders are urging solidarity across communities, as many Asian Americans find themselves awkwardly inserted into the conversation.

Civil rights leaders are pointing out that AAPIs are often brought into the conversation as evidence of social unrest of racial division, and caution that many live in the same communities and are subject to the same pressures.

“All officers who kill must be held accountable, or there will continue to be more Rekia Boyds, more Akai Gurleys, more Freddie Grays, and yes, more Yong Xin Huangs,” Cathy Dang, Executive Director of CAAAV, told NBC News as the indictment of the six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray was announced. “It's a sign of progress that much like NYPD Officer Peter Liang, who shot killed Akai Gurley at the end of last November, these officers will now go through our court system.”

According to the 2010 US Census, the Baltimore metropolitan area has the third largest Korean-American community in the nation, with many small businesses and community organizations working to build community relationships.

“Baltimore is home to many diverse communities, and during this time of unrest, it’s easy to frame the story as one about negative race relations between Asian Americans and African Americans,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, in a statement. “But the tension and anger in Baltimore between communities of color is not simply about race; it’s merely a symptom and consequence of a neglected community. The real story is the economic injustice and the desperation of families struggling to survive in Baltimore.”

Dang continued, “As Asian Americans, we've benefited so much from the gains of Black-led movements for racial justice in the US, and our history shows that when we stand together, we all win. We should recognize that we have more to gain from seeking justice than from maintaining the status quo.”

IN-DEPTH

SOCIAL