On Amber Liu and Systemic Racism

Note: Please do not send hate to Amber Liu. This article is not intended as hate, rather an analysis of systemic racism. 

As BLM continues on, and some of the drive pushing the movement dwindles, I write this in hopes to keep the movement going. While this topic may not relate specifically to the movement itself, it has remained in the back of my mind. With this I hope to bring light to a disconnect in American cultural norms. 

So, on Amber Liu. For those who don’t know her, she is a former kpop star, but also a Chinese American born in SoCal. I believe she is someone who has tried to contribute to the narrative as an ally, however most know her as an individual who went viral on Twitter for racial insensitivity. What was this was a YouTube video with Just Kidding News, where she made comments about police brutality. Ones which quickly had her canceled on social media. 

Twitter, phone, app

In the video, she reacted to a viral clip of police brutality towards a Black individual who was harassed and arrested for eating a sandwich in the subway. After watching the video, Amber commented "I think he deserved it. He was being super disrespectful. You don't have to act like that towards a police officer. A police officer is a police officer. You should still have some type of respect. Know your rights, but show some type of respect.”

If systemic racism didn’t exist, then what she said would make some sense. Yes, in a perfect world police officers exist to protect the public, and they deserve some sense of respect. But in the US, that is seemingly impossible. What she failed to understand was how systemic racism enabled the event to occur. Her comment had her trending on Twitter, where she was quick to apologize for her insensitivity and ignorance. But what makes this issue complex is Amber’s youth/teenage years, which were spent in South Korea. 

While she sounds just as American as I do, she was socialized in a different cultural climate. South Koreans are much more conservative, and the country lacks a lot of racial diversity seen in the US. Because of this, she spoke with the cultural norms she understood, without the added lens of systemic racism. And this is just my opinion here, but this context feels important to how we call out Amber versus, say, an American celebrity. Amber really didn’t know. 

She said, “A police officer is a police officer.” They should have some type of respect. If systemic racism didn’t exist in the US, this could hold true. The truth is much darker. Police in the US were formed as a system of oppression, and still carry that purpose today. They are a wall of blue, upholding the legacy of slavery. Systemic racism exposes a system built upon the suffering of Black lives. In America, we can’t reach a point where “all lives matter” because Black Lives still don’t have the same value as the straight White man.

A police officer isn’t simply a police officer. Amber Liu failed to understand that the police are the thread which binds the fabric of systemic racism. Down to the very roots, this nation was built corrupt. 

I personally felt this event was pertinent to discuss because it reflects just how nuanced racial dynamics are in the US. As an individual who was born and raised in the US, systemic racism is a topic I continue to educate myself on. BLM has brought racism in police brutality to the spotlight, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Systemic racism exists in every aspect of the US, from healthcare, to education, to economic brackets. It is laced within the very foundation of this country, which was written in the White male perspective. 

There is also a reason I bring up Amber Liu in this context. What happens when an idol you respect comes into question? What should you do when they’re ‘canceled’? While I view this as a gray zone, which varies case by case, I believe there is a clear answer. Do your research. If individuals went to watch the full video, instead of the cut on Twitter, the internet wouldn’t be so quick to cancel her. I'm personally happy to see that she's using her platform to speak out on BLM, taking action to right her mistake. I don't think sending her hate was productive.

Amber's upbringing complicates things, I can see how she didn't understand the depths of systemic racism. As a non-Black person, her apology isn't for me to accept. However, for the fans out there deciding whether to pull their support, I feel it should be acknowledged that she has educated herself and become an ally who truly tries to help the cause. As an individual originally ignorant towards the situation, who didn’t understand the implications of her words, she apologized and learned. But from seeing how Amber has changed, I believe it is possible for others to do the same. And while this might be an optimistic view, I believe that the same can happen to others. 

Watching Amber learn and change feels important because most of us know someone like Amber Liu. Whether they didn’t grow up in the US, or simply never learned the nuances of America’s socioeconomic-political culture, these individuals still have the opportunity to educate themselves and become a proper ally. I have seen the people around me change, and it’s possible for others too. Please continue to learn about the situation, amplify Black voices, and have important talks with the ones surrounding you. Don’t let Black Lives Matter become a trend.