Three years has passed since the unjust beating of a Hmong American man in Vinita, Oklahoma. It was on March 1, 2011 when Neng Yang was driving on a rural pathway to locate his uncle’s farm when he encountered dogs running in the road. He swerved in an attempt to miss running over any of the dogs but ended up running over one. Immediately following the incident Mr. Yang stopped his vehicle and stepped out to apologize to Scott Osborn, the dog owner. Osborn (who is 6’1” and 250 pounds) “punched” Mr. Yang (who is 5’1” and 140 pounds) who was then knocked to the ground unconscious. After Mr. Yang came to, he repeatedly apologized to Osborn and offered to compensate for damages.
As shared in Mr. Yang’s statement, after he claimed consciousness, Osborn told him to stand up and put his hands on his head. He then proceeded to tell him (Mr. Yang) to shake hands, not to say anything, not do anything stupid and go. Nevertheless, in Osborn’s statement, he states that his son was inches away from the dog and yelled at Mr. Yang (who was still in the car) when the incident occurred. Mr. Yang then stopped his vehicle, got out and he threw his hands in the air. Osborn felted threatened and believed Mr. Yang was going to hit him and acted out of self-defense and hit Mr. Yang. Osborn claimed he hit Mr. Yang only once.
However, as you can see from the photo shown above, Mr. Yang’s injuries did not happen from one punch. Mr. Yang was hospitalized for several days and suffered a concussion He also suffered shattered bones to the face, broken ribs and needed facial reconstructive surgery. In addition, he suffered from severe nerve damages to both of his eyes and will have tunnel vision as well as lose all sight of his blind spots. Damages done to Mr. Yang could have not come from one punch.
It took nearly a week for the police to investigate the incident and make an arrest for Osborn who was arrested on charges of assault and battery. He was arrested and released on the same day on a $15,000 bond. I may not be a lawyer but after reading the medical report of Mr. Yang’s injuries, Osborn should have been charged with attempted manslaughter.
A trial jury took place a year after the beating occurred and we learned that the maximum sentence Osborn would receive if he pleads guilty on charges of aggravated assault and battery is 5 years of imprisonment and a $500 fine. The charges were absurd and I believe certain measures should have been taken to ensure that there would be a fair trial.
The trial did take place over a course of a few days before there was a verdict. Osborn was found guilty of felony aggravated assault and battery and would spent one year in the Craig County Jail and be fined $500.
I am not pleased at all about the outcome of the verdict because no justice was done to Mr. Yang. Osborn was even get off with not having to pay restitution for medical expenses related to the injuries Mr. Yang sustained from the beating.
I would have to agree with advocates of Mr. Yang that the nature of his beating would have constituted as a hate crime in many states, however, Oklahoma has no hate crime legislation.
But what is a hate crime? A hate crime is defined by federal or state statutes and is a crime that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, and disability. Some of the crimes include assault, battery, criminal damage to property, and criminal trespass to property. Hate crimes are difficult to prosecute because bias does not mean a hate crime occurred and the act must be shown to have been motivated, in full or in part, by the biased attitude. The state must also meet a probable-cause standard with a sufficient amount of indicators such as a victim, offender, community, crime-crime scene and victim-offender relationship. Furthermore, hate crimes are motivated by prejudice and bigotry and pose a unique danger to society because, while they often result in an attack on an individual, they can affect the fundamental rights and emotional well-being of entire communities by making them feel vulnerable and isolated. It causes tension, which may erupt into violence between members of different ethnic, religious or racial groups.
It makes it extremely difficult to make the case that Mr. Yang was a victim of a hate crime because Oklahoma does not have hate crime legislation. Furthermore, Mr. Yang would not be able to prove anyone with evidence of what happened to him during the time he fell unconscious.
The most difficult part of organizing a movement around getting justice for Mr. Yang was well, everything. Although there was much support from the community both locally and nationally (my apologies if I do not include your names), it was extremely difficult to get communities engaged in the effort. My co-organizing partner and great friend, Lasia Xiong, worked so hard alongside with me to organize a campaign that could break the silence of what was unjustly done. We worked incredibly hard to spread awareness about Mr. Yang’s case, outreach to communities and organizations to assist us with our organizing efforts, fundraise to provide some financial assistance for Mr. Yang’s expenses.
We lacked the knowledge and experience, resources, and community engagement to organize effectively. In part, expressing how communities and individuals can show their support became extremely challenging for us as well. In addition, we were two full-time students who also worked. Time and other commitments made it extremely difficult for us to mobile a more effective campaign.
Regardless of these difficulties, we knew one thing. We knew that something had to be done about this and that being silent was not the way. So I applaud and respect those who work tirelessly every day towards creating social change and to improve the lives of others.
If there is anything that I learned from my community organizing experience in Oklahoma, it’s that you have to be prepared. You will have little to no resources to assist your efforts, capacity-building will be difficult, community engagement will be flaky and you will get discouraged and you will get burnt out. However, you shouldn’t give up. All it takes is one voice and one action.
These are the reasons I support Making Herstory in their social media campaign against police brutality; I realize that police brutality is a form of a hate crime in itself. I encourage you to post a picture of yourself with a paper saying, “Today Luis Rodriguez would have celebrated his birthday. . . #endpolicebrutality” on what would-be Luis’ birthday – this Saturday, April 12th, 2014.