- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2016

A journalist who covered the Milwaukee riots this month wrote an essay for Politico magazine detailing his horrific beating during the violence that only stopped after his black attackers realized he was Chinese-American.

Aaron Mak, an intern who was reporting on scene for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, said he was brutally beaten while covering the racial riots, prompted by the Aug. 13 police killing of Sylville Smith, an armed 23-year-old black man.

“Shortly after I arrived, I saw the beginnings of a shoving match between a line of policemen in riot gear and the distraught residents of the neighborhood. I was the only non-black person there at the time,” he wrote. “By nightfall, I was crouching behind a Chevy Suburban to avoid bullets. Another intern, a white man who had arrived later on to take photos, huddled beside me. After the gunfire ceased, he emerged from behind the car to take more pictures while I stayed behind.

“‘Get your white ass out of here!’ he soon heard. ‘You better not let me f—ing catch you!’” Mr. Mak recalled.

He said the white man, a Journal Sentinel colleague, took off running with a gang of men chasing behind him. Not knowing what to do, Mr. Mak said he started to run after them and yelled at his colleague to get out of the area. That’s when the angry mob turned on him.

“As a former back-of-the-pack runner in middle school gym class, I wasn’t surprised when they caught me,” Mr. Mak wrote. “When they threw me to the ground, I reflexively curled up into a ball. Blows landed on my back, head and torso. ‘Stop! He’s not white! He’s Asian!’

“I wasn’t sure who said it, or how they knew my race, but within seconds, the punches stopped,” he continued. “Someone grabbed me by the arm and lifted me up. As my vision came back into focus, I saw a group of concerned black faces and heard someone repeating, ‘Don’t f— with Chinese dudes.’ My attackers had run off. Those who had intervened escorted me to safety.”

Mr. Mak went on to explain that as an Asian-American, he is also concerned about systemic racism and the misuse of power in the U.S.

“[I]t would be naive for me to pretend — especially in moments like this, when anger over the treatment of African-Americans bubbles over into violence — that race wasn’t part of why people came out to protest in Milwaukee, or part of sifting out who belongs there,” he wrote. “As race and police violence become a higher-profile issue in America, many Asian-Americans are still trying to figure out where — or if — we fit in to the movement.”

Mr. Mak said there appears to be two camps that Asian-American activists typically fall into.

“One is supportive of BLM and sees the elimination of police brutality toward black people as a moral imperative on its own account, but also as a victory that will uplift all minorities. The other camp is much more skeptical of the movement, preferring to improve the justice system incrementally and focus on challenges that Asian-Americans face, such as difficulty accessing health care and low rates of English proficiency,” he argued.

Mr. Mak said he called his conservative immigrant grandparents after the incident to tell them what happened, worrying that it would tarnish their view of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“While I don’t condone the attacks on my Journal Sentinel colleague and me, I don’t think our experience represents the movement overall,” he wrote. “I wanted to move on to talk about the many African-Americans who stopped my attackers, who got me to safety and who may very well have saved me from more serious injuries.”

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