Police will not keep Asian communities safe from violence
Seattle Police officers patrol in the heart of Seattle's Chinatown-International District Thursday, March 18, 2021. In the wake of recent episodes of violence and bias against Asians in Seattle and nationwide, law enforcement presence in heavily Asian neighborhoods has increased. | Ted S. Warren / AP

Police presence in Asian communities across the country has expanded after several acts of violence against Asians in the last year and the recent Atlanta massacres of eight people, including six Asian women working at massage parlors. Yet increased police presence in Asian neighborhoods will only bring criminalized members of those communities into contact with law enforcement, likely endangering them even further.

For Asian women working in red-light districts like Atlanta’s midtown area where the shootings occurred, police raids often cause more harm—from further sexual exploitation by police to deportation, criminalization, and seizure of assets.

Police themselves are agents of white supremacy and cannot be trusted to protect migrants or massage parlor workers. These forces have never existed in the interest of genuine public safety and justice, but rather to exert social control and further marginalize communities vulnerable to violence. Acts of violence against Asians, particularly Asian women, reflect Sinophobia and the escalating Cold War against China as well as patriarchal violence and the white supremacy that is endemic to the fabric of the United States.

Many high-profile Asian celebrities and community members have called for increased collaboration with the police, surveillance, and state intervention. But the state and its police force have a long history of targeted violence against Asians, from profiling South Asians and Muslims to deportations to police violence and labor exploitation. Building strong communities; creating protections for vulnerable Asian workers; promoting community education in patriarchy, imperialism, and white supremacy; and instituting violence interruption programs are all more effective alternatives to policing that will address the roots of violence in the U.S.

Some Asian community organizations are already teaching self-defense, but it is essential to combine self-defense programs with strong political education that combats rising Sinophobia and misogyny. The U.S. Cold War against China is a bipartisan affair, one that has led directly to increasingly popular negative views of China and Chinese people among Americans. This, combined with the violent fetishization and hyper-sexualization of Asian women in Western culture and the construction of Asian women as a sexual fantasy for white men, are among the roots of the Atlanta massacre. The white supremacist murderer himself was a frequent sex buyer at massage parlors run and staffed by women of Asian descent.

Violence interruption programs, empowering the communities impacted, and dismantling the social relations at the root of this violence are necessary public safety interventions that do not rely on the police state to protect us.

Police must not get the opportunity to take advantage of the Atlanta massacre and widespread violence against Asians in order to expand their presence in and surveillance of marginalized communities. A vision for public safety without police is imperative; only we can keep ourselves safe.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.


Asha Ramachandran
Asha Ramachandran

Asha Ramachandran is a student journalist and community organizer, passionate about prison abolition and transformative justice, active in Manhattan and central Massachusetts.