We, the Asian Pacific Student Association (APSA) at UC Irvine wholly support the Black Student Union’s demand to abolish the police and any additional paramilitary forces on campus.
In response to an incident regarding the interrogation and endangerment of a Black student and continued anti-blackness, the Black Student Union (BSU) at UCI released a statement demanding the abolition of UCIPD and additional paramilitary forces on campus. APSA’s commitment to education, advocacy, and active political participation as a means of establishing equality compels us to interrogate the role of police in matters of safety and crime prevention. Police killings, assault, and harassment are increasingly brought into mainstream discussion due to a rise in civilian coverage including the events detailed in the BSU demand. This reality defies the popular notion that police are critical to crime prevention and people’s safety.
As an organization that values social justice, political equity, and student empowerment, APSA considers the safety of Black students to be imperative. We recognize the systemic racism that makes our campus unsafe for Black students. We support the BSU unconditionally in their demand beyond the abolition of UCIPD itself but to the “anti-Black paradigm of policing” which enacts violence on Black people.
The implications of police violence extend beyond Black students and the Black community. Historically, the different forms of systematic oppression against non-Black people of color, trans and queer people, undocumented immigrants derive from the template of anti-Black violence. Structural violence against non-Black people of color does not occur in the same degree or systematicness as anti-black violence, but police violence against AAPI communities exists and comes from a foundation of anti-blackness.
In Orange County, the Cal-Gang database collected data racially profiling the Vietnamese community. Photos of Vietnamese youth were taken without their consent so police could further identify “gang symbols” based on the hairstyles, clothes, and tattoos they wore. The criminalization of gangs and racial profiling, derived from anti-Blackness, criminalized and victimized Vietnamese youth.
From 1942-46, the American government ordered Japanese American internment, or the incarceration of American people of Japanese descent in internment camps. Despite having determined that Japanese Americans posed no military threat, American military forces criminalized and punished Japanese Americans. The prison system, designed for the dehumanization and “othering” of Black people was used to deprive Japanese Americans of their human rights.
These incidents demonstrate that anti-Black violence also manifests in violence against Asian Americans. However, there is a need to acknowledge anti-blackness within Asian American communities. The support of and protests for NYPD officer Peter Liang makes this clear. Liang, unlike white police officers Darren Wilson and Brian Encinia, was indicted and convicted of manslaughter for the death of a black man Akai Gurley. This difference in sentencing reflects anti-Asian racism in the criminal justice system. However, Chinese-American support for Liang reflects an Asian American desire to gain impunity for participating in police brutality against Black people rather than eliminate the structure that creates that violence and allows white police officers to kill. We condemn Asian American participation in anti-blackness and oppressive structures.
Abolishing the police means abolishing myth of Black criminality that justifies all kinds of police violence, harassment, and sexual assault. It means ending the myth that policing leads to safety and crime prevention. The demand to abolish the police is to understand that police murders of Black people in the past and present are not being brought “to justice.” It is to understand that Asian American communities suffer violence as a result of anti-Black policing.
We support BSU’s demand to abolish the police, choosing to support the demands of our Black peers. We recognize anti-Blackness in Asian American communities even in the way we perpetrate antiblackness not only through incidents/events but also through everyday experiences and interactions, such as using the “n” word in conversation or on an album cover and appropriating black culture and black bodies while disregarding black lives.We support this petition as a step towards creating a safe system for Black students at UCI and a safer world without the institution of policing.
We strongly urge Asian Americans and folks of Asian descent to support the BSU demand by reading their open letter and signing their petition (https://www.change.org/p/howard-gillman-uc-irvine-administration-university-of-california-uc-irvine-demands-to-abolish-the-police). We also urge allies and accomplices to sign on to APSA’s support of the BSU demand to abolish the police.