On Canada Project is a social advocacy group made up of neighbourhood nerds who are here to dismantle the status quo and champion change in our lives.
Let’s talk about what happened to Jaahnavi Kandula
Our thoughts about the body cam footage of a police officer laughing about the death of a 23 year old woman in Seattle
If you’re Asian, specifically South Asian, you’ve likely seen the chilling and disgusting footage circulating this week. Nearly every major South Asian influencer, organization, and account has talked about this because the video and story depict a horrific blow and callous disregard for human life by police officers.
There are no words to convey the devastation
As you might know, OCP was founded by Samanta Krishnapillai, a Tamil-Canadian, and is led by both Krishnapillai and Panjabi-Canadian Gina Uppal.
Our team is a diverse group of people, many of whom identify similarly to Kandula.
So our organization is feeling every single moment of that video with deep, full-body grief.
But this is a moment to have an important conversation, so we are going to take a moment to divide this moment in two.
The first is what most people are talking about - the senseless and random death of Jaahnavi Kandula. It’s devastating, unacceptable, and horrific.
The second is the reaction to her death (in the previous clip) by a Police Officer, who is in a leadership role as VP of his union, Officer Daniel Auderer. This reaction and its larger systemic issues is what we’re going to take the time to unpack in this post.
$11,000 is the going rate for a South Asian woman*
To us, as an organization led by two South Asian women, what this incident illustrates is the value of a South Asian woman’s life to a police union in one of America’s most progressive cities.
So what we want people, particularly South Asians born and raised in North America, to sit with is the fact that $11,000 - which isn’t even the cost of a graduate program tuition in Seattle - is the value Officer Auderer and his police buddy on the phone put as the going rate of a South Asian Woman.
It doesn’t matter if Auderer and the union president on the phone were joking or not. That is the value that came to mind for someone who looks like us.
(**according to these Seattle police union leaders)
We are all Jaahnavi
There may be an unconscious urge to separate yourself from Jaahnavi depending on your own power and privilege. “It’s sad, but I’m not - [an international student, in America, a woman, South Asian, etc.,]” - the truth is if you are BIPOC, we are interchangeable in the eyes of power, so you are Jaahnavi.
And the police union's treatment of Jaahnavi’s death isn’t the exception - it’s the rule.
⏩ A reminder ⏬️
The "Me Too" movement seeks to tackle the deep-rooted, systemic problems of sexual harassment and assault. When the response is "Not All Men," it shifts the focus from these larger systemic issues to individual behaviour, effectively sidestepping the core problem. Similarly, knowing or being a 'good' police officer doesn't negate the systemic flaws within the policing system that need addressing.
Our world is upheld by systems of oppression, such as white supremacy, and people who are systemically neglected by these systems can often unwittingly side with the very forces that marginalize them. This is often an unconscious attempt to be perceived as an exception to the societal norms that disadvantage them. Some examples:
Social Class: Often, middle-class individuals distance themselves from working-class struggles, preferring to align with the wealthier elite. This division weakens the collective power that could be used to challenge injustices, such as labour exploitation.
Proximity to Privilege: Those who are marginally closer to societal norms of power — like white women, racialised cis-men, or gay white men — sometimes opt to align with the dominant group rather than advocating for broader systemic change. This can also be seen in so-called “model minorities” aligning themselves with ‘whiteness’ rather than Black and Indigenous peoples.
Dear South Asian and other (non-Black and non-Indigenous) people of colour:
Our timelines are covered with people— largely South Asians — who don’t usually talk about police violence, amplifying what happened to Jaahnavi Kandula.
If you’re talking about police violence for the first time, thank you. Thank you for engaging in a discourse that is often incorrectly labeled as ‘too political.’ It’s always scary the first time you do something new, so we want to thank you for taking this first step.
Our invitation to you is to take another step, and another after that. Because this may be your first time, but this has been a conversation that Black and Indigenous people have been leading for decades.
And the uncomfortable truth is that, too often, us “model minority” types use our relative privilege to align with whiteness/white supremacy/proximity-to-power rather than showing up in solidarity with Black and Indigenous peoples — and if we want incidents like what happened to Kandula to stop, we have to support Black and Indigenous peoples.
We are stronger together.
Disrupt the Status Quo (in the family WhatsApp group) Anti-Black and Anti-Indigenous sentiments run rampant in so many of our communities. Disrupt the casual racism and stigma.
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