Title media by
Lina Petronino

When Officer Daniel Auderer from the Seattle Police Department uttered the words, “She had limited value,” the South Asian diaspora as a whole felt the blow. Jaahnavi Kandula, a Northeastern graduate student, undoubtedly deserved better when she was recklessly struck by a police vehicle; but a larger conversation about the South Asian community’s relationship with the police has begun to ignite.

Kandula, who had been mere months away from graduating, was thrown 138 feet Jan. 23 when she was struck by Kevin Dave, an officer from the Seattle Police Department. Dave had been speeding through an intersection at 74 mph in a 25 mph zone without a continuous siren while responding to a drug overdose call. According to the Seattle Police Department report about the incident, Kandula had been legally crossing the intersection when the incident occurred.

Despite the brutality of Kandula’s death, it was Auderer's truly egregious remarks, expressed after he was dispatched to investigate Dave for signs of impairment, that detail the lack of humanity so many others in law enforcement display.  These remarks were brought to light Sept. 11, eight months after Kandula’s passing, through the release of body cam footage

“It’s a regular person…yeah, just write a check,” Auderer was heard saying in the footage. “Yeah, $11,000…She had limited value.” 

Immediately after viewing the body cam footage, it was resignation—not frustration or anger—that caused me to pause. As a South Asian woman, my immediate reaction was not of outrage, but of acceptance. Acceptance that Kandula’s death will never elicit  any police accountability. In that moment, those remarks acted as an affirmation of the myth of the American Dream for the minority community.          

Like many South Asians, Kandula’s story encapsulates the immigrant experience. Kandula, who was the daughter of a single mother, came to Seattle from India to study so she could one day support her mother, according to The Seattle Times. For many immigrants who come to this country hoping for a better life while facing the pressure to assimilate, the police may always view them as outsiders; as individuals who do not deserve protection or do not have value. 

Auderer’s comments serve as another confirmation of the disrespect and lack of empathy some police officials hold towards the people they are sworn to serve, especially if those people are of color.  A recent study found empathy is seldom demonstrated by police officials in the aftermath of police killings of unarmed Black Americans. While not a member of the Black community, there is the resigned question of how her story might have ended differently if she were a white woman, and not an immigrant. Kandula represents just another name and future lost to the racially-biased carelessness of the U.S. justice system.          

It is no surprise—but still a deep source of frustration—that Kandula was first the victim of police negligence, and was then mocked for her identity and her place in the world by the same people who had failed her. There is deeply-rooted racism within the U.S. police force that continues to take lives with little remorse and few consequences. Kandula’s story cannot be forgotten, and must be used to structure policy and legislation, to build a brighter future for young South Asian women in the United States.