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Generational Split Of Opinions Within Asian American Community Over Safety Of Police


The shootings in Atlanta have stoked fear among Asian Americans. In the San Francisco Bay Area, reports of violence against the community have been on the rise for months. There's discussion about how to stay safe, but there's a generational split about the best way to do that. From member station KQED in San Francisco, Julie Chang reports.

JULIE CHANG, BYLINE: After a recent string of robberies and violent attacks against seniors in Oakland's Chinatown, a local organizer started a GoFundMe to hire armed security guards. So far, it's raised more than $85,000. And if you visit the neighborhood, you'll see the guards patrolling the area. Weng Kee Fu has been operating Ruby King Bakery in Chinatown for more than 30 years.

WENG KEE FU: (Non-English language spoken).

J CHANG: Fu says he wants more police in the area, but since that's not happening, he welcomes the armed security guards and says they help community members feel safe.

FU: (Non-English language spoken).

J CHANG: Fu understands the recent calls for defunding police and reinvesting that money into community programs. But he believes officials need to focus on removing bad officers instead of abolishing the police force at large. And he thinks police presence is still needed to deter crime. And Fu is not alone.

CARL CHAN: I ask all of our seniors in Chinatown and basically all of our businesses, do you want to see police in this community?

J CHANG: Carl Chan is with the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

CHAN: So far, I haven't heard anybody say no.

J CHANG: But that sentiment isn't shared by everyone.





J CHANG: At this rally, local organizers spoke out in support of crime victims. Many of the merchants and seniors in Chinatown are first-generation immigrants. But here at this event, they tended to be younger and born in the U.S. And this generation is mindful of the ongoing calls for racial justice and police accountability.

ENER CHIU: Racial profiling is lazy.

J CHANG: Local activist Ener Chiu is concerned about viral videos that show Black people hurting Asian American seniors. He fears they unfairly stereotype African Americans as criminals. At the rally, he denounced more police as a solution, arguing it pits minorities against one another and risks endangering Black lives.

CHIU: It escalates the tension that makes violence against people and property more likely. And it makes all of us less safe.


J CHANG: Some organizers also say it's unclear if the attacks were racially motivated. Meanwhile, racial studies experts say there's a long history of white Americans targeting Asian Americans in times of crisis - for example, during World War II or the U.S. Japan trade tensions in the '80s. Chiu and others are calling for solutions that address the root causes of crime, like poverty, gentrification and lack of mental health services.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Our city and our nation is experiencing some challenges right now as a result of some anti-Asian rhetoric.

J CHANG: At a separate event a few blocks away, local leaders, both Black and Asian, called for unity between their two communities. Chaney Turner, an Oakland business owner, said the generational divide around policing isn't just within the Asian community.

CHANEY TURNER: It's the same with the Black community, right? Our older community have been conditioned that police keep them safe.

J CHANG: Turner says they're not upset at those in Chinatown calling for more police.

TURNER: We need to have conversations with our loved ones and, you know, in communities to really explain why the police isn't and has not kept us safe.

J CHANG: Those conversations are beginning to happen. Chamber of Commerce President Carl Chan supports services meant to address the root causes of crime, but he's still skeptical.

CHAN: Let me say this. When there are no crimes, we don't need the police.

J CHANG: He says with violence on the rise now, Chinatown needs more immediate solutions. For NPR News, I'm Julie Chang in Oakland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.