About 120 people closed their eyes and bowed their heads in silence Wednesday afternoon at the Sample Gates to mourn the eight victims who died in the Atlanta spa shootings March 16.
IU students, graduate workers, faculty and staff members and other members of the Bloomington community gathered at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday to mourn and protest the recent surge of anti-Asian violence in the U.S. The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition organized the gathering.
Several students held up signs reading “fuck your bad day,” a reference to Cherokee County sheriff spokesperson Capt. Jay Baker’s comment to reporters following the Atlanta shooting that the suspect had a “bad day.” Another sign read, “Asian is not a virus, racism is.”
Pallavi Rao, an IU Ph.D. candidate and a member of the IGWC, kicked off the gathering by leading the crowd in eight chants of “stop Asian hate.”
“They lived, they thrived, they loved, they persevered to be successful, whatever field of business they were in,” she said. “They leave behind grieving family members and friends.”
Following a minute of silent mourning, Huixin Tian, a member of the IGWC and a doctorate student at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, spoke about the violence as rooted in long-standing anti-Asian stereotypes. She said Asians have long been the target of jokes about their culture, language and appearance, and are often forgotten in American society.
“We stand for a world where everyone is treated as an equal human being,” she said.
Vauhxx Booker, a member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, said Monroe County isn’t immune to white supremacy. He mentioned an attempted lynching he fell victim to last July and said Asian and Black Americans must stand in solidarity to speak out against racism.
“It shouldn’t be that we wait till there’s been a tragedy in a community that we speak up,” he said. “We need to be making a stance every day, in every way we can.”
Ellen Wu, associate professor of history and a member of the Indiana chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, encouraged those at the gathering to sign the chapter’s petition to ask Gov. Eric Holcomb to recognize anti-Asian hate and take official action, including establishing an advisory committee for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Meloddy Gao, an IU senior and president of the IU Asian American Association, said Asian Americans need to check in on one another’s mental health in a period of increased anti-Asian hate.
“Hate and white supremacy don’t belong here,” she said. “We are exactly where we belong.”
Simon Luo, a Ph.D. candidate in political science and a member of the IGWC, said IU needs to protect its Asian students and graduate workers, because they are not threats to U.S. national security.
“We live here, we work here, we contribute to the Bloomington community,” he said as the crowd’s cheers escalated. “We deserve to be treated with equality and respect.”
Rao ended the gathering saying that the fight against anti-Asian hate is not over.
“We will persevere,” she said.
Nonprofit incident-reporting center STOP AAPI HATE received nearly 3,800 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents nationwide since mid-March last year, according to their report released in February. The report found that women reported hate incidents 2.3 times more than men.
Tian said she was shocked but not surprised by the level of anti-Asian violence in the Atlanta shootings and around the country. She said after former President Donald Trump and his administration began calling the coronavirus the “China virus” last spring break, she started carrying a baton and an alarm for protection when she jogged outdoors or walked on the streets by herself.
Tian said she and other members of the IGWC decided to hold the gathering because staying silent implies tolerance for racism and xenophobia.
“The feeling we share is we do not have a choice – we have to do that,” she said. “We have to show out that, no, there’s no space for it.”