Members of the Bloomington community rallied in support of Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities on Feb. 4 at Dunn Meadow. The rally was held in response to the racially motivated stabbing of an 18-year-old Asian student on a Bloomington transit bus in January.
The event was organized by the City of Bloomington Office of the Mayor, the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association Indiana Chapter, IU and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum Indiana Chapter.
More than 100 people gathered at Dunn Meadow for the rally, which was free and open to the public. Linda Shi, APAPA Indiana chapter president, said she and APAPA Indiana Chapter Vice President Joy Basa-King began planning the rally shortly after the stabbing in January. Shi said after reaching out to IU about the event, many different groups on campus wanted to get involved in organizing the rally.
“Instead of challenges and barriers, what we experienced was an overwhelming positive reaction,” Basa-King said. “Lots of groups wanted to partner with us, so we felt really good that this was the right thing to do.”
Other collaborators for the rally included the City of Bloomington Community and Family Resources Department, IU Asian Culture Center, Asian American Association at IU, IU Jewish Cultural Center, IU Department of American Studies, IU Dean of Students Division of Student Affairs and the IU Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs.
[Related: UPDATE: Wednesday stabbing victim identified as IU student]
The rally opened with a welcome message from Shi, who asked the rally participants to join her in a moment of silence to recognize the attack on the IU student. Mary Catherine Carmichael, deputy mayor for the City of Bloomington, the first speaker of the event, said people should respond to acts of racism by serving their community through civic engagement.
Next, Shruti Rana, senior assistant dean and professor at the Hamilton Lugar School and affiliated professor of law at the Maurer School of Law, addressed attention to whether the stabbing case will be charged as a hate crime. Rana said Indiana’s hate crime statute, which imposes longer sentences for crimes motivated by bias, is too vague to protect those who face discrimination. Rana said hate crime statues often fail to prevent racism and discrimination and said people should look beyond the law for ways of creating change.
IU alumni Hiromi Yoshida then shared two of her poems, which recounted acts of Asian hate and discrimination. The rally also included speeches from three IU students, Wenxi Lu, freshman Parnasi Bandyopadhyay and sophomore Katelyn Wo who shared their experiences as Asian students at IU.
[Related: Resources available for Asian American and Pacific Islander students, community members]
Basa-King then shared a story about her mother, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines at 19 years old in 1962. Basa-King said although her mother has lived in the U.S. for almost all her adult life, she is still mistreated and viewed as a foreigner. Basa-King urged those at the rally to examine their assumptions of others and hold perpetrators of discrimination and violence accountable.
Michelle Waugh Dahl, co-chair of the NAPAWF Indiana Chapter, spoke about recent acts of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans such as the January shooting in Monterey Park, California on Lunar New Year’s Eve and the comments made by Purdue University Northwest Chancellor Thomas Keon during a December commencement ceremony, where he appeared to mock Asian languages. Waugh Dahl announced that the NAPAWF Indiana Chapter has launched a petition to urge Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb to take steps to combat racism, xenophobia and intolerance.
Shi said she hopes the rally will raise awareness towards the anti-speech, aggressions and microaggressions AAPI individuals face.
“People need to hear our voices because a lot of times AAPI people tend to put their heads down and just try to pretend there’s nothing happening,” Shi said. “We need to really have our voices out so that people can hear them, and so people know we suffer, and we can make a deep impact on the community and people.”
[Related: IU students and staff rally for peaceful protest march for LGBTQ+ community]
IU sophomore Belle Chatpunnarangsee, who works for the ACC, said while the Bloomington community has for the most part been welcoming, she has experienced racism at various points in her life.
“I think events like these are important to highlight student experiences,” Chatpunnarangsee said. “It’s also a great place for people to connect and share their stories with one another.”