On Jan. 11, an Asian student at Indiana University, who was riding a Bloomington city bus, was repeatedly stabbed in the head by another passenger.
A fact that emerged later, in the probable cause affidavit submitted to the court, was the suspect’s description of her motivation: It was based on the victim’s race—she was Asian. The suspect has been charged with attempted murder.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, about 250 people gathered in Dunn Meadow, on the IU campus, to show support for Bloomington’s Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander community.
The reason for the rally was evident in a sign held by one man, which read “We should be able to ride the bus SAFELY.”
A woman wore a T-shirt with a message written in cursive: “Thank you for not stabbing me.”
Among those addressing the crowd were: Linda Shi, president of the Asian Pacific Islander Public Affairs (APAPA) Indiana chapter; deputy mayor Mary Catherine Carmichael, assistant dean of the Hamilton Lugar School Shruti Rana; IU alum Hiromi Yoshida; Joy Basa-King, vice president APAPA; and Michelle Waugh Dahl, co-chair of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Indiana Chapter.
Three more women, who are all Indiana University students, delivered remarks.
Wenxi Lu introduced herself as an international student from Beijing. She recounted being tormented by her classmates as a freshman at the University of Iowa. When her mother first visited her, a random person on the street “yelled at us to go back to where we belong,” Lu said.
During the pandemic, Lu said, two random men came straight at her when she was shopping at Target and said “COVID is coming!”
As a result of the Bloomington bus attack, Lu said, “Now I feel fear, trembling from my toe to my head, as I pass a bus station.”
After the Jan. 11 Bloomington bus attack, Lu was asked how she felt about it: “I feel so tired. I feel like a hamster running in a circle.”
Lu continued, “We rallied against the anti-Asian attacks in New York during COVID. We rallied for Asian people who were murdered in the Atlanta shooting. And now we need to do this all over again.”
“I am exhausted and outraged that these attacks are still happening, including right here in Bloomington,” Lu said. She reminded the crowd of Yue Zhang, a young woman who was in 2016 attacked by a man with a hatchet in Nashville, Indiana, about 20 miles east of Bloomington.
Lu said, “I challenge the American people to remember that China, the Chinese government and average everyday Chinese citizens, are not the same.”
“Please see us as individuals instead of just a label,” Lu said.
About specific ways to help, Lu said, “Please call out harassing behavior when you see it. Please stick with us ,and fight with us against white supremacy. We need to be doing this together.”
Lu wrapped up like this: “Together let’s make this rally count. I sincerely hope that the next time we spend together, we’re doing it for a different reason.”
Parnasi Bandyopadhyay introduced herself as a freshman studying biology and French. “Let’s admit the truth,” she said, “The recent stabbing would not have happened if the student was white.”
About the suspect in the bus stabbing, Bandyopadhyay noted that she had tried to justify the attack by saying it was “one less person to blow up our country.” The suspect’s phrase “our country” showed that for her, people of color are not part of her country, Bandyopadhyay said.
“We are perpetually foreigners. By virtue of our appearance, we do not belong.” She continued, “Thinking that we will never find a place where we belong, due to our race, is to me a despairing perspective.”
Bandyopadhyay added, “While anger, hatred, outrage, hopelessness, and the countless other emotions that take hold of us, are valid and important to acknowledge, we should channel these emotions towards enacting a positive change.”
The positive begins, she said, by regaining power from oppressors. “We need to first name injustices, and make it understood that what was done was unacceptable.”
“Without doing that, the attack on our fellow student, and the hurt that all of us have experienced in different ways, is rendered invisible,” Bandyopadhyay. “This is why I’m talking into this microphone, and why I encourage you to speak up against injustices.”
Katelyn Wo introduced herself as a sophomore studying neuroscience and public health. Wo underscored the fact that IU’s campus is not always a welcoming place for Asian students.
Wo said, “Us Asian students at IU have been called names, harassed on the street, discriminated against in classes, confused by professors, disregarded, ignored and avoided.”
Wo continued, “Even our little bubble at IU Bloomington is not, and never has been a safe place for Asian and Asian-American people.”
Wo added: “But with events like these, we see the Asian community coming together and standing with one another.”
Photos: Feb. 4, 2023 Dunn Meadow rally in support of Asian community