Editorial: Community rally in support of Asians a source of strength

About 200 people turned out at Columbus City Hall last week to show support for Asian residents who call the Columbus area home. And as The Republic’s Brian Blair reported, those in attendance “spoke loudly and clearly just with their presence that ethnic or any other kind of hate would not be tolerated here.”

That’s a message that, sadly, cannot seem to be restated enough. It’s the second time in recent years that the local Asian community has felt a need to demonstrate solidarity and take a stand against hate after Asians had been the targets of unsettling hate crimes that hit too close to home. Most recently, it was the stabbing of a young Asian Indiana University student in Bloomington.

From tragedies that have made members of minority groups feel especially vulnerable have come resilience and unity among all people of good will. That was on display last week, as it has been in Columbus many times before.

“Your presence makes us really happy,” said Columbus resident Linda Shi, president of the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Indiana Chapter.

Joy Basa-King, vice president of the chapter and also a Columbus resident, agreed. “It means so much to us that you are here as allies standing with us,” Basa-King said.

The spike in hate crimes directed toward Asian Americans has been well documented since the pandemic — significant enough to strike fear in many Asian Americans.

According to a study released in May by the Pew Research Center, “about one-in-five Asian Americans say they worry daily (7%) or almost daily (14%) that they might be threatened or attacked because of their race or ethnicity, while 51% say they worry sometimes.” The survey also found that about a third of Asian Americans reported they have changed their daily routine due to concerns of threats or attacks.

Against these realities, it’s necessary for the community to come together to try to assuage those fears with a commitment that all are welcome here.

As Blair wrote, “City leaders have a strong record especially in the past decade on such rallies to promote solidarity and unity among residents, and to show support for those who may feel marginalized. Residents have gathered on the City Hall steps and elsewhere by the hundreds for Blacks victimized nationally by police, for harmony between Christians and Muslims, for immigration reform for Latinos, for stopping gun violence, and more.”

Mayor Jim Lienhoop has been a consistent presence at such times, as he was last week in support of the community’s Asian population. So was City Councilwoman Elaine Hilber, who is Asian, members of the Columbus/Bartholomew County Area Chapter of the NAACP and others. Their message was simple: We are united in a vision for a better community, a better world.

“We’re still battling evil,” said Bishop Johnnie Edwards, the local NAACP president. “But as I look around the room, I have a clearer understanding that our voices are louder” than those of hate.

May it always be so.

As Srikanth Padmanabhan, a Cummins Inc. vice president, said, he is grateful to live in “a very, very special city where diversity is seen as a strength.”

May that, too, always be so.