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Belmont’s Asian American Association to hold vigil, discussion roundtable in light of Atlanta

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

Belmont’s faculty and students will come together to pause for prayer, mourn lost life and rebuke racism.

To support grieving students given the recent Atlanta shooting, when Asian businesses were targeted and eight AAPI women were killed, Belmont’s Asian American Association will host a Zoom vigil Wednesday afternoon, as well as co-sponsor a discussion panel Thursday. 

“I want fellow students to see that Asian Americans are really going through it right now,” said Michelle Dong, junior general business major and AAA president. “We are real people with real emotions, not some monolith or ‘other’ beings who have been thought of as quiet, passive, and insignificant.”

Dong said the vigil will be a safe place to mourn and support others. 

To that end, Dong stressed events like these should not become performative — and that this shooting is no fluke, but the result of a long history of prejudice in the US.

“Anti-Asian crimes and harassment have skyrocketed during the pandemic without sufficient media coverage,” she said. “The problems with racism and bias we face today have been problems that we’ve faced for a long time in America.”

Those sentiments were echoed by senior music business major and AAA vice president Samuel Wargotz, who said students should take action where they can — and that AAA is spreading relevant resources on their Instagram and Facebook pages. 

“Right now we are spreading news sources, places to donate and are requesting that for those of you not aware to learn and become educated on the history of Asian discrimination, so we can end the hate,” Wargotz said. 

“Keep this from just being a trend, remember what is happening to the people in our world.”

Wargotz said the vigil and discussion roundtable are both open to students of all ethnicities, and that the AAA wanted to help establish a more diverse community at Belmont.

“We will welcome the support and hope that it enriches you and any other students that join.”

The discussion roundtable will follow the night after, and is the result of a team effort between the AAA, the College of Theology and Christian Ministry, and the Faculty Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Committee.

Dr. Gideon Park, a Belmont religion professor who selected the all-female panel of speakers, said the goal was to help students develop a greater awareness of anti-AAPI racism.

“The problem of racism and white supremacy has a longer history that runs deep since the founding of this country and, in particular, the history of the South,” said Park. “The American story of race sits in plain view at the very center of our campus in the Belmont Mansion.”

Park said students should stand in solidarity with their Asian colleagues and loved ones, as we are living a critical moment for awareness and action.

Dr, Amy Crook, adviser of the AAA and president of the faculty senate, issued a formal statement from the faculty senate to the Vision. It can be read in full below.

The Faculty Senate of Belmont University stands united to unequivocally renounce violence, intolerance, intimidation, and racism against Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities. To our friends, colleagues, and students in these communities: We see you. We love you. Too often, your oppression has been minimized, and we apologize for any time we have downplayed hate that has been directed at you. We both mourn and are angered about the racism toward Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), in all the ways that it has been expressed across our nation: verbal abuse, harassment, alienation, intimidation, and physical attacks. The “model minority” myth has often been excused as “positive” stereotyping toward Asians, and we reject it understanding that such sentiments incite division and inter-minority conflict, othering, and minimization of the racism experienced by AAPI people, all of which are impulses that can culminate in violence. While the victims of the attack in Atlanta are the most recent examples, we know that 3800 incidents of hate toward this community have been recorded in the past 12 months alone. We grieve at the knowledge that there are undoubtedly more than these incidents and understand that silence contributes to the perpetuation of violence and hate. We will be silent no longer. We affirm and re-commit to the statements we made in June 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, including our belief that reconciliation work to address racism and violence should be a central part of our institutional mission to engage and transform the world. Even more specifically, we say that anti-Asian hate and any expression of racist belief have no place in this campus community. These are incongruent with our Christian identity, and we commit ourselves to listening more and speaking out whenever we encounter Asian stereotyping. We remain dedicated to achieving the diversity, equity, and inclusion that will make Belmont University a welcoming, safe, and supportive community for all students, faculty, and staff. Signed, The Belmont Faculty Senate

Looking forward, Dong said she hopes students take this time to attend the events and back up their words with action.

“We’re hurt and shocked by recent events that happened to our community, and we’re not OK with it.”

The vigil is Wednesday at 5 p.m. and can be accessed here. The discussion roundtable is Thursday at 1 p.m. and can be accessed here.

The names and ages of the Atlanta shooting victims follow:

Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33

Xiaojie Tan, 49

Daoyou Feng, 44

Paul Andre Michels, 54

Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz, 30

Hyun Jung Grant, 51

Soon Chung Park, 74

Suncha Kim, 69

Yong Ae Yue, 63

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