Indianapolis FedEx Shooting
BY DEAR ASIAN YOUTH (DAY)
Two months ago, a FedEx shooting in Indianapolis joined a wave of gun violence that rocked 2021. You may have heard of it, or you may have tuned the news out, numb to another mass shooting. The Indianapolis shooting occurred over a month ago, but its place in the pattern of increased violence towards Sikhs and South Asians highlights the relevance of addressing and raising awareness about anti-Asian hate.
On April 15, nineteen-year-old Brandon Hole killed eight employees at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis. Four of the victims were Sikhs, followers of a religion founded in Punjab, India centuries ago that believes in equality and service to others. A police report from March 2020 revealed that Hole had accessed white supremacist websites on his computer. Further, the shooter previously worked at the facility, where around 90% of the employees were Sikh, signifying that he likely targeted them specifically. Given the history of attacks on the Sikh community, the Sikh Coalition—an advocacy organization—has called for a hate bias investigation.
Throughout history, Sikhs have often been mistaken for other groups, such as Iranians and Muslims. As a result, they have been victims of hate and violence following events such as the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 and the 9/11 attack. In 2019, Sikhs were the fifth most targeted religious minority, and many hate crimes against them escape unreported or are not properly classified as hate crimes.
Lack of Media Coverage.
News outlets have been disappointingly ambiguous. We must consider this: what events does the media value as headline-worthy, and how much blood needs to be shed to catch America’s attention?
While various news sources have covered the shooting, articles have generally focused on the shooter’s personal history rather than the victims’ legacies. Aside from perpetuating an all-too-familiar sympathy for the shooter—or, at least, dubiousness about the shooting being a potential hate crime—some newspapers look to mental illness as explanation. It is insensitive to ignore the possibility of a bias motive and more urgently, the trauma that the Sikh community had to work through. Although mental health crises have indeed soared with the pandemic, it’s even more imperative to address the pain that the Sikh and South Asian communities had to heal from.
Moreover, the media ignores that this shooting is part of a series of repeated attacks against Sikhs, which harms the South Asian community as a whole. Below, A DAY member reflects on the relevance of the shooting and its impact on the South Asian community.
DAY Member Speaks
This shooting is more relevant to us than we may realize. To be honest, I didn't invest any emotional energy into this story until I read a quote describing how the shooting "reopened wounds" for the Sikh community. These wounds refer to the increase in hate crimes against all South Asians—regardless of whether or not they were Muslim—after 9/11. That's when I realized that this shooting wasn’t only an attack against the Sikh community but the South Asian community as a whole.
The Indianapolis Shooting only highlights how anti-Asian hate still runs rampant today. In our world, in our country, and in our town, people still carry this bias, even if it's subconscious. Anti-Asian hate doesn’t just target far-away people who only exist in newspaper eulogies, but it targets people just like me.
That's when I started getting scared. I looked at pictures of the victims and saw people who looked like my brother, my father, my grandmothers. I've always thought of myself and my family as privileged enough to exist far away from bad news, but now, that hate and terror seems closer than ever.
I have no real conclusion to this. Fear and hate exist, and it continues to exist. I guess I'll just have to live with it. Pain and grief have stained the lives of the victims’ families and their communities, and the effects ripple outwards to haunt the lives of all South Asians. If you take away nothing else from this article, even if violence against South Asians continues to be normalized, I hope you can walk away understanding where our fear comes from.
After learning about sobering news, it’s completely normal to battle conflicting feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness. Many have become desensitized to the repeated acts of violence that the news covers, and numbness is a common coping mechanism. But before you lose all hope, remember that even though some events are out of your control, there are actions that you can take to remedy the situation. Seeing violence unfold in the country is emotionally draining, but know that it’s okay to take time to process your feelings if you need to. This doesn’t mean that you need to shut your feelings off; it just means that you should prioritize your mental health.
When you’re ready, education is a big step you can take to make a real difference in your life and others’ lives. For example, if you don’t even know what Sikhism is, do some reading before you jump to any conclusions. You’ll be better equipped to have authentic, constructive conversations and reduce the chance of perpetuating false information or stereotypes, which leads to people forming harmful prejudices.
When you’re reading news articles, though, be sure to look at a broader range of sources— especially from a Sikh perspective—to gain a more nuanced understanding: this will equip you for more productive discussions. Also, if you have Sikh or South Asian friends, consider checking in on them or listening to their thoughts if they are ready to share.
Finally, don’t treat activism as a social media trend. Hate crimes and racism are deep-rooted problems that will persist long after the media moves on. If you want to do more, join activist groups in the school—these are safe communities that are committed to addressing discrimination and hate, and they seek to provide spaces to reflect, share, and learn from others.
It may not seem like much, but taking these concrete steps can make a big difference in how you perceive the world and allows you to participate in non-performative activism. We shouldn’t brush over any hate crimes, and we shouldn’t treat the prevalence of Asian hate crimes as something that simply comes and goes. It’s crucial to continue spreading more awareness through conversations and working with others to enact tangible change.
The Indianapolis Shooting Presentation contains information about the shooting and links to more reading.
Read the DAY article by outreach director Rebecca Zhang for a more comprehensive overview of DAY and what it has accomplished.
Check out the DAY @AB Instagram for infographics, events, and news.
What Dear Asian Youth is Doing.
As mentioned earlier, joining activist groups is one step to creating positive change. Dear Asian Youth is an activist club right here at ABRHS, and it focuses on amplifying Asian American voices and creating a safe space and community for everyone to share their thoughts and opinions. Occasionally, we offer open discussions over Zoom, and members work on a series of projects committed to improving problems within the school, such as lack of Asian representation in the curriculum. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.