Baylor University officials and Waco police are investigating an assault of an Asian American student near campus that followed racial slurs yelled at the student from a passing pickup truck early Sunday morning.
The Waco Police Department is investigating the incident as an assault, and because of the slurs used, race could have been a motivator, Officer Garen Bynum said.
The student told the Baylor Lariat student newspaper he and another person were leaving a friend’s house at about 2 a.m. Sunday when a truck drove by the intersection of South Third Street and Gurley Lane, in a residential area about a mile from campus. The driver of the truck yelled out racial slurs toward the student, and the student yelled back “What did you say?” before the driver of the truck pulled over, he told the Lariat.
Four men got out of the truck and started arguing with him, according to the Lariat, which reported the student wished to remain anonymous out of safety concerns.
Bynum said one of the men punched the student in the face after the verbal altercation. The student reported the incident to Waco police later Sunday, Bynum said.
University officials were made aware of the incident Wednesday through social media, and the information was immediately reported to the Baylor Equity Office, spokesperson Tonya Hudson said.
“We grieve with our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) neighbors, brothers and sisters in the midst of what has been an intense year of anti-Asian sentiment and violence,” according to a university statement. “We are constantly reminded that racism is not merely a black and white issue; it affects all of us. As fellow bearers of the image of God, our AAPI students are part of our Baylor Family, and we especially will not stand for such sentiment, bias or violence within our community.”
The Baylor statement also urges any student who has experienced any relevant incidents to report them through the Equity Office and law enforcement.
Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogleman said the university has worked hard on making sure students are able to easily report any incidents through a centralized reporting system called Report It, which allows information to reach the right office.
Fogleman also said the university has an extensive Civil Rights Policy under the Equity Office that it uses to address situations such as the incident reported, which includes a detailed investigation.
Amid a rise in attacks against the Asian community, Baylor associate sociology professor Jerry Park said he urges Asian American students to not stop taking up space and to advocate for diversity.
“It would be great if we can see more representation and better addressing of mental health issues for Asian American students,” Park said. “What we see is that there is not a whole lot of outreach to Asian American students. They are reporting the highest levels of alienation from the campus based on student surveys and there seems to be no plan in place from administration to tackle this.”
Students are experiencing high levels of concern, but their response in some cases is encouraging, he said.
“I have been here 17 years and I have not seen undergraduates more mobilized and more concerned than I have now,” Park said. “I think that is a refreshing sign. I think it’s a hopeful sign that more people are really concerned about this and they want to take action, they want to see changes made.”
Students also are scared and sometimes do not know how to process what is happening.
For the students who want to see change happen, Park urges them to reach out to other Asian American groups across the state of Texas and across the country to see what has worked and what they can bring to Baylor.
“Don’t be disheartened. There are strategies that are out there,” Park said.
Bynum said the Waco Police Department is investigating the incident reported Sunday as an assault and is in the process of assigning a detective to continue the investigation.
He said the department does not have any leads at this time.
Anyone with any information should contact the police department at 254-750-7500 or, to remain anonymous, Waco Crime Stoppers at 254-753-4357, Bynum said.