After being confronted with racial slurs Tuesday night, a nationally competitive UF Bollywood dance group took to social media to express their shock.
Gator Adaa, a dance group of 13 women, was practicing for an upcoming competition outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium near the Heisman Trophy winners’ statues when a group of men came out of the stadium. When they saw the group practicing, some of the men cheered, clapped and kept walking. But two stayed behind, Gator Adaa member Shaina Panchal said.
The women continued to dance, expecting the spectators to leave. The men, who Panchal said looked to be in their 30s, stayed and began dancing mockingly alongside the group.
Then one of the men walked up to Panchal and asked why the group wasn’t in India.
“I explained that we were trying to bring our culture here to America,” the 21-year-old UF health science senior said. “He responded by saying, ‘Oh, kind of like an invasive species.’”
The group was silent as the men walked away, she said. Sonam Parag, a 19-year-old co-captain of the dance group, said she was just trying to lead the team’s practice when it happened.
“I felt kind of attacked,” the UF microbiology and cell science sophomore said.
Panchal took to Facebook to explain the situation and the group’s reaction.
As of press time, her original post has received more than 1,557 likes and 217 shares. The majority of the comments were supportive of Panchal and the dance group.
When racist comments are made on campus, students can report it to the Bias
Education and Response Team, UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes wrote in an email.
The Bias Education and Response Team works with other campus organizations to provide appropriate resources and help to affected groups or communities.
“People don’t want to believe racism exists, when in reality it happens every day, especially on our UF campus,” Panchal said.
The dance group plans to talk to UF’s Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs today about the comment and how to proceed, said Bhavika Goyal, a co-captain of Gator Adaa.
Goyal, 19, said she was standing next to Panchal during the confrontation.
“Me, along with my team, thinks that everybody has a right to be respected for who they are and where they come from,” the UF applied physiology and kinesiology sophomore said.
“We felt like we weren’t allowed to expressed our passion for dance.”
Panchal said she regrets not responding to the man.
“Not even in a mean way,” she said. “Just something to make him understand that what he said wasn’t OK.”