Episode 004 is now up!!! In this episode, we talked about our experience at the Black Fair and anti-blackness in the Hmong community, and mentioned social justice Hmong organizations and organizers for lack of support for Black Fair and Black Lives Matter.
Below is the list of links for those who want to learn more about the stuff we mentioned and talked about.
- Model Minority Mutiny – http://www.racefiles.com/2014/10/13/model-minority-mutiny/
- The Racial Justice Movement Needs A Model Minority Mutniy – http://www.racefiles.com/2014/10/13/model-minority-mutiny/
- Chai Vang Documentary “Open Season” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNqvvtL-ggw
- Community Action Against Racism (CAAR) – https://communityactionagainstracism.wordpress.com/
- Fong Lee – http://www.twincities.com/ci_12069387
- #BlackFair – http://www.kare11.com/story/news/local/2015/08/21/black-lives-matter-to-protest-at-minnesota-state-fair/32111469/
- #BlackFair – http://www.twincities.com/statefair/ci_28673776/black-lives-matter-plans-protest-at-state-fair
- Black Lives Matter Minneapolis and St. Paul – https://www.facebook.com/BlackLivesMatterMinneapolis/posts/971971302846663
- #SayHerName – http://www.aapf.org/sayhernamereport
- #BlackTransWomenLivesMatter – http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/black-trans-women-lives-matter/
Any questions or comments, you can leave it in our comment box below or send us an email at: email@example.com
Illustration for this episode was made by co-host Paj Huab Hawj.
(Intro: Qeej music playing)
Sandy Oh: Hello. Welcome to Hoochim. We’re four Hmong women talking about things that matter… such as–
SO: Today is August 30, 2015 and we’re your hosts. I’m Sandy.
Mim Xyooj: This is Mee.
Linda Hawj: This is Linda.
Paj Huab Hawj: I’m Pa.
SO: You can reach us at Facebook, hoochim. And our Twitter handle is hashtag underscore hoochim. And our gmail is hashtag dot hoochim at gmail dot com. So, current events. Anything new happening on your Facebook feed, folks? Anything exciting? Celebrity gossip? Our self gossip? Gone on any trips, guys? Any wanderlust posting you seen? (background laughing) Well, talking about wanderlust, I did march from Midway–I did march from Midway all the way to the fair grounds. Talk about wanderlust. Hashtag. Uh, well, one thing that I felt was interesting, well I saw on the Song of Baldwin was–I mean this is celebrity gossip right now–Miley Cyrus just hosted the VMAs. I don’t know when that is, maybe that’s over. I don’t pay attention to that stuff. But she said that the Nicki Minaj post was about her and how you know she’s not Black, she doesn’t understand it. She feels that it shouldn’t be about race.
LH: When we talk about like race doesn’t matter I think that it’s so normalized by white people to say that race don’t matter. Somehow, as Hmong people, we tend to–tend to consume and take in what the media say, which is portrayed by a lot of white reporters and peoples. Like even our schools. No matter how white people discriminate against us we tend to make excuse and justifications for it. And I think about how in the media they say that race doesn’t matter, that we as Hmong people consume that, and also spit back and say race doesn’t matter, and you know in the height of violence against Black people that there are Hmong people that I know that say race don’t matter. And what does that mean when we don’t have like a Hmong perspective, analysis on race and ethnicity, a voice and experience in this time. And you know more conservative Hmong folks who tend to listen to conservative news and how they, you know, disempower themselves as Hmong people and their perspective around race and that they interact everyday–their interactions everyday are about race. And how resources are allocated and fundings to support like our Hmong community so when we as Hmong people who view that race doesn’t matter or are selective about it, it does a huge disservice not to our community but ourselves.
MX: I also think about how our community doesn’t think of historically how race has mattered. I think, a couple of years ago, one of my friends was talking about her mom who came over as an adult, who came over from Laos and Thailand refugee camps and who’d had like no sort of like formal education. She said that she realized that her mom never learned that African Americans came over to the U.S. as slaves. Her mom did not know this. And I was like, really? Your mom didn’t know this? And she was like, yeah, my mom never went to school. Her mom never like took English classes, nothing. And so I started thinking about my parents and I started wondering, do my parents know that African Americans, when they first came over to the U.S., they came over as slaves you know. And so, these last couple of years I’ve been having like these purposeful conversations with my parents, you know a little at a time, talking to them, asking them, well what do you know about African Americans, you know? Because I’m trying to talk about and have them kind of picture, right, or understand where Black anger comes from. So–so I–I’ve been having these conversations with my mom and my dad about, yeah, they came over to the U.S. as slaves and it’s only been a hundred or so years since they’ve been freed. And I remember, you know, when I was talking about this to my mom and I could tell that it clicked for her. Oh, that makes sense. No wonder they’re so mad at white people, right. Because like because she can imagine the slave conditions that we as Hmong people were under in Laos or that we as Hmong people were under in China, forced us out of these countries.
LH: Yes, Mee, you are right, that I think about like the Hmong people who are being anti-Black. The only histories that they’ve actually have heard about Black people are through education and school. Partly of the Civil Rights movement, maybe not even at all but talking about slavery, glorifying the white presidents and not really learning about how the impact, the negative and violent impact that has on Black people and families and generations. Do these Hmong people who are anti-Black and anti-Black Lives Matter understand where that anger comes from. But at the same time you know like a lot of the protest, the Black Lives Matter protests has been peaceful, have been sending a political message and stance on Black Lives Matter to hold accountable these violent institutions in state and police violence that go unnoticed or held unaccounted for. And I think how for the Hmong people who are anti-Black Lives Matter and they give the justification and defining how Black people activists should protest in the street respectfully and they themselves these Hmong folks do not understand the Black suffrage and continue to do the work of the white violence, the white supremacy, by defining how Black people should–should act. That’s what white violence and supremacy wants for other communities to also continue this bloody violence of America’s anti-Blackness and slavery and violence. Think about that. People are saying Black folks should protest like Dr. Martin Luther King and Ghandi or these nonviolence protest but these Hmong people, when in your life have you actually fucking protested? When have you actually got angry about the discrimination of Hmong people and did something? You have no experience about critical race and history and you take a chapter out of the book that you learned from white schools, how white teachers and white textbooks history tells you about the white people want us to hear about their legacy and their forefathers. You know the good stuff. It’s not even about the violent effects you know on Black people on Black history and lives. And you’re gonna come and quote what the white people want us to quote, which is the peaceful marches and protests? Hmong anti-Black Lives and really you are anti-Black racists, you support the legacy of America’s bloody violence on Black people that you don’t want to admit. Folks need to do deeper reflection of why you don’t like Blackness, Black people, why you fear that. Is it because your own individual action with a Black person and you ignorantly blame the whole Black community. Because you heard white media or white people talk about Black people? Or is it your parents or your family who do not know the history of Black struggles in America that informs you and your bigotry and your anti-Black racism and thoughts? Think about that before you speak.
PHH: I’ve been doing a lot of reflection for myself and also really thinking about the Black Lives Matter, black friday, and all the injustice that have been happening all across America with people of color and predominantly Black folks. And I’ve been thinking about this system, like this system of oppression, the system that continues to oppress people of color and Black folks. And I wonder if the Hmong community thinks about this system of oppression? If the community thinks about this system that discriminates people of color and Black folks. I wonder if they think about the system of discrimination that happens at their workplace? And then I also think about like all the–all the experiences that we’ve had with dealing with you know white folks and with like Black folks. And I think about how we are so quick as Hmong folks like because of the action of one person to like sort of stigmatize that whole community. If we’ve gotten into a fight with a Black guy or a Black girl, that whole Black race must be a horrible race. That seems to be sort of the consensus. But we never ever say that with white folks. We continuously get discriminated against–there’s like this systems of oppression that oppresses us and that are built by like these sort of leaders and like white supremacy and we never think about that. And like we–like we always view them as like individuals and you know like that is always very interesting to me in the past few days and really seeing my social media, specifically my Facebook, light up with commentaries on Black Lives Matter. And friends that I’ve known for many years, who are openly opposing Black Lives Matter, and saying that what they’re doing is on a level that is unlike that of the 60’s marches, right. And that like they’re adding more harm than they are adding to sort of the conversation that is needed. And that what they’re doing is disruptive. And that you know these are people who don’t know anything about protesting, are uneducated right, who don’t know anything about the history, who’ve probably taken one community college class and read one chapter in America’s history and decided to apply all of those things that they learned in that one chapter into Black Lives Matter, right. Like that is the conversation and that is the commentary that’s being made amongst my Hmong peers. And it’s really disturbing and really fucked up. I don’t know how to engage in dialogue, right. Like I want to be empathetical to what they’re saying and I want to go beyond me and I want to step outside of myself and all the experiences, all my lived experiences, and try to understand things from their perspective but I just–I can’t do it. And sometimes I just wanna be ghetto and you know what fuck you you are fucking ignorant and you’re fucking racist and that you need to fucking understand you know the kind of fucking fucked up shit that you’re saying. You know just like just swear a ton. That’s what I wanna do sometimes, just swear a ton and not try to engage in dialogue with them because sometimes it’s just pick your battles. And this is a battle I want to pick. I want to engage in these conversations with them and I want to understand. And I want them to see it from you know different perspective and I want them to get outside of what they’re seeing but how do we as a community, how do we hold these conversations? How do we get our community leaders to also have these conversations? ‘Cause I think a–community leaders organizing events that are doing things that the rest of the Hmong community is looking up to are not having these conversations. They’re not having these dialogues about the importance of Black Lives Matter and how we benefit from what’s happening. Like, we need to have these conversations and we don’t.
SO: You know, Pa, to the person that said to you, oh these people are just probably like took one community college and they’re just utilizing these histories they just learned. I–I wanna say you know people who say they know history, I kinda wanna say, the tactics that Black Lives Matter use, the disruption, the inconvenience that you’re all feeling, have been used throughout history and in other countries as they are trying to make change in their community, in their country. And so these peaceful disruption, Gandhi has used it, MLK has used it. For those people who love quoting these two men, they have used these tactics to make political change and countries in the middle east, young students, are using these same disruptive tactics to change the political landscape in their country. And so for those who like to quote uh history, you need to re-read your history because these tools have been used throughout history and for many years. And I do wanna say too, about these organizations, these leaders, who are not–who are really silent on the Black Lives Matter movement. A lot of these organizations are social justice organizations and for me I find it alarming that they haven’t said anything about Black Lives Matter. They haven’t said anything about all these issues that are happening around the country in regards to Black Lives, in regards to criminal justice system–they haven’t made anything because what they don’t understand is that the criminal justice system also affects the Hmong community. And the fact that they don’t–they’re not addressing this with Black Lives and such is problematic.
LH: I find it so funny and also very disturbing that there are Hmong people who are critiquing you know these peaceful protest by Black Lives Matter and that there are people who are like, well these Black Lives Matter need to do this professionally. I actually had this conversation with this other person. And their statements are generalizing. And that they also themself do not have experience in protest, activism, and social justice work that they no longer are coherent in what it is that they’re trying to say. And the person kept retracting and could not give any facts to back up what they had–their ignorant and anti-Black racist statement that they’ve made. And so a lot of these comment or you know statements being made by Hmong folks who are anti-Black Lives Matter do not have experience or protest themselves. They do not have a critical race lens or an understanding beyond you know we’ve all agree, this one college prep course or this one history of somewhere or that they’ve consumed in white media and they spout that out as if they have study African American struggles or Black struggles and liberation. And they have not. It’s totally embarrassing and if anything it folks see people giving those comments, push them further and ask them how do you protest to create change? How do you protest if you are critiquing these people? What are your experiences? And they will shut the fuck up. Or they will actually reveal how anti-Black racist and ignorant and bigot they are.
PHH: A lot of the comments that I read online, on Facebook from my Hmong friends with regards to the Black Fair and the protest were that, this protest was a very inconvenience to fair-goers and that you know that they weren’t going to get their pronto pups or their cheese curds or uh pork chops on a stick. Or they weren’t gonna be able to go to the midway and try to win them one of those stuffed animal to bring home, right. As if that is so fucking important. Or like as if like the protest was like gonna take place inside the fair. And that these people’s lives were gonna be in danger. That was like a lot of the conversation. And a lot of the comments is that you know, oh now, there’s going to be more violent, these people are gonna incite violence, right. As if the fair isn’t already a violent place with people drinking beer and getting drunk and you know, yeah, animals held captive. That wasn’t already a violent place. And then to talk about the disruption of us feasting on our food. The fair is probably the reason why Hmong people have gout.
PHH: Uhm, but, I mean these are like the conversations, right. Like, how dare you the people disrupt our–our time, our family time. And how dare these people hold, or like how dare these people have not get a permit before they protest.
LH: (background) But there was already a permit to march.
SO: You know what. I–I just wanna say this. It’s one damn mother fucken day of the 14 days of the State Fair. Come one, people. Give it a break. And another thing is, you know, Black Lives Matter marchers actually did buy water and bought food on the vendors that couldn’t get inside the State Fair. So for you to say that we disrupted businesses. No, we actually helped because we actually bought stuff.
MX: So this is kind of related but kind of not. I wanted to talk about kind of my entrance into like organizing and activism, right. My dad, he fought in the Secret War in Laos and so he’s a veteran and he’s always been very active in these Hmong veterans organizations. And my first kind of introduction into organizing and activism was through him, right. Like he would take me and my brothers and sisters to the protests that were happening down at the state capitol or elsewhere and would like take photographs of us holding signs and we had no idea what the hell we were protesting. But this was very important to him. And so I’ve always carried with me like the importance of like fighting for Hmong rights whether it was Hmong rights or Hmong veterans’ rights in Minnesota, United States or whether it was you know fighting for Hmong rights or to get attention for Hmong rights in Southeast Asia. And so like this has really informed and affected me as a person who participates in activism and in protests. And I think about this a lot. And I also think about, you know, yesterday when I was getting ready to go to Black Fair and with my parents’ history and activism and protesting, and our conversations about Black history in the U.S., I haven’t really talked to them about why I feel an obligation to go and participate in Black Fair, right. And so yesterday when–before I left in the morning there was something on the television about Black Fair that was gonna be happening and I was like, kind of offhandedly saying to my mom, oh yeah, I’ll be there so watch the t.v. and see if you’ll see me. And she was like, well, why can’t they do it themselves. Like, why do you have to go. A–and I think about all of these protests my dad has encouraged us to participate in and how it was very Hmong only. How there was no–I mean, I don’t know if there was any sort of like intentional outreach to have other groups join us or if we were just doing it ourselves. But you know I don’t remember–I don’t remember any other group, except for maybe some Lao people and I don’t remember my parents ever doing something for other causes and so–unless it was Hmong specific. I feel like this is a conversation that I need to have with my parents about it’s not just us. It’s them. It’s everyone who’s in the same boat even if our story’s a little different. Even if we have an upper hand or they have an upper hand. And I feel like, yes, this is an important conversation that I need to have with them. It’s a conversation I don’t know how to begin, you know, but I’m–in my mind I’m formulating like well how can I start this conversation with them that would make them understand.
PHH: Yeah, I think about that conversation a lot too with my parents, right. And I think it’s fair to say that most of our parents who didn’t grow up here and who didn’t have any education here in the United States don’t know about the struggles of Black folks and why Black folks are angry, right, like they don’t know. And I think about like my own education, too, and even then that education was very glossed over. And I know about Harriet Tubman and how she had the Underground Railroads and I know about Martin Luther King and his I Had a Dream speech and I know about Rosa Park who didn’t wanna get up from her seat on the bus. Those are the only people that I know. And those are the only people that was taught to me in elementary school and I think about all those other stories that I learned in college and doing my own research and doing my own reading and talking with other people and I think about all my other–the Hmong peers that I have, who decided that this conversation wasn’t important. Or that learning about African American history in the United States wasn’t important, wasn’t conducive to their lifestyle or the work that they were getting into. And how ignorant they are now because of that. These are conversations that we don’t have. We don’t have with each other at all.
LH: Yeah, going to you saying that those are the only historical Black figures that you’ve ever heard. And I think about that and I’m like but wait, who were the teachers that were teaching you and me about these historical figures? They’re white. And I think that as Hmong people we should be very aware and conscious about who’s telling the stories.
SO: The one thing I’m trying to fathom here is we–we’re engaged in these conversation with people who are against–who are anti-Black Lives Matter, we’re engaging them in these conversation but somehow they’re not getting it. And it makes me kind of scared because these are human beings that are being gunned down by a system that we are funding with our taxpayer money. And yet no one’s afraid that this system that we’re funding is gonna kill us and it makes me kind of scared that people are not seeing other people as humans and that they don’t give a fuck about them. Like oh it’s not happening to me so I’m not giving a fuck. They’re human beings; they should matter.
PHH: So when Fong Lee was uhm killed by that uh Minneapolis cop uh and Jason Yang but most importantly Fong Lee. I did some organizing around that and I participated in demonstrations and you know so there was the time where I–Fong Lee had been killed and it’d been a year and the family had brought a suit against the City of Minneapolis and it’d come to light that there’d been–that gun that was supposedly found on him was a gun that was reported missing and that the cops had found. Right, like there was all that conspiracy around that gun. And I was really, really amazed at the amount of or the lack of amount of Hmong folks that cared about Fong Lee who were not his friends, who were not his family, right, and who showed up to protest was maybe like a handful of people. And the consensus from the community was that well, he’s a fuckin gangbanger and he shouldn’t have been–that’s what you get. You gangbang, you get killed. And like those two go hand in hand, right. Like, there was no conversation about whoa, that cop exer–what was happening? Nobody was being critical about the cop and the situation and it was just, you are this and because you are this, that happened and it’s okay. And that was the consensus from the community, both young and old.
LH: I think that a lot of the people who–Hmoob people who did not show up to show resistance against police brutality on our community–I think about when people say Hmoob yuav tsum sib hlub Hmoob or Hmong we need to unite or we need Hmong freedom and rights. And I think that why are we selective? Why do we have these standards? Why are we not angry and upset that Minneapolis cops put a fake gun that didn’t belong to Fong Lee and then say that he had a gun so we had the right to shoot him. Why are we not upset? Why are we not angry that the cops could just do that? And it could happen to anyone. Why can’t we have that urgency or connect how the police can be corrupt? The police can be killer cops and that we’re actually funding these cops. And I also think about, for the Hmong people who are anti-Black Lives Matter, they also say “All Lives Matter,” it makes no damn sense, and do not even fucking care about Fong Lee. Or do not care about single mothers who get paid low wages. Or do not care about Hmong people working at factories and not getting a raise and shame people. I say this because I know these very same people who are very anti-Black Lives Matter, who are against the wage raise, who are against gay and lesbian, trans rights, who are against uh welfare supporting families who need the extra funding to make it, and they say “all lives matter.” And then they also say, but wait, I’m not a racist. I think that a lot of these folks are lost and they need to do some deeper soul searching around what is humanity and what are my actual core values about human being and humanity because they do not know what it means when we say “black lives matter”.
MX: I wanted to mention also something about the Fong Lee rally that happened. I was also there and I may have been part of the organizing, I think I did. I can’t remember exactly. Pa says yes. But you know I–I’ve had people say, well, who cares about Black Lives Matter because Black don’t show support for Hmong people. And I think about, you know, the Fong Lee rally and how there were Black people there. There were queer white people. There were all kinds of people there and queer Hmong people like myself and others were there. And I think of how great it was to see all of these different people from different backgrounds and different experiences who were there to support us.
PHH: When Chai Vang was on trial for shooting the 6 white hunters in Wisconsin, it was interesting in that when that was happening I remember the Hmong community, especially Lao Family, and I could be wrong about this, but I’m 90% sure I was not wrong, I remember the Hmong community and Lao Family and it’s leaders holding a press conference and like completely separating themselves from Chai Vang. And then I also remember going to the trial and with a few other organizers and we were maybe 5 people there from the Hmong community. Then that happened right, then you fast forward to a documentary that was made not too long ago that was shown. I think CAAR showed it a couple of times at Metro State. And it was aired on PBS. And I remember going to one of those events at Metro State and people just being really angry about what had happened to Chai Vang and like what can we do now? And it was, where the fuck were you in 2006? Like, where the fuck were you at his trial? Where the fuck were you before? Where the fuck were you after? What can we do now? You know, there’s nothing we can do now. Black Lives Matter is what we can do. We can get behind the Black Lives Matter folks. But we don’t do that.
LH: Our podcast you know and our conversations are surfacing these performances for whiteness. And when you had said the press conference of Lao Family disassociating themselves from Chai Vang, why did they do that? Were they letting the Hmong community know that we don’t know this Hmong man or really it’s because they don’t want to associate because Chai Vang had shot 6 white men? We can say they don’t–they don’t wanna be associated to this Hmong man who had killed these white people and–and we wanna make sure that the white community knows that we are not the Chai Vangs. We are not as dangerous like him. These historical events of our Hmong community, let’s think more about this performance for whiteness, right. Like the exhibit, the Hmong Ameican Day that’s happening at the State Fair, and like–why I’m saying this is because when we question that some of the–like most of the responses seems to come back, well be glad that we have this, be glad that we have a stage, be glad that we were shown at an exhibit, be glad that they even give us funding. And so I think about, why should we be glad? We should–we deserve more than this. We shouldn’t play the puppet for whiteness, white people. And a lot of Hmoob people it seems who are in leadership don’t think about that or if they do they have this respectability politics. I think that that’s the respectability politics or the lack of building a political framework in our Hmong community, social justice and organizing efforts is other reasons why our Hmoob community don’t show up at–when injustices happen to our people and our community, or happening to other communities. Yet other communities have shown up for Fong Lee. Just think about that. Why are we putting on these performances for whiteness? Are we asking for our rights? Why do we have to ask if it’s okay to have human rights?
MX: Okay, so going back to Black Fair. Uhm, whenever I go to these protests that are organized by Black people there’s this–I have this overwhelming fear that I’m gonna die. So I go, I’m like super afraid. And then I get there and I see white people, half white people, or more than half the people are white people and then I feel safe. And I feel really conflicted about this because I want there to be a great number of Black people who show up but I’m also happy that a lot of white people show up because that means that the cops aren’t gonna kill us. You know, like, safer because there are white people, white people who bring their children equals less likely for us to die. And so like this is like my own kind of conflicting thoughts about this.
LH: Yeah, Mee, I can talk about bit about my thoughts and experience, you know yesterday speaking at Black Fair, and I think that it might be connected to what you are saying is I did have this nervousness and fear that you know these–these racist white people or agents of white supremacy,like other Hmong people, people of color, who internalize a lot of racism and does the work of white violence, right, would come there and shoot us. Because based on all the racist comments online, on the article piece about Black Fair hosting a peaceful protest, from all the violent and ignorant negative comments that we’ve experienced from even Hmong folks, because Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were assassinated, that is the history piece, the blackness, blackness being under attack, that fear exists, and that through all those racist violent comments, those people also say it’s not about race but at the same time making really racist comments based on people’s race and color, right. And so, it just really shows how disconnected people are around the conversation on race and racism. It equals to them making all these ignorant ill-informed and violent racist thoughts, comments, and statements. But when I arrive there and I see a lot of Black people, our Asian American activists and organizers who are there and–and it’s so powerful. And it’s so amazing that there are so many people supporting Black lives and that’s what it should be about and not deviating away from the reality and America’s violent bloody past on anti-Blackness, anti-Black racism, and the civil rights–the violence that took place by white people and Black people sitting in diners and spilling food and saying negative and racist violent stuff. I think that, you know, as we’re talking about Hmoob people who are anti-Black Lives Matter or just even us in general that no matter what we learn through the history about the Civil Rights movement that we do not know enough because we are not Black people and we don’t live those experiences, that we don’t understand that struggle and that anger. That we need to continue to listen and read and be part of the conversation of Black Lives Matter versus shutting it down and either replying with “all lives matter” or “well what about the Black on Black crime,” “These protests are causing an inconvenience in my life.” Like, listen to yourself. Do you not make the connection that slavery and the violence during the Civil Rights movement and the welform reform and the poverty through policies and instituted through the prison industrial complex, the police brutality that are happening–these are forms of violence on Black people on Black lives. Like, wake up and read and listen and have these conversations before you make your ill-informed statements and biased, prejudiced, and racist comments on Black people.
PHH: So before I went to the protest yesterday I had talked about it with Ya and he very specifically said, if you’re getting arrested, I’m not bailing you out until Monday (laughing). And I was (laughing). So I went with this sort of mindset, right, that because there was all these news coverage and because people were making really racist comments on these articles, that something might go down. And I was scared. I will say that I was very scared. I was scared because there was so much police presence, so much police presence around Hamline Park and then also like on the way to the fair and then also around the fair. There was so much police presence. Police on bicycles, police on horses, police walking, police in cars. You know, police in helicopters. There was like so much police presence that I was–I was really scared and like did not find comfort in the police presence at all. You know, as like–and the idea is that they’re there to protect us, right, like the marchers. But it didn’t feel like that at all and it was like–I was really scared and that’s something to think about, right, like the people that are sworn in to serve and protect you makes you scared and makes you feel unsafe and that’s been sort of the theme in the last two three years.
SO: Unlike you all, I wasn’t scared. I was actually excited to be part of something great. To be part of something that’s gonna spark conversation whether it be a negative conversation or positive. I think for me it’s just being there present I wasn’t scared if a bullet came flying at me. I didn’t care about that at all.
SO: No, I actually imagined myself. Okay, so they’re saying I’m lying. Actually, to be honest with you guys, I have imagined myself being shot before. And I thought about the news coverage. How would they write about my death? Anyways. Yeah, kind of morbid. Kind of morbid, but anyways. Uhm, no, I wasn’t scared at all. However, I wasn’t scared because I was with a group of people that were passionate about this and that knew they were doing the right thing. However, when I was alone by myself, with the t-shirt that I had on, what was written on it was #apis4blacklives. I was a little afraid as I took the public transit back home from the march. I thought about my interaction with people. If they were against it, what would they say to me. So I had that walking around. I didn’t cover it. But you know I did thought about my individual interaction with other people who were against the Black Lives movement.
LH: And that’s what they want you know. They want to–the people want to silence–to silence our voices. They want to silence the truth. They want to silence that America is actually really ugly and violent and racist, specifically towards Black people. And they want to continue that fear but they won’t acknowledge it, they won’t acknowledge at all. For the Hmong community, I think about Hmong people that I know, who profess so much about Hmong unity and Hmong rights, and then when one of our own community members face injustice that they don’t show up. Why is that? And then these Hmong folks who are not even experts in protests, activism, social justice work, then critique and try to define how experienced protesters and activists should do their job. And then also they are so distant from the whole stories of Black struggles and liberation that they cannot even talk beyond Dr. Martin Luther King. And it says a lot with the Hmong folks who are anti-Black Lives Matter, that they are really ill-informed and where are they receiving their information, their uhm messages? And it’s all from white media, white teachers, and white people. Like this is our Hmong lived experiences when we learn about race or we learn about Civil Rights movement or struggles and protests and activism and it’s all told by white people through the subtle or very direct white violence, white control, white supremacy of how we should understand race and racism and America’s bloody history. And you know I want Hmong folks to think about that as we celebrate the 40 years in America. Our families and our people did not escape war, oppression, ethnic cleansing, violence on us from a different country and government to come to America and turn our eyes and be silent and deny that that very same violence in America is happening to another group of people which are Black people and Black lives. And that how can you live in a government with a history like ours, Hmong people live in this country and accept that happening, that violence happening to Black people and Black lives. How can you Hmong people are full of Hmong pride. They’re very disconnected and ill-informed and selective. And they have a lot of self-reflection around why they are anti-Black. And that they need to think and listen more before they speak. As Hmong people, we cannot come from a history of that violence from another country and government to live in America to say it’s okay that those very same structure exist here. And that we are okay about that just as long as it’s not us. But you know what, we are not guaranteed that, Hmong folks. We are not guaranteed that that is not happening towards us because one, police brutality already happening to Hmong people, it’s just not being reported because Hmong people don’t show up when that happens publicly. So are there actually Hmong people writing and are there Hmong activists surfacing these discrimination violence on us? No, they’re not. And as you all listen to this, think about that. Think about what is your Hmong pride. Is it just for your own convenience? Do you show up to other communities? When you try to–you know, as Mee, you said earlier, where there’s the Hmong veterans memorial or policy or things that they’re–efforts that they’re trying to push through, think about if the strategy was to include all communities of color or people involved in it. That it would’ve been pushed sooner. It wouldn’t happen so late. Think about when we live here and we share space here in our community. When we all work together, when we try to work together and get to know each other, a lot of our struggles can find freedom and liberation and justice. Because we cannot live here in American, Hmong people, and think that we are free when other communities, especially Black people, Black lives, are being persecuted here. And Sandy, I wanna bring back what you said earlier, how our Asian institutions here in Minnesota, our leaders are very silent about this yet they serve in communities and write in their grant reports or their mission about working with across communities yet they’re very silent on Black Lives Matter that–that are really relevant and impacting the Black communities they exist in, work with, or claim to work, and that they serve. They’re silent. And what does that mean? What does it mean for Hmong community to progress in America? And Chong, yesterday at the fair–Black Fair, one of the other speaker had said that Asian Americans, specifically Hmong people, we need to stop living here as we’re guests. We need to stop living here–meaning that in the idea of living as guests here, thinking that we’re gonna go back home to Laos, and this is, you know, the claims that have been taught to us by our grandparents and parents, right. Whether we are–whether we take that literally or not, it has shaped us to become and think and interact as guests; that we don’t want to put in effort to shape political landscape. shape the engagements and the policies in our neighborhoods. That’s what he means and that’s what we’re talking about when we mean stop living here as guests; that we don’t want to grow and cultivate our community and our homes and our family here. Because this is our home. This is Hmong in America. That’s why we need to protest. That’s why we need to care for Black Lives Matter, Native Lives Matter. Why we need to care about ending deportation on Latino people and families and Southeast Asian family members and people. That’s why we need to end police brutality because our children are going to face these violent acts when they grow up. And if we are not informing ourselves and building community and listening and having those conversations instead of spouting as bystanders whether in public or whether behind the laptop or phone screens, we’re–we’re not going to progress. We’re not going to end the silence. I am just appalled by the silence of our Asian institutions around Black Lives Matter. Now think about which Asian institution program that you know or that you sit on the board or that you work at or that you volunteer at and go and have that conversation. I challenge you as you do community service and work and doing good for the community, have that conversation with the institutions that you’re associated with. And why has that conversation not happened? If it is happening, why is it not happening publicly? Why?
SO: In regards to uhm Hmong American Day at the State Fair, I think it was the eve of the Black Fair and there’s this GoFundMe link going around asking for funds for Hmong American Day because they don’t have enough funds to fund something else. And I just–and the organizers of that day are self-proclaimed social justice activists. You know, Touger Xiong. Liz. I think there was a public post she said she was conflicted by the two. I don’t think there should be any confliction. I don’t think there should be any silence. I don’t care that the State Fair gave you a free stage and somehow you don’t wanna give it up because you’re standing up for something that is right. If you’re a social justice activist, then say something about Black Lives Matter. And organizations that got funding for social justice, they’re not saying anything. Like SOY, nothing. CHAT, nothing. Two organizations that got funded with a social justice grant and they’re not saying anything about Black Lives Matter, about the State Fair. Your silence hurts the movement. It hurts the Hmong community. And if your organization is there to help across all communities, Black communities also use your resources. And the fact that you’re not standing in solidarity with the community, then you need to remove yourself from being a social justice organization. You know, and that goes with HAP too. So you have these organizations that are prevalent, you have these organizers that are very public, and that loves to jump on bandwagons but they’re not doing anything, they’re not saying anything about Black Lives Matters and that causes a divide with our community in solidarity with the Black community because if we fix the problems that’s happening to them we also fix the problems that are happening in our community.
PHH: Thinking about all of the activism that’s taken place in our community and all the things that we want as–all the rights that we’re fighting for and our civil liberty in the Hmong community and I’m also thinking about Black Lives Matter stands for, right, and how we are fighting sort of parallel things. And then also really thinking about the lack of voices with regards to Black Lives Matter from these institutions that you’ve named, Sandy, and also individuals too, right. That speaks volume to our community and to how far we have to go yet. And it’s really disheartening in that we don’t see ourselves as them and we are the, what is it, the model minority in that we are quiet and that because we have a space at the State Fair we can’t speak out against the racist practices at the State Fair, right. And that we have to be in solidarity with the State Fair and not with Black Lives Matter. And so all those things to me are really troubling. Really, really troubling.
LH: Yeah, I think we as Asian Hmong activists, institutions, that if we do actually do want to help our community progress and move forward, it is to assess ourselves and take a stance or have a conversation about that, if you can’t take a stance because we–we are lacking that. We are lacking that community dialog. We are lacking that institutional accountability. And for what? For a chance to be exhibited? For a chance to be performing at a mostly white attended State Fair and operated and owned mostly white people that continues to have secured spot every year. You know, what does it mean when we take those stances and–and then we have conflictions. You know it–it speaks volume. It does actually send a lot of volumes and messages of respectability politics and that we have our own agenda. The only way to move forward in our community is to only do things that will benefit our own Hmong community. As if other communities doesn’t exist and it’s between us a Hmong people and whiteness. Hmong people and white people. White people with the money and the resources. And that’s the real truth and a lot of Hmong people who work in nonprofit or done political organizing work do feel the same way that I do but do not say jack shit about that because if they do they will be blacklisted. That is the truth that this is the violence that happens in a complex that is for community service that when we don’t have these deeper conversations, these stigmatized conversations, in like the nonprofit industrial complex, that it actually harms our communities. It’s poisoning our community to not move forward. And it is taking a stance that we will be silent as Black lives are getting murdered. We actually only care about our Hmong community but that we also are selling out our own Hmong people for numbers. And what the fuck are we doing? Like what the fuck are our Hmong leaders and institutions doing? And we’ve seen it. We have seen it with overwhelmingly–continuing overwhelmingly Asian institutions being only direct service have created the consequences of our Asian community to be apolitical and not engaged, not having political framework and a landscape to work with. Not having a social justice eye. And this is not to criticize without love and care because I love my community and I do this work but–the resistance from them to not even care and to meet the status quo is so problematic, just makes it more hard for our young people. I’ve had several conversations with young Asian people this summer about how can we help young people and this is the same–they give me the same things that I have said when I was younger. And I’m just like, damn, these young people are still spittin the same that I have spit years ago and nothing has been done about it and that is very sad. We need to have goals and directions that are inclusive of many different narratives and agenda that are relevant to our time here. It needs to be transformed through a political framework and social justice orientated principles.
PHH: I challenge you to dig more deeper into Black Lives Matter. I challenge you to have more conversations with your friends, your parents, your sisters, your brothers about Black history in America and about slavery, police brutality. I challenge you to do all that. I challenge you to have those conversations. Send us emails and questions and comments about those challenges that I’ve put forth to you because if conversation doesn’t start and doesn’t happen we will always be stuck here and behind everybody else and we don’t wanna do that. With that said, until next time thank you for listening and if you have any questions you can email us at hashtag the word hashtag dot hoochim at gmail dot com. Our Twitter handle is the word hashtag underscore hoochim. You can find us on Facebook at hoochim. Please like us and follow us. Until next time have a great Hmong American Day at the fair. State Fair is what’s giving Hmong men gout.
PHH: Hmong men are having gout because of the State Fair.
MX: Gout affects people’s feet, right? Feet? And is it legs too or just feet?
MX: This could very well be the reason why Hmong men are being left behind.
(Outro: laughing and clapping)