009: Hmong People Love a Good Swindle

Happy one year to us! In this episode we talk about Linda’s recent #wanderlust trip, the Community of Excellence charter school updates, the Secret War veterans memorial at the Minnesota State capitol grounds, Hmong leaders (and Mai Na Lee’s book, Dreams of the Hmong Kingdom) and how Hmong people love a good swindle.

Below is the list of links for those who want to learn more about the stuff we mentioned and talked about.

Community School of Excellence-
http://www.twincities.com/2016/06/22/ka-zoua-xiong-save-our-school-or-save-our-jobs/
http://www.citypages.com/news/st-paul-hmong-charter-school-hires-back-teachers-narrowly-escapes-closure-8352025

Minnesota Memorial for Secret War veterans-
http://www.twincities.com/2016/06/11/hmong-memorial-state-capitol/
http://shrdo.com/index.php/suabhmong-news/hmong-news/3116-a-statue-to-remember-how-hmong-came-to-america-unveiled-on-june-11-2016

Mai Na Lee’s book Dreams of the Hmong Kingdom
https://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/5199.htm
also check your local library

Hmong teb chaws fraud-
https://www.justice.gov/usao-mn/pr/man-charged-affinity-fraud-scheme-promised-hmong-homeland

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Illustration for this episode was made by co-host Sandy Oh.

 

TRANSCRIPT

(Intro: Qeej music playing)

Mim Xyooj: Hello. Welcome to Hoochim. Today is Saturday, July 16th, 2016. We are four Hmong women who like to talk about things that matter… such as…

All: Everything!

Linda Hawj: Tas nrho kiag[1]!

MX: We are your hosts. I am Mee.

LH: This is Linda.

Sandy Oh: This is Sandy.

Paj Huab Hawj: I’m Pa.

MX: And to start us off… I think we’re gonna talk a… a little or a lot about (laughs) about what’s been in the news since we last recorded.

PHH: We recorded maybe two months ago? Three months ago?

SO: Two or three…

MX: Yeah, I think.

LH: I was in the Philippines so I missed out.

PHH: Welcome back, Linda. Your tan is so with you.

LH: It is. Yeah. This is, this is like no other tan you can get in America. It’s Phillipines made.

PHH: That’s true. I like that tan.

LH: I’m proud of that tan. (laughs)

PHH: (laughs)

MX: Any highlights from your… wanderlust trip that you wanna talk about?

LH: Yeah… Oh, yeah, I do wanna share with you all… uhm, I mean like skin whitening cream is like, it seems like it’s all over the world. Uhm. I mean white people are white.

PHH: White is right.

LH: Uh so, so Maica and I were walking and like most of all the stores that we had been to had whitening, whitening cream. And we saw that there was a Dove whitening cream. It didn’t… I don’t remember if it said whitening cream but it said lightening or something of that sort. And then we were just talking about huh, didn’t Dove have a love yourself campaign in the U.S.?

SO: Yeah.

LH: In other countries it’s sort of, oh love yourself and whiten your skin.

PHH: Wow.

LH: So it’s like… this sort of insidious way how capitalism and marketing uses uh people’s… sort of you know the whole like oh love yourself, let’s accept people for who they are. Uhm, and body shaming but we’re also going to go to other countries that don’t have these sort of advocacy or social justice, racial justice component right activism there in a sense. I mean there’s activism in the Philippines but there’s sort of this capitalist way of marketing and advertising you know in different parts of the country where if Americans went there would they… and they love Dove, would they call out Dove for this type of messaging right. And it’s… ugh, yeah, man.

MX: Wow. So, so the messaging is love the whiteness in you.

SO: (laughs)

PHH: What do you have to say that, about yourself Dove? I’m sure Dove is…

SO: Totally listening to us.

PHH: Totally listening to us and waiting to let us… let them sponsor us.

LH: I’m pretty sure, I’m pretty sure there’s a team of like IT folks or data analysis who will capture our voice and say Dove and yeah…

PHH: Yeah.

LH: They’re gonna like get in touch with us. Or erase our podcast.

PHH: I mean when you were saying whitening cream I was completely thinking about Hmong Village and all the creams we have at Hmong Village too. You know and… yeah, I think it’s like especially prevalent in third world countries, this like idea of being like white and in some… in thinking back historically, the folks that were tanned and that were darker were usually the ones who were out in the fields working right. And the ones that were out in the fields working were the folks that were that had less money right. Uhm, and so the people that were the lighter folks were always the ones associated with wealth so like. Yeah. White is right. All around the world.

LH: Yeah. And then a lot of the media that we saw… I mean I’ve seen some like Thai uh Thai advertisement. I think there was like advertisement about uhm like being anti-black skinned color advertising but anyways uh the… yeah, a lot of the commercials in the Philippines place a lot of lighter skinned Filipinos and a lot of the like typical uhm lighter skinned Filipinos and a lot of the uh more typical more very feminine or masculine type of images of like commercials and actors and et cetera at the forefront of…

SO: Mm-hm.

LH: Showing like nation wide this is sort of the image of Philippines and Filipinos. But then it completely like ignores the rest of the other Filipinos who do not look like this. You know like I think of like Princess Diana.

[00:05:00]

LH: You know like this… or you know white European models who are very slim and slender and white and have these type of smaller features. And so it’s… So I just think about like, wow, what does that mean? But then I’m like well of course it’s a whiteness you know a white ideal of what is deemed to be the face of a certain people or country.

SO: It’s all across Asia unfortunately.

PHH: Yeah. You know like when I was younger and watching like Bollywood movies, I never knew like a darker skinned like Indians existed.

LH: Wow. Yeah, yeah. It’s true.

PHH: I mean think about like I mean… so you think about that right.

SO: Yeah. Like Bollywood movies they certainly cast girls with lighter color eyes, more European features.

PHH: Yeah.

SO: Lighter skinned.

MX: Thai dramas.

SO: Thai dramas. Everybody there are half… they only cast folks who are like half European or who are half something. Nobody’s like full-blooded Thai.

MX: And they’re super skinny.

PHH: Super skinny and they have really light skin.

SO: Yeah.

MX: I think about the United States even. I remember when I became friends with this guy from the… from Singapore. And he was like, is it true in America you’re all fat? And you’re not all like Angelina Jolie? (laughs) And I was like, hell yeah that’s true.

SO: What do you fucking expect? People come in different sizes you dumb shit.

PHH: Okay but like think about…

MX: Well, I mean, it’s what who’s being cast in movies, in media. Who’s being pushed to the limelight versus like the average American white or people of color or whatever you know.

SO: Mm-hm.

PHH: I mean okay so but like speaking of like depictions right? Uhm, like… K-dramas and how they depict like white Americans is really fascinating too like you know the way that they depict white Americans are… you know white Americans are these obese, pizza eating, hamburger eating drunks who like are absolutely nobody and are like destroying themselves. And I find that fascinating. I think it’s funny how we all… how the media in different parts of the country in the world actually depicts each other.

SO: I was watching this Korean drama and randomly this guy selling watches was like uhm Pakistani guy. Or like because there’s a lot of Pakistanis in Korea he was selling watches. Oh, hey, buy some watches. Like this poor dude, he’s saying it in broken Korean. I’m like, holy shit they did not just pull this fast one on everybody like no one fucking talks about this shit but of course they don’t (laughs).

PHH: Yeah! There’s that movie that’s K-drama Lee Min Ho drama where like he comes to Berkeley to study and he’s living like…

SO: The one with bad English?

PHH: Yeah!

SO: Oh my god.

PHH: But just think about that. The way they depict Americans was like completely… like I mean I’m never usually offended and I was slightly offended because I was like wait, I’m American and we’re not all like this.

SO: (laughs)

PHH: But it was like these like you know uhm… west coast folks who you know was totally saying yeah man and…

SO: (laughs)

PHH: Who was like drunk and fat and just partying. And these girls were like these blonde hair blue eyed babes that were constantly in their bikinis and there guys you know these white guys were like these blonde hair blue eyed obese white guys who were either surfers or… you know like it’s just like…

LH: But, but I think about… I think about sort of the what is it wanna dig deeper on how other countries have access to these images of America which a lot of America produces a lot of media and I wonder if these people who produce these media, that movie right, did they watch American media and then sort of portray those into the film? Because in American Asian people live here and for a long time Americans have created these images and not really per se watched Asian media and to take that to put it into American media you know.

SO: Yeah. Cause in the recent in Descendants of the Sun, how they portray the American army, the American military uhm was really fascinating too.

[00:10:00]

SO: Because you see how they treat other military folks in different countries in these movies and films uhm but in this one which Korea made showed Americans as, oh you need to put this in Americas or how about we just fix it instead of (unintelligible) because they’re not gonna come. It’s gonna take them a while.

PHH: (laughs)

MX: There are also a lot of white Americans that vacation In Asian countries… and when I’ve been abroad you know I’ve, I have been embarrassed by white Americans who have been loud, obnoxious assholes and…

LH: Oh, man, I have a story to tell about Philippines.

MX: And you know like how much of that feeds into their portrayal of loud, obnoxious white Americans?

LH: Exactly. That reminds me of… So Maica and I we visited uhm Boracay cause we… we went to visit Maica’s family and like some of the friends and Maica had not… We were originally gonna go to Southeast Asia and then Maica was like, wait, you know, I’m going back home for the first time in a long time. It’s about like 10 something years. And so instead of going to like visit Southeast Asia what I spent is time to visit my country right. Take this opportunity. And so we preferred to go visit Boracay and so on the last day when we came back uhm there’s a van that comes to pick us up before we go to the port and ride in the boat to go back to like the bus right and then go back to Manila. And so, we had uh stepped into the van in the back and there was this white American male who was very like… he got drunk the night before he was gonna leave right. And so he has this massive hangover and he just like took all the space of the seat on the side that was only seat that could be left. And then we were going to go in and he didn’t not even move. He didn’t move. And then I had to like say excuse you, can I sit. And he was just like oh okay yeah. And then not just that but when we were gonna go on the port there was a uh… one of the local surrounding uh a guy, a Filipino native visited the island and went to go pick up a… a rooster, because they have cock fights and stuff there. Uh, so the rooster kept crowing and crowing and this is like six in the morning and the white guy was just like complaining and like was saying like that rooster should not even be on the boat, this is so fucking horrible and like no one should let that rooster on the boat and da-da-da-da, right. And Maica was just like livid, upset and then Maica was talking to some of the other folks and saying you know why do we as Filipinos have to be so welcoming of these types of attitudes of white Americans when they come up just to use up our resources and space and then complain about… you know complain about like our local natives going about their usual activities right. Uhm. And then it’s like what do you expect a fucking rooster crows in the fucking morning. What do you want us to do like kill the rooster there? And so he was just like complaining his whole way and then the thing is that there was still seats and I think that the boat person uhm didn’t let the guy with the rooster on the boat.

PHH: Wow.

MX: Wow.

LH: Yup.

SO: Mm. Because of this white guy.

LH: Yeah. He was like complaining and complaining. It was just… ugh, yeah Maica was like upset and some of the other folks were too. Cause it’s like why do we have to please white Americans when they are so obnoxious and rude you know about our country.

MX: Why do we have to change ourselves and our routines to…

SO: Accommodate foreigners.

MX: To accommodate foreigners who couldn’t give a shit about us. I mean white man tears.

PHH: Right.

MX: So important.

PHH: But we, we do it because. We do it because you know they bring in…

SO: Money.

PHH: They bring in money right. And that’s why we put up with it.

SO: Well, you know what…

PHH: Which is a really sad right… the natives.

MX: That is a question that uhm…

SO: I mean I feel like we put up with it too when they come into our local stores.

PHH: Oh, yeah, of course.

SO: Oh my god! What is this!

PHH: Like Hmong Village right?

MX: And describe everything to them.

SO: How does this taste like? (laughs)

MX: I… I especially hate it when people are talking and white people don’t know what you’re saying and they expect somebody to be their translator. And it’s like, no, I am not your translator.

SO: Yeah, but you know I’m gonna admit I have been into other countries and been obnoxious and loud. So…

[00:15:00]

MX: That’s the American in you.

SO: Yeah. Unfortunately. I mean I’ve learned the hard way to be more respectful.

PHH: There were many times when I was in Laos where I had to like check my privilege a couple of times.

SO: I know. Same here. Okay even going to Canada is very different in culture. And then me, my sister and my other friend we were really loud. We took up a lot of space and we were like really loud

PHH: You were like the annoying white guy that Linda was talking about.

SO: Absolutely. We took up all the sidewalk. You know give people space. We took up the whole space. We laughed really loud. There was a lot of people but it was still very quiet. We were the loudest because we were obnoxious Americans. And then we started to climb things and you know it was really stupid.

LH: Where were you again?

SO: We were in Toronto. We started climbing things because we were being stupid. Again, Americans being stupid. It comes it all size and color too. Again it’s your privilege.

LH: You wanna climb the Hmong bamboo at the capitol would you?

SO: Actually I was (unintelligible) (laughs)

PHH: Wait but let’s save that to talk. Let’s talk about current events.

MX: Community School of Excellence.

PHH: Yeah…

SO: That’s right. Linda, Pa Houa and I, we went to a town hall meeting?

PHH: Mm-hm.

SO: Uhm and learned many things about the situation with the Community School of Excellence.

LH: My question when we were there for 30 minutes, which 30 minutes of that had really nothing connected to the Community School of Excellence. It was just a lot of Hmong men who had quote unquote important titles speak about themselves. I mean did you, did you all not catch that or…?

SO: Yeah.

PHH: Uh, yeah.

SO: Actually the first 30 minute was uh me asking this question, where are they? (laughs)

LH: (laughs)

SO: Because they started the meeting late. Yeah.

PHH: Yeah, so… uh, there was that guy from an organization I don’t remember…

LH: Was it Hmong cultural preservation or something?

PHH: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah…

SO: Yeah, yeah.

PHH: Who had no… I felt like had no idea why he was there…

LH: (laughs) He did have no idea…

PHH: He was just like…

LH: He said it himself.

PHH: Yeah. He’s like well, we have resources that you guys could use so if you guys need any resources, come to us, was pretty much it. And then there was the Hmong 18 Clan Council.

LH: Was it just some of the members that could be…

PHH: Yeah, some of the members that were there…

LH: Or something…

PHH: They came and I think they spoke about the importance of having that school right.

SO: Mm-hm.

PHH: The importance of cultural preservation and how that school was preserving culture. And that they uh…

MX: Ha.. Have we talked about the Community School of Excellence before…

PHH: No.

MX: Should we give a little background so that…

LH: Yeah, we should.

MX: Like the charter school and how…

SO: Yeah. The Community School of Excellence is a Hmong charter school that focuses on Hmong culture and language preservation. Uhm, as you know charter schools don’t necessarily have to follow the Saint Paul Public School system’s curriculum so they can create their own curriculum that caters to the population that they’re serving. However, they are a public charter so they get public uh funding depending on how many students are there and all these other uh criterias in order to get additional funding like ELL students, special education students, and low income.

PHH: And the school has been rigged with uh scandals.

SO: Yes.

PHH: Mo Chang used to be the executive director of that school and you know there have been countless accusations made against her, right, with regards to her handling the finances, and then her leadership role. You know right down to like the trips that they would take to Bangkok, and also like the lunch there was that lunch controversy or scandal right where they would uhm clock in students…

LH: They would clock in when students weren’t there…

PHH: Were not there…

LH: Just so they could collect…

PHH: Right.

LH: This… what is it. The federal school lunch…

PHH: Right. Right.

SO: Mm-hm.

LH: Funds.

PHH: Right. And then there was also like uh talks about like how they were spending so much money on these like lavish uhm meals. I mean there’s just like, it’s just riddled with uhm…

SO: Controversy.

PHH: Controversy after controversy. So Mo Chang actually stepped down.

[00:20:00]

PHH: And then in place Bao Vang from Hmong American Partnership and then Kazoua Thoj who is… I don’t know what she, well she used to be a school board council. She used to be on the Saint Paul school board council. And uhm so they are now co-chairing the school. And uhm so basically what happened was uh there was a recent like mass firing of uh teachers. Uh, specifically ELL teachers and the and then also the teachers aide too. And uh the reasoning behind this was that they’re… Bao and Kazoua was sort of restructuring the school right and reevaluating the school. But the teachers being fired, they were all part of uh or they were all trying to be legally unionized. They felt like they were being…

LH: Targeted.

PHH: Targeted because they were trying to form a union. Uhm, so, and as a result of this the Minnesota… what is it?

SO: School guild.

LH: School guild.

PHH: The guild, uhm, was questioning on whether or not they were going to renew their sponsorship. And so this led to this whole crises right. Touger who… uh, so what kind of role does he have in that school? Like…

SO: He’s a diversity consultant.

PHH: He’s… right. Community activist. Really passionate about the school.

SO: Yeah, I’m assuming his wife also works in HR there.

PHH: Mm. Yeah. So.

LH: His wife is the HR there?

PHH: Yeah. So they have like they have these stakes with the school right. And so they called a town hall meeting at Hmong American Partnership and they invited the community, Hmong leaders in the community. So we all saw Blong Yang there. Uhm, Dai Thao was there. You know so uh…

LH: Senator Foung Hawj was not there.

PHH: Senator Foung Hawj was not there but…

LH: And then 30 minutes or 45 minutes of introducing…

PHH: Important…

LH: 18 Clan Council. Very important Hmong men.

PHH: Right.

LH: Which most questionable why they were there and why they spend so much time talking about them which the Hmong, the guy from Hmong cultural preservation then had also spoken his speech that where it sounded, and he did say that I’m not sure exactly why I’m here to that extent right, then just started talking about his organization, like they can provide resources. But what was the purpose of spending all those minutes introducing these very important Hmong men like usual right.

PHH: Right, right.

LHH: And then I think one Hmong man, one of the Hmong men, I forgot his name, was the only one who was a dad or had two sons who went to that school.

PHH: Oh, right. His name is actually William Song and he was the uh uh PTO president. But uh can I…

LH: PTA or PTO?

SO: PTA.

PHH: Is it PTA?

SO: Yeah.

PHH: Can I just say that like the reason why I went to this town hall… I was interested in sort of like the conversation right, because I felt like the way the town hall was presented through Facebook was that like people from the community could go and could voice their opinions. And there would be like this open discussion about whether or not the school should move forward or like what ways the school should move forward and like maybe it was like this place where we could go, we could listen, we could voice our opinions right. And so I was going there and expecting a varied opinion and like people maybe like asking questions right and like maybe having the school take accountability for uh you know for some of the missteps that they’ve had too but it was not like that at all. I mean I don’t know if you guys felt differently.

LH: Yeah, after reflecting that, there wasn’t… it seemed like a crafted agenda where the organizers, Touger Xiong and folks, who organized it, HAP who organized it was sort of like oh look at all our people who are here, you know. After thinking about it because there wasn’t really an opportunity to really ask questions of the guild or ask questions of the uh…

MX: The school.

LH: The school or who was repre… the admins who were representing the school there. Yeah, there wasn’t any of that.

[00:25:00]

LH: After thinking about it after the fact.

PHH: Well, there were questions, right, but these questions were crafted before and people who like these people were already chosen right to like ask these questions.

LH: Yes, that’s what I’m saying. It was a crafted agenda that didn’t let the people who attended or who were invited to attend there to ask questions to know both sides. It was a this is HAP and Community School of Excellence and these are the people from the community we invited to also ask questions on both part.

PHH: Right.

LH: It wasn’t that after thinking you know reflecting back on just the whole experience and so…

PHH: Right.

LH: And so it’s us going there pretty much benefitted a crafted agenda that we were not informed or aware of really.

PHH: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

SO: It was definitely a very pro the school.

PHH: Yeah, I mean it was like it was like hey Minnesota Guild, look at all the…

SO: Support we have.

PHH: Support that we have. And like look at all the like and this is the reason why it’s so important for you to still sponsor us. Like that’s pretty much what it felt like. Every person of color there was you know like put there because they needed bodies to prove to the Minnesota Guild…

LH: Yeah. Ugh.

PHH: That…

LH: (unintelligible)

PHH: I know I do too!

SO: Yeah. And then the sad thing is that not only was it pro the school it was also very pro Hmong and even though there were a lot of folks who went to that school that were of the Karen refugee uhm group that were there. Had no idea what was going. Had one interpreter who was asked to simplify while the Hmong people got the full picture in Hmong but yet the Karen folks got the shortened version, not the full version of what was going on. But yet they spent a good 30-45 minutes introducing Hmong people. So that’s really unfortunate for the stakeholders of this school. They don’t know shit about this place.

LH: Yeah, that’s so unfortunate.

PHH: And like honestly though as an outsider I went there and this is what I got right. Bao Vang, who is also the executive director of HAP, has a huge stake in this school right? They’ve already spent what is it 800 thousand dollars surveying right for a new building right. And that they were gonna get uh they were gonna get a 300 million dollar bond and that if the school closes or that they don’t get sponsorship then they lose this right.

LH: Exactly.

PHH: At the end of the day it was like, hey we’ve already spent all this money into this potentially new building. This new facility that’s gonna make us so much better right. And that if we lose this school right… Nothing about the education right, nothing about that but it was very much about well, if we lose the school this is what we stand to lose, like this building. 300 million dollars. Something that is like precedent, that’s like never been done before within the Hmong community right. These are the things that are at stake right. It had nothing to do with the students. Students really then are the casualties. Cause it’s then like it’s these lives that are being used as shields for this…

MX: Pawns.

PHH: Yes. The students are then the pawns.

LH: But you… but you all. Wasn’t the message of this whole like cause for the children though.

PHH: Yes. I mean that’s what I’m saying.

SO: The irony of it.

PHH: That’s the irony of it right. But like I wonder like how many people in the community like… I mean am I delusional? Like are we the only person that like… are we the only people that realize this?

SO: The one thing is that people don’t know how a school is structured. That one parent came in saying, you know, the curriculum is messed up, they’re not teaching my kid correctly. I’m like but the admins create the curriculum for teachers to teach. And like…

PHH: Well, they don’t. They approve the curriculums.

SO: There’s usually an overall arching curriculum and then the teachers take it and then make it into their own. But overall there’s a curriculum, main curriculum they have to teach to, have to incorporate these elements into it.

LH: Do you… do you all know if most of the these teachers are Hmong or not Hmong but also…

SO: All charter… all culture specific charter schools do not have licensed teachers that are of their of there people and culture. They’re all white teachers. Their assistant teachers or their help, their paraprofessionals, their lunch lady, their garbage people are all people of their culture but not the teachers because we don’t have that body of teachers, people of color. There’s a people of color shortage, uh teacher shortage here in Minnesota. That’s already a big thing that’s being talked about. But there’s a lot of white teachers and so…

LH: So then who…

[00:30:00]

LH: That’s overall problematic in itself. That is part of the root cause though if you are creating a charter school that’s culturally focused in the community and then put outsider teachers to come teach this large population of Hmong kids, students, for example, it just helps create the root cause of the problem.

SO: Yeah. The language and the culture is not gonna be taught. And also the language and culture doesn’t go with the standardized testing that they need to meet. So the, the uh the Minnesota standardized testing and if you have a lot of ELL students there’s a particular type of uhm test to see if your students are up to par with English and if you’re kids are not meeting that English standard, a lot of these like… your curriculum that language piece that culture piece, gets pushed back into becoming an extracurricular activity.

LH: Oh, wow, that’s sad. That is totally…

SO: So…

LH: Contradicts the reason why…

SO: Yeah, exactly.

LH: The school exists in the first place.

SO: Right. These schools are competing with public schools so this is how they sell it to the community. I want to help save our culture and language even though that language piece is only extracurricular because we did not meet that standard for…

LH: So using that as a mobilizing platform to elevate people who actually makes money off of this.

PHH: But I mean but think about this guys. So like that school has what is it I think it’s like 70 percent of their student body is Hmong and 30 percent is like Karen or other ethnicity. I’m not, you know, these numbers are not exact numbers but like… So you take those and you think about them. So these families are first generation Hmong families who not that they don’t have any idea but they have very little experience with the American educational system right. And who doesn’t have the understanding, doesn’t know how to navigate the educational system right. And so whatever like the school tells them is what they think goes right. And so when the school is saying hey like these teachers, they lack like cultural competency, the reason why there’s such a large number of students who are not passing these standardized uh Minnesota testing uh is because of these teachers… they don’t… they can’t… I feel like they don’t have the capacity to question any… the system right.

SO: They don’t.

LH: But they’re just surviving from day to day…

PHH: Well of course.

LH: They put their hands in these first Hmongs who have made it, who have all these…

PHH: Of course.

LH: These degrees or who says…

PHH: Who takes advantage of them completely. I mean, listen.

LH: But they’re doing it out of the goodness of their hearts because they love Hmong people though right.

PHH: Right. The reality is…

MX: It’s about the children right.

PHH: Right. The reality is if you have a very important Hmong man who is a very well-known public figure in the Hmong community who says look, like I approve. This is a school that I am passionate about. I have a stake in this school and so… because… you know. I have a stake in this school, you should trust me. They do. They trust. They trust blindly right.

SO: Mm-hm.

PHH: And they don’t question right.

MX: Perhaps, perhaps that was…

LH: In many movements before…

PHH: Yeah.

LH: Before. Just this…

PHH: Of course. Of course.

MX: Perhaps that was why these very important 18 Council Hmong men were there.

PHH: Oh, yeah. Of course.

LH: It’s approved.

SO: Yeah.

PHH: You know like I will say. The really… the uhm the thing I found really interesting too attending this the forum was that you know I will say that like as a woman I was like you know I felt like the only person who… you know I was looking for people to be held accountable and I’m part of the fuck up right you know. I was waiting for you know…

LH: The very important Hmong men to…

PHH: The very important Hmong men to…

LH: Be accountable?

PHH: Right. Uh.

LH: For…

PHH: For these things right. But like the only person that like even like acknowledged like their accountability and maybe not even acknowledged but I felt like the only who like who took on who was like Bao Vang. And again…

LH: Yeah.

PHH: Again you have this Hmong woman who is then like the sacrificial lamb that’s like brought…

LH: Right?

PHH: (laughs)

LH: Everytime in the Hmong community in any type of forums or et cetera… the Hmong woman is the sacrificial lamb.

[00:35:07]

PHH: Yeah! Right. Listen, so teachers were let go because they… I think one of the reports was that they lack cultural competency. And I was like, man who was the fucker that taught them cultural competency?

LH: (laughs)

PHH: Like, that fucker needs to be let go.

LH: But wasn’t that person who deflecting all these accountability away from him… wasn’t he Tub Ntxawg Xyooj? Wasn’t he the consultant for that? Or who was it if not him?

PHH: Yeah.

SO: Mm-hm. It was him.

PHH: Yeah.

LH: Wow.

SO: They going to Vegas though ya’ll.

PHH: (laughs)

LH: That’s so interesting but I don’t think a lot of people think about that. Especially like… let’s talk about how we sort of idolize certain figures right. Where we don’t hold them accountable or we only see them in one certain light. Like General Vang Pao right. Yeah, like these important figure which are mostly men who’ve… who’ve like done so much for a country, a group of people, a cause and we idolize someone so much that we can’t see them in a different light and a lot of that echos in how people idolize Tub Ntxawg Xyooj in this and not holding him accountable you know.

PHH: Yeah.

LH: That… because I read the comments where a lot of people were like congratulating him on his leadership, how he’s gonna become the next Hmong president or whatever right…

PHH: Yeah. The Hmong… next Hmong General Vang Pao.

LH: Yeah, and but no one holds him or uh larger public figures in the Hmong community leadership accountable for like the fuck ups that are there, apparently are there. Nobody wants to talk about that.

S: But Bao Vang gets a lot of flack for a lot of things.

PHH: Well, listen guys like…

SO: Yeah.

PHH: Touger is a public servant but he chooses who he serves. What was it? But just because he’s a public servant doesn’t mean that he’s a servant. (laughs) That’s important.

MX: I can’t stop talking about how symbolic Bao admitting that she may have had some… I wasn’t at the meeting but you know how she kind of took responsibility ownership of how the community of excellence school had not gone so well. I wonder about like how symbolic it was that she took some of the blame for that. And, and how these very important 18 Council Hmong men were there to legitimize her position.

LH: Yeah, yeah, it’s all… You know after thinking back it’s all a performance, it’s an agenda, it’s a platform created and once again you know very important Hmong men who want to take lead and be the forefront or the face of like advancement of Hmong people yet the Hmong women continue to shoulder uh…

MX: The work.

LH: The blunt force of the ridicule, of the downfall of success…

MX: Right.

PHH: Right, right.

SO: Yeah.

LH: Of Hmong men who lead these movements right.

PHH: Right, right.

LH: And like it’s like do people, do Hmong people who want to advance Hmong community are critically thinking about and looking at the different angles of leadership? Because we love talking about Hmong leadership and Hmong community and uniting, et cetera yet we sort of again go back to just idolizing leaders and not critically thinking of how to ask questions, continuing asking questions, of leadership, of accountability, of what it means to do community service work right. And looking at through this gender lens, this class lens, this sexuality, you know looking through multi lens of how power and structure is at play.

PHH: Yeah, like, I you know I think like we… we don’t ask for, we don’t ask for like accountability from our Hmong leaders.

SO: Mm-mm.

PHH: Like we never do. We don’t, we don’t, we don’t hold them to that standard.

LH: Could it be connected to sort of this larger you know after you know reflecting as we talk a lot about General Vang Pao and like saving the Hmong people and like the war and et cetera. Could it be sort of how in ways we have a public, more public community or the mentality or values where we don’t question… you know.

[00:40:03]

SO: Yeah.

PHH: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

SO: You know like that brings me back to okay you know to talking about Dr. Mai Na Lee’s book uhm that she wrote. The book is Dreams of the Hmong Kingdom: The Quest for Legitimization in French Indochina, 1850–1960. Uhm so when the French started coming in and started to influence Southeast Asia… the first Hmong rebellion in Southeast Asia during the French rule in that area was that person, I forgot his name, but he’s the one who led the first Hmong rebellion. How he got people to follow him was he was gonna give them titles. No one asked him way. No one asked for accountability. How you gonna do this? We have these like dinky rifles. But you know what I’m gonna give you a title of commander, I’m gonna give you a title of this… I’m gonna give you this title. Ooh, I wanna get a title. Hey, let me get all my clansmen from China, from Vietnam, from Laos, from Thailand to come over… and it grew up to two or 300 plus army to go and fuck around with the French rule. No accountability whatsoever. It’s because he gave them some sort of legitimacy in the Hmong community. And so I feel like that’s been kind of the thing with our Hmong lead… Hmong male leaders.

MX: Yes! Stroking the Hmong male ego.

SO: No accountability at all.

PHH: I mean think about this right. This is exactly like Hmong teb chaws right. That guy Seng Yang (note that his name is actually Seng Xiong). Right, you pay a certain amount of money. I will give you land right. Land that I have… I don’t know what kind of land. I don’t know whose land.

SO: (laughs) Yup.

PHH: But if you pay this amount of money I’ll give you land. I’ll even give you a title right if you pay more money. But like where is this coming from? Nobody questions where this is coming from.

SO: Exactly.

PHH: We give and he’s able to like what millions of dollars is what, is what the FBI is saying…

SO: Yeah.

PHH: He was able to con.

LH: But that’s the thing though how we live in this whether it’s this uhm like Hmong traditional values or Hmong American you know infused values where it’s very hetero patriarchal without even naming it… Like we see figures you know, we see Hmong men they… they… We have to take their word for it because we believe that they will do good.

MX: Yes.

LH: But…

MX: Linda, I totally agree. I have this saying I say all the time and Pa’s heard me say it but… Hmong people love a good swindle.

PHH: (laughs)

SO: (laughs)

MX: They do. They love men who have a lot of self importance. They love men who are charismatic. You know.

PHH: They sure do.

MX: They love men who will stroke other men’s egos.

PHH: Yeah.

SO: Mm-hm.

LH: That’s very homoerotic.

PHH: That’s the title of this podcast. (laughs)

SO: (laughs)

PHH: Hmong loves a good swindle. (laughs)

SO: Think about how many Hmong people are in uh what are those like triangle, the pyramid schemes.

LH: Have yall been in a pyramid scheme?

SO: I sure have!

LH: Can you tell us a little more about that?

PHH: Prime America.

SO: Prime America… the insurance scheme. Uh I was… I went in to a knife selling one.

PHH: (laughs)

MX: What about vitamins?

SO: Oh, yeah. The vitamins too.

PHH: Oregon…

SO: That person got me in there wasn’t Hmong, was a Latino man. But anyway.

PHH: (laughs)

SO: I never paid money. I just went because I’m nice right. I’ll listen and if they have food there for me, I’ll go.

PHH: Yeah.

SO: Yeah, it’s insane.

PHH: I mean think about how many times we’ve been swindled, right.

SO: Yeah.

PHH: I mean even like… don’t get me wrong, I love my Rainbow vacuums, my Kirby vacuums. But fuck, like as an adult I cannot imagine paying 13, 14, 1500 dollars for a freaking vacuum cleaner.

SO: Yeah, my mom was telling me how like she bought used fucking iPhones from this guy. He said, oh yeah it’s been used once. And they paid like three to 500 dollars for it and it’s been used and it broke on them in like two days. I’m like, what the heck. Why would you buy something from a guy who said that it works without you actually trying if it works.

LH: But then, but then, you know but looking at it deeper you know this is the American dream though right y’all.

PHH: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

LH: This is the, this is the like… how do you, how do you make it in America you know.

PHH: Right, right.

MX: How do you climb up the ladder with as little work as possible.

PHH: Right, right.

SO: Exactly.

PHH: So like this brings me back to uhm the ways in which I think uhm and doing some research on how Hmong nplog[2] people see like our American lives right.

[00:45:05]

PHH: And it’s through the media right. And how America, the America media chooses to portray the American lifestyle right. And so they see this and they want this right. And they think this exists right. And then in some ways we sort of perpetuate it too right when we go overseas wearing nice clothes right. We have… because we’re on vacation we spend a lot right.

SO: Mm-hm.

PHH: And so like we don’t usually talk about how freaking poor we are…

LH: That’s like a year’s worth of money save right.

PHH: Right, right. We don’t talk about that right.

MX: That’s our tax refund.

SO: Yeah. (laughs)

All: (laugh)

SO: Exactly.

PHH: I know.

SO: Do you realize I come every uh January, February.

PHH: Right. But like, but like there seems to be a disconnect with that right. And so people overseas, they’re like, man, this is how… this is how Americans live. They are all…

LH: We want a piece of that.

PHH: We want a piece of that. And they come over here right and then like reality sets in and it’s like nothing like how it is right. Or even for us younger folks, the way we hear about Laos and the way we think about Laos, it’s from our parents right. They have these really nostalgia, romanticized ideas about Laos. And they tell us these things and we go over to Laos thinking it’s gonna be the same and it’s not. It’s completely different right.

LH: Because 40 years has passed.

PHH: Right. Exactly. 40 years has passed right. And nobody has a field of opium. Just a small little garden. (laughs) But like so you think about these things right and how it becomes this cycle right. And I think in a way for us, going back to Mai Na’s book, we are a people who have always been, it’s like a cycle right. We inherit that, that trauma gets inherited. And we repeat the cycle. Our children will repeat the cycle.

LH: Which it makes me think of you know that time when we went to go see the Hmong exhibition at the…

MX: Historical society.

LH: Historical society where the portrayal of Hmong people right… where it’s very uh very singular narrative of how Hmong people lived and now have made it in America you know. Remember how towards the end of the exhibit where there’s this huge wall of just Hmong success.

PHH: Right.

LH: But it didn’t… do we know any Hmong people who are on welfare, are struggling, are working multiple jobs, who are not actually citizens who can get all the benefits? Do we know that? I know that because I have family members who are still struggling.

PHH: Yeah, yeah.

LH: Even family members who used to live in the project homes, who are my age, are now back in the project homes, where it comes back to that repeated cycle, that repeated cycle of struggle, poverty, of what okay if we don’t fit it, what if we don’t, what if we’re resistant to live up to this American dream where we have to like be obedient, follow the rules, don’t question anyone, any white person at work because they’re our bosses or we won’t have our jobs any longer or don’t question the police right. They have the right and authority to treat us the way that they do. You know I just think of how this American dream is made for only people who… made for white people to ensure that non white people are policed and that white people are still on top controlling how the population is… is interacting.

MX: Yes.

LH: Keeping sort of this uhm… And then, and then America media doesn’t portray Asian people right. When it’s portrayed, it’s portrayed in a very stereotypical very emasculating Asian men or exotifying Asian women

MX: One dimensional.

PHH: Yeah. But guys we’ve made it because there’s uhm… we have a Hmong monument at the state capital.

MX: Well, it’s not… it’s not Hmong.

LH: It’s not a Hmong monument.

PHH: I’m sorry, I’m sorry. A monument uh to honor the fighters who’ve fought in the Vietnam War.

MX: Not the Vietnam War.

PHH: Oh, sorry, sorry. Southeast Asian fighters.

MX: Secret War. (laughs)

PHH: Secret War. Sorry, sorry. Secret War. It’s such a fuckin secret.

LH: Well… that Pa doesn’t even know to describe it.

PHH: But it’s in the shape of a fucking bamboo.

MX: Tip.

PHH: Tip.

[00:50:00]

PHH: (laughs) An invasive species. I mean okay. Can I just say that this bamboo tip and the paj natub that the bamboo tip is on top of reminds me of this Hmong porn that I’ve seen. (laughs)

LH: (laughs) Oh my goodness. There’s Hmong porn? Okay though let’s talk about the Hmong pron afterwards talking about the monument.

PHH: I think we can talk about it parallel.

MX: So I think the monument has a condom over it because it’s ribbed.

All: (laughs)

LH: Okay wait.

PHH: It’s also really girthy too.

LH: Wait so this is supposed to be not a Hmong monument but then it’s on top of a Hmong textile so it’s like confusing. Is it not just Hmong? Or is it supposedly meant to look like it’s not just about Hmong and then other like Southeast Asian…

PHH: I mean of course they can’t say that it’s just about Hmong people because like…

SO: Other people fought.

PHH: Other people would… other people would be upset.

MX: But that’s a good question and I wish we could talk to the artist about this.

LH: Who was the artist?

PHH: You know so I… it was a white artist and I cannot for the life of my find their name like… their name has literally been omitted from the articles…

LH: Interesting.

PHH: That uhm…

SO: Wow.

PHH: All the articles.

MX: That cover the event. The dedication.

PHH: Yeah, that cover the dedication. As if like the artist isn’t important. But I think that the artist is very important right.

SO: Absolutely.

PHH: I would want, you know, I think that somebody who is making work about Hmong people should have insight on Hmong…

LH: And other non Hmong people.

PHH: Yeah, sorry. Right.

LH: Who are Southeast Asian.

PHH: Should have insight uhm but they don’t. But listen guys. It’s a bamboo tip and you guys know that the bamboo is an invasive species.

LH: Wait, who said that it was an invasive species.

PHH: Uh, the department of natural resources.

LH: Oh them again.

SO: (laughs)

MX: Well, well you know what else is invasive? Asian carp. Japanese beetle.

PHH: The Asian ladybugs.

MX: The Asian ladybug. Anything Asian…

SO: Is invasive. So they should let another invasive species kill another invasive species.

LH: So should we call all the Hmong men to fish out the Asian carps?

SO: Yeah. And then…

PHH: I’m pretty sure they already are. Well, you know, at some point the white bass was an invasive species and Hmong people fished that shit out. (laughs)

SO: (laughs)

MX: So how much money did this monument cost?

PHH: So I think 430, 430 thousand was from the uh state and I think 150 was supposed to be privately raised. And I know that uh there was a Hmong committee that was in charge of like raising that money. And I know that Sandy and I went a couple of years back…

SO: To an event.

PHH: To an event that helped raise some of that money. Uhm.

LH: How much was that total?

PHH: So like 530 thousand dollars uhm you know. And I just remember that there was a very important Hmong man who I spoke to a while back who was very proud of the fact that Governor Dayton had given a hundred… 100 thousand… I think it was either like a 100 thousand or 300 thousand towards Hmong veterans to help with mental health. And I felt like that money that went towards the…

MX: Monument.

PHH: Monument could have also gone towards the mental health. Cause god knows we… that’s also like something we don’t talk about in the Hmong community.

SO: Mental health issues.

PHH: Especially with older folks right.

SO: PTSD.

PHH: Yeah, uh. But you know that’s uh something that’s very proud. (laughs)

LH: Have you all gone and see the monument.

SO: I haven’t.

PHH: Mee… Mee…

MX: I… I… drove by it. I did a quick drive by. My dad really wanted to see it so my dad, my mom and I drove down to the capital. There was an even happening so we didn’t actually get to park and walk out to it because there was no parking available. So from a distance we saw it and my parents said, that’s it?

SO: (laughs)

LH: Oh. What?

(Outro: qeej music playing)

SO: That’s the end of our podcast. Uh, thank you all for listening. You can listen to us, hoochim, on Soundcloud. You can tweet us on Twitter at hashtag underscore hoochim. You can also message us on Facebook at hoochim. You can email us at hashtag dot hoochim at gmail dot com. And that is it. Thank you.

 

Translations of Hmong words and phrases in episode:

[1] Tas nrho kiag = “everything, all”

[2] nplog = “Lao, Laotian”

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