For Hmong Who Has Seen Too Many Black Lives Taken

Photography by Patience Zalanga

Photography by Patience Zalanga

I am a queer Hmong American refugee, whose shared experiences and encounters with white supremacist violence has compelled me to rise in solidarity with Blacks who are currently facing a very dire situation in this country. I am wondering, why are Hmong Americans not showing solidarities with Blacks? We see too often the anti-Black racism spewed out by members of our own communities and families, and we do nothing. We often hear our own friends say that Black people deserved to die, or that they are lazy, good for nothing, thugs. We are scared that our Black neighbors will beat us up or rob us at night. We live among Blacks in North Minneapolis, Frogtown, or East Side St. Paul, and we bash them for being bad neighbors. We are scared of living in the “ghetto” with them. Yet, not only do we fail at being good neighbors, but we have (un)consciously internalized anti-Black racism as well. I hear Hmong Americans around me justify police violence by saying Black people do not work hard enough, are loud and obnoxious, and are criminals, so they deserve to be shot.

#API4BLACKLIVESAs we know by now, Black people are being killed all across the U.S. I have lost count of the number of victims. Furthermore, queer people of color, and especially Black transwomen, are much likely to be arrested, left homeless, and killed by police.But let me now focus on Sandra Bland, a Black woman who was arrested and died in police custody in Texas. I have no doubt that police murdered her. She was murdered because she was Black, and she was knowledgeable about police brutality. The police do not want us to fight back, to educate, or to rise up. Some Hmong are openly supporting police, and even justifying police use of force. Yet, these same individuals fail to explain the systemic ways Blacks are disproportionately facing police violence.

You may ask why Hmong Americans should care about this issue. I say, we must not forget our past. We too bear the brunt of white supremacist, colonial violence. We too were forced out of our homes and our lands. We too suffered death in warfare. We too were once being killed in the jungles with no one noticing or caring about our unjust deaths. It was a Secret War after all. As we remember Fong Lee, a Hmong teenager who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, let us remember that we too have seen, feel, and known injustice in our communities.

#API4BLACKLIVESHowever, Hmong Americans also perpetuate anti-Black racism. In the early 20th century, Asian Americans tried to lay claim to legal citizenship through saying they are “white.” While this did not go in favor of Asian Americans, it shows how whiteness plays into the lives of Asian Americans. Many Hmong Americans are now millionaires or have secured high-level corporate positions. In this vein, we have been able to help other members of our communities. However, we must not allow ourselves to be tricked that we have all “made it.” We have achieved a level of success that perhaps puts us in line with other Asian Americans as model minorities, but we by no means have achieved racial or class justice. It is precisely because some Hmong have become model minorities that they see Blacks as lazy, obnoxious, and criminal, thus deserving death.

Let us not forget that all these achievement that we have made success in would not have been the slightest of our imagination if it were not for the struggles and successes of our former Black brothers and sisters in fighting for the rights to education, voting, and citizenship. These are things that Hmong Americans today in the US have taken for granted; thus, we need to be conscious in ways how the treatment of Blacks will reflect in the treatment of how Asian Americans will be treated in the future.

#API4BLACKLIVESThe current movement around #BlackLivesMatter should inspire us. I have seen many Hmong fall into the trap of “#AllLivesMatter” or “#HmongLivesMatter.” By doing so, we either enhance white supremacy, or we fall back to centralizing Hmong lives, and thus fail to be allies to other communities apart from our own. At the current moment, we see that Black lives are being taken from us on a near daily basis. There was a time when Black people were only considered 3/5 human, not fully human. That should teach us that Black lives were never considered lives to begin with. Many Hmong Americans are ignorant or indifferent to the histories of slavery, segregation, and lynchings that Blacks know all too well. Some institutions such as the prison and the police are born out of slavery and racism. Blacks and people of color make up the overwhelming majority of people in prison, while the crimes they commit may actually be the most petty. We must dismantle and constantly criticize these institutions of power, although sometimes they may seem like they exist to uphold law and order in society.

To stand with #BlackLivesMatter does not mean we are against other lives. In fact, part of social movements and social justice is to validate and truly understand the suffering of others that you yourself do not experience. With that, we must believe in and stand beside, and be engaged with #BlackLivesMatter. Until Black lives matter, we truly cannot uphold the value that all lives matter.

Photography by Ho Nguyen

Photography by Ho Nguyen

I am by no means saying that we must divert the attention to Hmong American communities. In fact, I am saying the opposite. We must understand our position as Hmong Americans in this country, in order to understand how we have benefited at the expense of Blacks. We also perpetuate hate against other communities, who are classed, gendered, sexed, or raced differently from us. To say that Hmong Americans exists outside of Blacks is completely wrong and ignorant. We have benefited from decades of civil rights and social justice struggles by Blacks, American Indians, Latinos, gays, lesbians, trans, and other Asian Americans. We share the experience of racism, death, war, and racial stereotyping with Blacks, and we cannot and should never forget this. We must let go of our own anti-Black racism and prejudices and we must truly understand that Black lives matter. We can do something!

[This article was published as MidWest Solidarity Movement’s stance on supporting #BlackLivesMatter]

More images from #API4BlackLives at #BlackFair:

Photography by Pashie Vang

Photography by Pashie Vang

#API4BLACKLIVES

Photography by Pashie Vang

Photography by Pashie Vang

Photography by Pashie Vang

Photography by Pashie Vang

Photography by Pashie Vang

Photography by Pashie Vang

20150829_110507 20150829_121748 20150829_121806 20150829_122703

Photography by Patience Zalanga

Photography by Patience Zalanga

Video from API4BlackLives @ #BlackFair:


About the author:

Kong Pheng Pha

Former MidWest Solidarity Movement collective member, Kong Pheng Pha is a PhD candidate, historian, and researcher at the University of Minnesota. His research interests lie at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, queerness, and refugee migration. His activist work centers around these topics, and he has presented his research and activist experiences all over the U.S.

AAPI Heritage Month: I Write from the “We” that is Erased by Assimilation

 

Film Screening: Hafu: the mixed race experience in Japan. Source: hafufilm.com/en

Growing up fourth generation, developing an identity as an Asian American has felt like something of a choice, or a process. Perhaps it was inevitable but it feels like a reaction. I think that for some folks in immigrant communities who are first or second generation, ethnic identity can involve a strong cultural experience. Not a monolithic or a static one, to be sure, but perhaps a more cohesive one. My identity is of being an American, but a racialized American. Which is also a cultural experience, just an American one.  I’m mixed, with a Japanese American father and a European American mother. My grandfather’s family were Buddhist missionaries who migrated to Hawai’i and helped found a temple there. I grew up in suburban Illinois without much of a community that looked like me or came from similar history.  Coming from a family that was more or less assimilated, sometimes I think I grew to identify as a Japanese or Asian American based on the negative aspects of being a racialized person, rather than the positive aspects of identity, culture, or community. My choice to identify as such was and is a reaction to the self doubt, in/visibility, and microaggression that people of non-European descent experience in America.  Ultimately I see this as a blessing because of the community and history I am still discovering, but also because it provided me with the earliest seeds of doubt about a racial system that I could not name but was keenly aware of.

I write from the “we” that is erased by assimilation.

I am decided by the fact
That our people came here to work in the sugar cane fields
That we came here to minister to those who worked in those fields
That we came here to get rich quick
That we died trying;
That we succeeded and forgot our mother tongues,
That we burned photographs and letters,
That our children would look at us as the enemy;
That we came here to live in segregated neighborhoods,
and that we did business in further segregated neighborhoods
That we came here to move to the suburbs
That each generation was foreign to the one that preceded it;
That our children would resent us for not teaching them who they were;
That we defined ourself against whiteness, while we craved whiteness,
while being used as a wedge against blackness,
That as we lost the our mother culture, we became something else entirely,
That we we were forced, coerced, encouraged, and then rewarded for assimilation;
That we came to sit in furious silence, or to laugh in self-hate,
when our American friends mocked our parents,
That we were still not American even after four generations,
That as mixed kids, we were Asian when you wanted to laugh,
but white when we challenged your racism, no matter where it was directed
That when we grew up, we died a little bit everytime we passed,
That when we grew up, we realized:
We would not be followed in the grocery store, but
our fathers would be followed home from the train station by boys calling them chink;
That our mixedness would be celebrated–
That they would offer our own bodies back to us as currency,
That this currency would only be of value when positioned against a backdrop of white power,
That the outsiders who celebrate our mixedness do so at the expense of our browner cousins;
That whiteness wants to extract the part of us that is not itself, both to taste it and to extinguish it;

Source: eclecticshaman.com

Source: eclecticshaman.com

That we are not the sum of our parts, that we are neither of our parts;
That those who want to consume us, and sometimes do-
Spit us out as not their own,
Swallowed us and owned us, unaware we are
Both/and neither
That the nature of life is dualistic, not binaristic–
That the roots of the family tree divide infinitely in half

 

 

 

 

 

 


10077_4340851356467_1874550948_nSusan Kikuchi works as a labor organizer and currently lives in Minneapolis. She is constantly having the same conversations over and over with herself, using new vocabulary each time.

Celebrate May Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by contributing your narrative to be part of AAPI Midwest Narrative Series. If you identify as AAPI in the Midwest and want to contribute your narrative or have questions, please email Linda for more information – linda@mwsmovement.com


 

AAPI Heritage Month: I was Out, Proud, and Did Not Care what I Had to Lose

Guinness World Records largest human rainbow held in Philippines from Polytechnic University – Source: noypicollections.blogspot.com

I am a queer, Filipina womyn of color. I was born and raised 17 years of my life in the Philippines and migrated to the United States in 1999. During my college years in 2002, I realized I was attracted to womyn and identified as a lesbian. Having the language, such as the word lesbian enabled me to talk and explore my sexuality and humanity.

In my time, the Filipino culture at large considers being LGBTQ or homosexual a taboo and was not talked about, and religiously considered a SIN. At the same time, we are also accepting of the Gay (men) community such as gay men fixing our hair and beauty or butt of the joke. There is also the notion of, “If it’s not in my family then it’s okay.” The Philippines was colonized by Spain from 1521-1898 that lead to the introduction of Catholicism. I too was Catholic and I had to denounce my religion because it doesn’t match with my values and have done harm to my humanity and relationships.

I realized that to fully embrace my sexuality, I had to prepare myself to accept that I will lose my family, my Filipino community, and my religion in the limbo. I was out, proud and did not care what I had to lose. Those who care will be there from the start or join you when they’ve grown up spiritually and realize they’ve pushed you out for ignorant reasons.  

image

Further critically reflecting and exploring my sexuality, I have realized that this attraction started when I was in sixth grade. Ms. U was my English teacher and I always sought her attention. I was happy to see her and I volunteered with whatever she needed help with. I had a huge crush on her. Then my sophomore year, I felt the same way with my neighbor that was seven years older than me. Besides the physical attraction I was attracted to her fierceness as a womyn. A womyn with her own car, professional image, serious attitude and stature, and not caring of what people think about her. That was admirable to me and I was just happy and content to look at her from a far. Junior year, I attended a martial arts club called PHICKAJU (Philippine Combat Karate Judo) and there was a senior student that was so talented with her martial arts skills. It was the same feelings and attractions. No sexual thoughts involved, just being around the presence of these womyn made me happy and tugging at the strings of my heart. Through these past years, learning about my sexuality lead to the realizations of my humanity and these previous experiences and emotions towards womyn.

In 2002, my sister ousted me to my mother that was still in the Philippines. She added additional versions and stories that were not true. Stuff that enraged my mother to not accept me. At that time, I didn’t have the chance to tell her my story, my truth… my very personal experience and dignity that no one else have the right to tell. In 2009, I welcomed my mom to live with me and I was able to tell her my side of the story. She told me that, “No matter what you’re still my daughter.” Four of my siblings are accepting of me, one of my brother even told me that, “I already knew you were a long time ago.” I chuckled and jokingly said, “You mean I’m the only one who did not know I was gay?,” but this was with an all honest statement.

In 2008, I joined the Military to see the world and for it’s benefits and opportunities, but now I’m in a process of understanding this experience, politics and my role. At that time, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy (DADT) was alive and was the suffocation on what’s left of our, my human emotions and rights. Being in the military, you sign up your being, mind, body and transform yourself to act and be the defense and offense for government, nation and people. Regardless how much I embraced my lesbian sexuality, I felt that I had no choice but to go back into the closet because of my fear of the “what ifs”? What if I lose my job, benefits, home, citizenship, what if I can no longer take care of my family, and what if I can’t get a job elsewhere if I got reported and discharged with dishonor?” With this policy, very few selected people knew of my sexuality, because I didn’t feel safe and limited my friendships within military and my environment in San Antonio; which was made up with large military bases. Then in 2011, DADT was repealed after all the hardwork of ex-military members, family, friends, activists, and some politicians. DADT has been an oppressive policy led by homophobic, religious conservatives and their dehumanizing agenda. This has caused me struggles and barriers to find acceptance of who I am by being Out as a civilian then as an active duty service member, having to silence my dignity and go back into the closet for three years. I thought a lot about what freedom meant, because the values of protecting and serving the US are based on freedom, but I still did not feel free. I saw my family and friends who are LGBTQ, not free from from violence and discrimination, especially if they were Asian and from Communities of Color and Indigenous people. They suffered more harshly due to institutionalized homophobia, transphobia, classism and racism. A part of me was still in the closet, traumatized with the situation, and constantly battling with myself on how I should act and be. These type of violent policies does an excellent job of making us and our community police each other and how we, specifically how I should act and feel as a person. I definitely couldn’t show simple acts of affection or introduction of my partner of 3 years to anyone.

2012 Twin Cities Pride March

2012 Twin Cities Pride March

The 2012 election was the very first time I voted, and my first time marching in Minnesota’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer pride parade. Being our Commander in Chief is President Obama, I felt so liberated and powerful holding a sign that said, “Obama Pride, LGBT for Obama.”

I learned that VISIBILITY is key, and when more people empathize with our stories, experiences and struggles, more people will understand us and shift away from oppressive and conservative belief and policy.

Having to constantly come Out, constantly struggle internally and externally, constantly learning, constantly embracing the self, constantly critical thinking, constantly advocating, constantly staying involved in activism and community, constantly being informed and educating. These are some of the “CONSISTENCY” that I go through being a queer, Filipina womyn of color.


 

2015 - Marching in solidarity with Baltimore in Minneapolis Rise Up and Shut It Down.

2015 – Marching in solidarity with Baltimore in Minneapolis Rise Up and Shut It Down.

Maica is a veteran of the United States Air Force and a new MN resident. She is a full-time student studying Biomedical Engineering and transitioning from a military into civilian life. She is also rooting herself into the world of activism and social justice.

Celebrate May Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by contributing your narrative to be part of AAPI Midwest Narrative Series. If you identify as AAPI in the Midwest and want to contribute your narrative or have questions, please email Linda for more information – linda@mwsmovement.com

 


 

 

Raising UP YPX I Want To Be An Inspiration to Hmong LGBT People

usakathoey.blogspot.com


Story #37

YPX is a 16 year old, identifies as a Gay Hmong American male and resides in Minnesota.

I notice that I was attracted to the same sex “male to male” since I was twelve years old. I felt that it was a lot of struggle for me because I can’t express my feelings to anyone or my parents. During that time in middle school, I felt really left out at school. The boys would not play with me, and say that I’m gay. I only sit with the girls but who cares anyway because I have best friends who are girls. They don’t really care or mind, and they respect me. As I am growing up, I always have this attraction towards guys because I think they are cute, handsome, and sexy.

I think one of the issues that Hmong LGBT face are fitting in at school. There were times when things come falling down on me. So I think of suicide because I feel really sad, and not happy with who I am. I was not born in the right body/person, and deep inside my heart I know who I am which really is a “girl”. Although, I didn’t end up killing myself because I think that is the not best way to solve my problems. I think that life is very fragile and competitive because you have to compete to be able to survive. I don’t ever think of dying soon. Life is very fragile and can be too short, because you don’t ever know when you gonna go today or the next. To avoid these obstacles, I watch videos of transgender people that inspires me. They give me the courage and hope that I will reach my destiny of becoming a woman, and not think of killing myself. They are my role model and inspiration..

I’ve not heard of any Hmong LGBT stories before, and I’m not really sure. Even though I don’t have much knowledge or experience in being Hmong LGBT, I would like to help and inspire others who feel different about themselves.

©Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement, 2011 – 2014. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution with the intent to sell, use and/or duplication of these images, audio, video, stories, blog posts, and materials on this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s authors and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links as stated by MidWest Solidarity Movement members may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Raising UP T.V.’s I Choose To Share My Sexuality With People I Trust

Going South, 2012

Story #35

T.V. is a 20 year old, identifies as a Gay Hmong American male and resides in North Carolina.

The first time I was aware that I was attracted to boys… well I don’t remember much but if I recall, it was back when I was small like in the age of nine or ten. I would always want to feel abs from a person I was close to back then and he was a teenager. I didn’t know that I like to touch or feel his abs, but I was like so small back then, so I didn’t know better. As I grew older, I started to realize that I am starting to like other Asian men. It was hard at first, but I just kept that to myself.

In coming Out to my family and most of my friends that will be a no. I have my reason to not come Out to them, for example if I do, they might or will shun me away, and not consider me as a part of them anymore. I hate the feeling of being alone and most of all, I fear that they will condemn me. I don’t believe that the Hmong community think LGBT should never exist. In a way, I could say some of them would not have a problem with it. Yet, I am facing the fear of being shun away still and sometimes fear being lonely. I do not know any Hmong male or female that are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender besides myself.

I am Out to a few of my friends. I trust them to be my friends, and they love me either way. Plus they have a kind heart and make me feel welcome. They are cool with it, and I love them because they accept me.

©Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement, 2011 – 2014. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution with the intent to sell, use and/or duplication of these images, audio, video, stories, blog posts, and materials on this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s authors and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links as stated by MidWest Solidarity Movement members may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Raising UP Anonymous’s I Owe This To Myself, Honesty And No More Lies

time.com

time.com


Story #34

Anonymous is a 26 year old, identifies as a Gay Hmong male and resides in Washington.

I never really understood what homosexuality was when I was growing up, but all I know was that I was always attracted to other boys, and never to girls. As far back as I can remember being attracted to the same gender was when I was 5 years old. I remember when I was about 9 years old, the movie Titanic first came out, I was attracted to one of the man in the movie. It wasn’t Leonardo DiCaprio but to one of the officers who saved Rose from the water at the end. I don’t know how to describe the feelings but I daydreamed a lot about him. I would sketch pictures of him and glue it to my wall. All I know was that I was crazy about him, a British actor.

It has been a year since I came Out. I first came Out to one of my African-American girl friend because I know she was very accepting and supports the LGBT community. One of the reasons why I came out was because I fell in love with this Korean guy. First, I never thought that I could ever fall in love with someone even though I am attracted to men. There was something about him that just sparks up every time I see him around. I get butterflies in my stomach, and he was the light into my darkness. My feelings for him were hard, and when he went back to Korea for the summer, I missed him so much. I would take long walks down the beach thinking about him wishing he could be there with me, walking down by the shore. Everything I do, I always wish that he was there. The sad thing was that he was straight. When I found out that he had a girlfriend, everything came crashing down. I was so heartbroken. and I never had these kind of feelings before. I’ve had crushes in the past but it was never to the point where I wanted to be with them. When he returned back to the states, I never thought that I could receive a hug from someone who I really like. I was happy and sad at the same time, happy by receiving a hug from the man of my dreams, and sad that he will never be a part of me.

I am only Out to my close friends, and coming Out to them was a relief. I love them to death. It was as if the weight I’ve been carrying has been lifted off my back. They love me even more for being ME. I have always hated the feeling of “Pretending to be Straight.” Now I can just be myself. I have gotten much closer to my friends now than, then. I haven’t come Out to my family yet.

I haven’t heard any past history or stories of Hmong LGBT, but I am sure that there are cases back in Laos. It seems like being LGBT isn’t accepted in the past and the individual have to marry the opposite sex just to be “normal”. I think the younger generation has a more modernized mind-set, so they’re more supportive. As for the older generations, I’m not quite sure. Some believed that homosexuality is a Western thing, that once Hmong people came to the US, they started to become gay. No race, ethnicity and country is free from Homosexuality in their culture. It’s everywhere.

gayasiatraveler.com

gayasiatraveler.com

Going to my First Pride Parade this year was such an amazing experience. The streets were so colorful, and it is so nice to see all kinds of people who are the same as you. Met lots of nice people. and had the best time in my life. When you are Out, at times, you just don’t care what people think anymore. Now I am happy the way I am. Life is Beautiful.

It was hard for me to accept myself as a gay man, but the Korean guy who I fell in love with was a part of making me realize my self-acceptance of my real human emotions and feelings. He was the first one who I can picture spending my entire life with. Just sad that he will never return the feelings back to me. He was the one who made me want to be with another man. When I was still “hiding in the closet”, I was trying to picture myself with a girl to just try to be “normal.” I always had these questions popping into my mind that if I ever dated/married a woman, “Will I be happy with her? Will she be happy with me? Will I ever be able to touch her?” etc etc.

I don’t want to live a lie anymore, and just be honest with myself.

©Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement, 2011 – 2014. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution with the intent to sell, use and/or duplication of these images, audio, video, stories, blog posts, and materials on this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s authors and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links as stated by MidWest Solidarity Movement members may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Raising Up Our Narratives for Change Jan 2015

We’ve been away to rest, school, work, and take care of our families, and ourselves in the past several months. We are in the process of re-launching our Raising Up Our Narratives to shake up Minnesota Nice with our Asian Trans* and Queer selves this January 2015. Stay tune!

At this time we have decided to close submissions for one our important online organizing efforts, Raising Up The Hmong LGBTQQI Narratives to re-launch a new version. The Narratives campaign has amplified the many truths, struggles, and positive sides of being Hmong and LGBTQQI. We received over 30 submissions from across the states, and have reached over 16,000 views from around the world since publishing the stories more than a year ago. Additionally, we’ve also received positive messages from our readers who can identify with the stories. Writing and speaking is important in documenting our existences into history, and to end the dangerous and silencing idea that “There are no Hmong gays (LGBTQQI) ever.” There are still several remaining Hmong LGBTQQI Coming OUT stories that will be posted on December 12, 2014, and throughout this month.

Your story is important. If you are interested in sharing your story with our Narrative 2.0, getting involved, or have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact Dee at dee@mwsmovement.com.

Thank you to all who have shared their stories, creating visibility, and speaking your truths.