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.

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AAPI LGBTQ Pride: To Be Me

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Growing up in a Hmong family with 3 other brothers and 1 sister was a real struggle to get by as my parents and close family members expected so much of me to succeed just like my uncle. I was born the second son in our family of 7, including my parents. Here is my story… Ever since I could remember, my family had always praised me to be the brightest, and a person who would always listen to their parents. With this in mind, I couldn’t bear to disappoint them by telling them that I like boys. I, along with close family members and friends, had always knew that I was different.

Having only one sister in the family, my mother had always spoiled her since she was the only daughter. My mother was always buying her pretty dresses, jewelry, makeup products, and all the accessories little girls loved. Of course, you can pretty much guess how jealousy had just taken a hold on me. So, I questioned myself about why I felt this way. I hated myself and I wanted to cry because being a boy, I can’t have girly things.

 

During second grade, I knew I had feelings for other boys in my class. I wanted to only hangout with them, to be put in the same group as them, and wanted to spend my entire day with them. This was all I could ever think about. Sadly, I didn’t understand my feelings at the time and I kept thinking to myself if this sensation of infatuation, only  a phase. I thought I was living a normal life. As I got older, I understood the term gay and that was when I started to label myself as gay. Although, I was still unhappy with the term gay because it didn’t suit me well. I hid myself in the dark corner of my mind and even persuaded myself that I was not gay. Afraid to be known as feminine, I would exclude myself from society and my classmates throughout my entire grade school education. Every friend I made, knew or assumed that I was gay due to my feminine voice, while at that time, I never knew that I wanted to become a woman.

When I was 20 years old, I was introduced to the term transgender and increased my vocabulary to define myself. The moment I heard the word, I immediately searched and googled the term many times. The feelings I received from knowing transgender was so overwhelming and I couldn’t wait any longer, because that was the day my life as a boy ended. From there on out, I considered myself as a woman and I have been living as a woman since that day.


Kimora Cha is 26 years old and identify as a Hmong transgender woman from Sacramento, California.

 

 

 

 


Celebrate June PRIDE Month by contributing your narrative to be part of AAPI LGBTQ PRIDE 
Narrative Series. If you identify as AAPI LGBTQ 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 JH’s Belief Of Losing Face Disempowers Ourselves And Family Members Narrative

theguardian.com

Story #36

JH is a 23 year old, identifies as a Straight Hmong American male and resides in California.

At the age of 10 years old, I notice that I only liked girls. I would not say that I am attracted to the  ‘same sex’ because I feel more like a male stuck inside a female body. Thus, it is right for a guy to like a girl. I also felt confused because how society view a “normal” relationship is a guy and a girl yet not a girl/girl or boy/ boy relationship.

I don’t know how to tell my parents, friends, and relatives. I’m scare that they will hate me forever if I do come Out. I don’t know where to begin, and I have no support. I don’t think there is any Hmong Community support for myself or other LGBTQQI people, because Hmong culture value the fear of “losing face.” They are embarrassed of having any LGBTQQI children, but it’s their fear of not knowing or maybe because they don’t want to feel blamed.

©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 LV’s Bittersweet Awakening Narrative

transgender-flag

lgbtqnation.com

Story #25

LV is an 23 year old Hmong Transman who identifies as Straight residing in California.

I think I was in the 3rd grade when I realized I liked women. One of my classmates suggested we play spin the bottle to kill time at the Jump For Heart fundraiser at our school. My friend and I were the only ones playing, so as I watched the bottle spin hoping that it wouldn’t land on me, which it did, I thought to myself why I even agreed to play along.

When she leaned over to give me a kiss, I started to stiffin’ up and before you knew it. She kissed me. In my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about how this was “wrong” so I scooted myself away from her as fast as I could. I then ran to the water fountain and started washing off my lips.

But a few seconds after as the cold water splashed on my face from me panicking, I realized that I actually liked it. From that day forward my view of life completely changed and started to make sense.

Hmong_kids

meltingplots.com

I do feel that my family (including cousins) have acknowledged that I am transgender. Over the years, I have had a few Hmong un-related to me hear about me and lecture me about how women are supposed to do this and that. But most of that criticism I get from older Hmong men. With the older Hmong women, they joke about more than serious bash talk. But as the jokes die down, in the end they tell me i’m brave for what i’m doing.

I also notice that Hmong people are not really educated on how diverse sexuality is. Even being in America for 30+ years, there hasn’t been much done to show the Hmong elders about who we are and why we are the way we are. So though we exist, we are not acknowledged.

I was listening to the Hmong radio the other day and the host had stated his opinions on marriage equality. He said that if it were to become legal in California then it would turn this state into hell. So that’s a perspective from one Hmong elder. But my father was also in the room and reassured me that he supported gay rights because it would be wrong for same sex couples not to be able to have the benefits of heterosexual couples. I think because of how I have transitioned before his eyes and him knowing how I am still the same child he raised, his heart has warmed up to the LGBTQ community.

Me myself am not facing any issues as of yet. But hearing stories from other Hmong LGBTQ persons, it seems they are afraid to come out or transition due to losing face (reputation) of themselves or their family.

I came out as a lesbian crossdresser when I was 15 years old, though It always bugged me when people would call me a lesbian. At the age, I didn’t know what transgender was, so lesbian was the closest I could come out as.

When I turned 21, I began my female to male transition. It wasn’t easy coming out to my family as transgender was it was coming out as lesbian. I knew my traditional Hmong parents couldn’t handle anymore but I couldn’t hold back my identity any longer.

It’s been almost 2 years on T now and I have complete support from my family and friends.

media/photos

kityanpoet.com

If you’re compelled by LV’s story, we invite you (if you identify as Hmong LGBTQQI) to contribute your narrative to our collection and documentation by taking this 5 minute survey: http://tinyurl.com/HmongLGBTQQIStories

©Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement, 2011 – 2013. 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.

Come Celebrate MINNEAPOLIS PRIDE with Us!

 

HAPPY PRIDE WEEK! Come Celebrate Minneapolis Pride with us and meet other Hmong LGBTQ people! We have awesome activities that you can have FUN and learn at the same time:

  1. History of PRIDE through multiple communities and their stories.
  2. What is PRIDE beyond the glitz and glam?
  3. Where do you, we belong in the history of PRIDE? Mapping and documenting our stories into Pride History.
  4. Learn & research about LGBTQA organizations in your area that provide services you need.
  5. March with us at the Trans and Dyke March!
  6. Soulfriday Dance Party.

*If you haven’t filled the Raising UP the Hmong LGBTQQI Narrative Survey, please do so here: http://tinyurl.com/HmongLGBTQQIStories

For more information about celebrating Minneapolis Pride with us, please contact us at: linda@mwsmovement.com or txoov@mwsmovement.com. Thank you!

Save the Date May 2, 2012: 3rd & Final Txuj Ci Showcase

A Night of Local Queer Asian American & Ally Artists
Unlimited Edition
Wed, May 2, 6:00-9:00 PM
Coffman Union Whole Music Club

Txuj Ci Showcase was originally a night where Hmong LGBTQ and their allies came together to showcase their talents and to build community and space together.

This year, we have intentionally open it up to the Asian American LGBTQ and their allies for a more inclusive community. Meanwhile still being able to include the Hmong LGBTQ community, hence it is the UNLIMITED EDITION.

The first Txuj Ci Showcase in 2010 included over 120 participants and we grew to 175 participants at the 2nd Annual Showcase in 2011. This year, as we plan for our 3rd and final Txuj Ci Showcase at the University of Minnesota, we hope to see an even bigger crowd of participants and performers. Previous performances include singers, traditional Hmong dancers, modern dancers, drag singers, Qeej instrument performances, fashion designers and show, as well as spoken word artists and visual artists.

We are excited to host another Txuj Ci Showcase and look forward to seeing fresh talents and fresh faces this year! Please join us for a night of amazing art, performances, and delicious food! This is a collaborative effort between the GLBTA Programs Office and Midwest Solidarity Movement and cosponsorship from the Asian Sorority Interest Group. For more information, please contact glbtapo@umn.edu.

Performances, Live Art, Visual Pieces and Fashion Show By:
Chann
Kevin Thao
Ka Lia Yang
Tou Saiko Lee
Hmong Her
Brenda Kothsombath
Sina Yi
Dee Lee
Shay Hicks and Tivon Yang
Rebecca “Rebel” Song
Ongers Her
Ashaley Yang
MidWest Solidarity Movement

MCs:
Fue Khang and Kong Pha
Mdy Yang and Linda Hawj

Photographer:
Maysa Vang
Check out our websites to see what we’re up to as well!
http://www.glbta.umn.edu/
https://mwsmovement.com/
https://sites.google.com/site/asigumn/

We’re on facebook: http://on.fb.me/txujci