Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Asian American Heritage Month, day 11

Hmong in America More than the "Big Three" (Chinese, Japanese, Korean), the Asian American diaspora includes several lesser-known communities of Asian immigrants. Among them are several communities that began when groups of Asian and South Asians came to America as refugees from persecution in their mother countries. The Hmong consist of a little over 180,000 people concentrated in the Wisconsin, California and Minnesota. The Hmong people were a culture of Asia that had suffered immense persecution from the China. They were a rich agrarian culture spread throughout China and Vietnam, but refugees in America mostly come from the mountains of northern Laos. During the Vietnam War, the CIA recruited Hmong to partcipate in a little-known battlefront against North Vietnamese forces in Laos during the Vietnam War. They fought valiantly and were crucial to staving off North Vietnamese forces in the area, but were abandoned by America when U.S. forces pulled up from the region. Following their victory, the North Vietnamese government that took over Laos launched a genocide against the Hmong (Hmong refugees claim they were targets of chemical weapons, such as "yellow rain", launched by the new Laotian government). The surviving Hmong fled northern Laos and swam across the Mekong river to Thailand. Hmong veterans of the Vietnam War are among the most misunderstood of America's refugees and immigrants, targets of racial bigotry, hatred and intolerance by their American neighbours. Few know about the dedicated participation of Hmong soldiers in the American forces during Vietnam, and Hmong refugees are treated more like nuisances and invaders because of their cultural differences. Many Americans mistakenly believe the Hmong immigrated for financial reasons, to steal "American" jobs, or refuse to understand why the Hmong might not want to completely assimilate into American culture. Some even mistake the Hmong for Vietnamese, citing them as the enemies rather than allies in the Vietnam War. Recently, the Hmong community rocketed to the national spotlight when a Hmong hunter in Wisconsin, not realizing he was trespassing on private property, was harassed by a group of white hunters who called him racial epithets, waved firearms at him, and called other hunters for backup. Long the target of persecution and intolerant attitudes by locals, the lone Hmong hunter, Chai Vang, 36, opened fire on the hunters, later citing self-defense and fear for his actions. Vang pled innocent to the shootings, but the incident quickly brought attention to the long-standing racial tension that the Hmong face. Attitudes against the Hmong were only heightened following the insight. Emails posted on The Hmong Today, an excellent website on the Hmong community, where most of the information for this entry was found, highlight the attitudes the Hmong in Wisconsin and Minnesota face. On writer said:

After reading the news articles about the Hmong mass murderer in Wisconsin that killed 5 unarmed, defenseless, innocent victims, I take great joy in reading of the suffering of this wayward, degenerate group as described in your bleeding heart, wimpy, crybaby website. The silent majority in America would prefer that all these worthless leeches go back to Laos. If they can't understand the concept of private property and respect landowner rights then they are in the wrong country. It's quite obvious to me why the Laotian got wants to exterminate this vermin. Too bad this whole mess didn't perish in the Vietnam War. What a pathetic collection of human garbage this group is, particularly their poster boy that's gonna fry in the chair when the authorities get done with him. When they execute this psycho, you will hear the celebrations from all over the United States.
While another said:
haven't enough american's died at the hands of these killers? who will be next?
Meanwhile, the webmaster of the site cites a letter written to the Appeal Democrat of Yuba/Marysville California in 1996:
[W]e don't need any more Hmongs here. Have you noticed the new cars and vans they drive? It is our tax dollars buying them. How many of the widows of the Americans killed in action get their medical bills paid and are they driving new cars? Do they get their medical bills paid or do they have to work to pay them? My son-in-law and a nephew went to Vietnam and fought for our country. They saw their buddies killed in action and others crippled in World War II. He doesn't get a big check or food stamps. We don't owe a dime to any of these people that our boys fought and died to save. Enough is enough... think of our people first. - Ms. R.
The Hmong are one of several members of the APIA diaspora who are hurt not only by American intolerance but by the ignorance of the pan-Asian community. Rarely do these invisible minorities receive acknowledgement, and especially with the model minority myth, are further disadvantaged by the assumption that they are not beset by racism or are beneficiaries of economic privilege. More than just assuming Asians to be a singular block of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean peoples, it is imperative that perceptions of the APIA diaspora be expanded to include our lesser known, but equally crucial and deserving brothers and sisters.


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