Understanding fellow Americans

Minnesotans need to gain more awareness of Hmong culture and history.

With the recent reactions to the Vang trial, surfacing information on Hmong rape prevalence and reaction to Hmong resettlement in Minnesota, it is clear that many people in the country and state do not know much about the Hmong community.

There are more than 180,000 Hmong people living in the United States. A large portion of that population has settled in Minnesota. Many of the Hmong people in the United States came as refugees after the Vietnam War. When the United States pulled out of Vietnam, the Hmong people were marked for genocidal extinction by the North Vietnamese because of the aid they gave the United States during the war. Between 10,000 and 20,000 Hmong men, women and children were killed while serving in special guerilla units for the United States. It is disturbing to know that many Americans do not know this or acknowledge the great contributions that their fellow Americans have given in service to their country.

Furthermore, just because Anglo-Americans do not share a common set of cultural assumptions with Hmong Americans, it does not mean the Hmong-Americans should be treated like second-class American citizens. During the Vang trial, many Hmong-Americans were forced to speak out and state that Vang did not represent their entire community because of increased racial tension. When the Star Tribune broke the story “Shamed into Silence,” many Hmong-Americans were moved to explain what it means to have a dual identity and assert their “American-ness” and that rape remains a problem for the entire country.

State Sen. Mee Moua, DFL-St. Paul, was absolutely right when she said that Hmong culture is not any more of an impediment to identifying solutions within the Hmong-American community than any other culture factor belonging to a community.

If more U.S. citizens knew something about Hmong culture, they would realize this as well.