Day 261: May 14, 2019
Today is Hmong America Day in Minnesota. The proclamation was initiated on May 14, 2013 by Governor Mark Dayton. It states,
”May 14, 2013, marks the thirty eighth anniversary of the fall of Long Cheng, a United States ~ Hmong air base in Laos during the Laotian Civil War; and Many Hmong refugees and their families immigrated to the United States, and today over 60,000 Hmong Americans are residents of Minnesota; and Like many immigrant groups before them, Hmong refugees resettled to the United States to escape war and persecution, to find opportunities, and to better their lives and the lives of their children; and Hmong Americans are helping build a vibrant and diverse Minnesota, contributing socially, politically, and economically to our state. Today recognizes and celebrates the history, culture, and contributions of Hmong Americans in Minnesota. NOW, THEREFORE, I, MARK DAYTON, Governor of Minnesota, do hereby proclaim Tuesday, May 14, 2013, as: HMONG AMERICAN DAY”
While I appreciate the Hmong American community is wanting to be recognized and should be recognized for their involvement in the American War, Vietnam War, Second Indochinese War, I am reminded that everyday has been Hmong American Day. I do not hate being Hmong, I do not hate being American, however, I do not get to choose to be one or the other. I do not get to choose when I want to perform Hmong or when I want to perform American. I do not get to be more American and less Hmong and vice-versa.
I am feeling conflicted about the performance of Hmong seen visibly on social media and mainstream local news in Minnesota. The great and not so great thing is that Hmong people know how to celebrate culture, history and identity. The community coordinate performances, reconnect with friends, family and make new connections, however I do not think “Hmong American Day” should be a once a year conversation or recognition. These one day celebrations should be seen in conversations with the kinds of healing work that are still needed in the general Hmong community around war, trauma, sexual violence, gender, disability and mental health. Although it appears at first that the Hmong community in Minnesota is progressing and developing at a fast rate, I do not think people are doing okay, I think the performance of silence is a coping mechanism that will eventually no longer serve the community.
I am referring many forms of silence and silencing, they are precisely the moments where the people in my family use silence to defuse heated debates and arguments, when older women silence daughter-in-laws, or when I am taught to stay silent because it will save me from an abusive relationship with men or bring less visibility to my situation.
Hmong American Day is a situation where Hmong people become hyper visible as an Asian American refugee and immigrant population who is making great strides for the larger community. Showing good behavior, an example of what a good refugee population can look like, while what stays invisible is the United States bombing the homes of Hmong, Lao and other ethnic groups who assisted and aided the United States during the war. What stays invisible is how I am still struggling through education, experiencing little or no support for my learning. What stays invisible and missing from the Hmong community are the youth, women, disabled, queer and trans voices that are still not included in constructing what is culture and society in the Hmong identity.
If Hmong American Day was created with the intentions to recognize Hmong experiences and contributions during the war as a once a year event, I am less interested in the celebration but more so in proposing questions. How does the community move forward from here?