Readers React: Consider Hmong contributions to culture

Friday, April 16, 2010

Learn about Hmong history

The lack of knowledge about Hmong history and culture is not all that surprising -- especially when one takes into account the lack of knowledge many Americans have about any immigrant history and culture other than their own. For that matter, a great many Americans know very little about American history and culture. They accept the common cultural and historical myths as truth.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming to be an expert. I know as little as the next person about Hmong culture and history. However, I do know where they came from and why they are here.

I also know one more thing. My cousin married a young Navy pilot who crashed over the Ho Chi Minh trail. Had it not been for Hmong fighters who found him before the NVA did, there would be one more name on "The Wall."

Assimilation, progress take time

For one group of people to assimilate into another place and culture is a long and convoluted process. When the Hmong began moving here, their first priority was to find a safe place to live. Once that was accomplished, they could move on to the next items on their agenda: housing, education, jobs, learning to speak English and fitting into the community were things that all piled on to the Hmong people at one time.

It was challenging to some and overwhelming to others. They still have a ways to go. Nothing worth doing is easy. But overall, I think the Hmong people are doing quite well. It is an accomplishment that they are holding these festivals. We can support them by attending.

There will always be people who resist change. There were and still are those who don't really want Hmong people to live here. But that bell has been rung. We can no longer send them back from whence they came. Many of the Hmong people living here today have never been to Laos or Thailand, as they were born in the United States. Besides, there is no safe "there" where we can send them back. In fact, I understand there are now more Hmong who need a safe home.

So, be careful. No matter who you are, you might meet someone who could be your friend. You might learn something about another culture. Knowledge is power.


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