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home : nation / world : nation/world Thursday, November 23, 2017

5/8/2017 3:41:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
A Hmong Voice In A Non-Hmong Leader

By X.G. Andrew

Rep. Katrina Shankland meets with Diana Vang at the WI Capitol to discuss public education and school counselors in February.
This year's unorthodox election and blatant lying by the country's highest officials and subordinates may be new to a lot of people in this country, but not so much for the Hmong. Many Hmong lived through suppression and marginalization in their integrated communities for millenniums since the Hmong King Chiyou was defeated thousands of years ago. Through the trek of history from their homeland in south-central China, the Hmong have traditionally voted with their feet and now spread across the globe.

This year's wave of racism across the country has not tainted the resiliency of the Hmong as most of them have seen and lived through worse. Many Hmong families still suffered from 40 years of untreated PTSD, marginalization of Hmong students in schools, and unaffordable health care. To address these issues, a new trend is rapidly uprising for the Hmong in the United States - voting with a ballot. One may wonder, why voting with a ballot is new for the Hmong. The answer may lie in the fact that, during their plight after the loss of their king, Hmong who immigrated to other countries were often not recognized as citizens or seen as second class indigenous people (even after many generations). In recent years, Hmong officials rose from local and state elections ranging from city council to state legislature. This new rash of Hmong officials is part of the Hmong effort to deep root the strength of citizenship and integration into the community as a whole.

Perhaps one of the success stories of the Hmong in the U.S. is the capacity for Hmong to assimilate into government. For decades, elders who lead the Hmong had little or no capacity to navigate the political system of the new communities. They often did not understand the processes to demand fair share and leverage for equity and rights. Hmong leaders now are younger, more accountable, and more transparent than ever. Hmong leadership is shifting from Hmong elders just for the Hmong to community leader that is a Hmong person. Of course, this successful trend is not totally due to Hmong community effort. Even with the racism within our new environment, the Hmong assimilation success is attributed by non-Hmong citizens and leaders who modeled that difference is strength for our community and country.

Because many Hmong now are decedents of institutionalized oppression and discrimination, Hmong people believe that effective leaders should never lack courageous representation of all of their constituents-not just some of them. My grandfather once told me, "A true leader is defined by her/his ability to stand up for those who can't stand for themselves." Today I saw my grandfather's vision in Katrina Shankland, Rep. 71st Assembly District, Wisconsin. Her courage is not even that she stood up for Hmong who have a small voice in her district, but that she stood up against discrimination and marginalization from the larger constituents. We are honored by your courage Rep. Katrina Shankland and vow to live up to your leadership.

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