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Anti-Hmong rant and responses illustrate the fantasy of ‘post-race’ era

On Nov. 7, the day before elections, a voicemail left for a Hmong candidate for St. Paul City Council, Bee Kevin Xiong, was posted on YouTube.

“I know a lot of people who would not vote for you; you are Hmong, …” growled the anonymous male caller, while pointing out that he was a property owner on the east side of St. Paul. “I don’t understand why you people think you can take the state of Minnesota over like this. …” 

Pa Der Vang
Photo by Hmong Today
Pa Der Vang

The tirade went on to indict Hmong for patronizing only their own businesses and for buying Toyotas and Hondas rather than Cadillacs and trucks. Typical of someone who feels his turf is threatened, his zinger was a counterthreat: “We would never vote for you [Hmong people].”
Accordingly, Facebook users and web surfers, in chorus, frenetically reposted the recording, now titled, “A racist rants on the Hmong.” Some protested, however, that the caller was a bizarre rarity, an extremist fringe in an otherwise race-blind U.S. political culture: “This is America where racism doesn’t exist anymore, it’s the few that wants to stay dominant that still allow racial prejudice to live.”

Excused as irrelevant
Taking for granted that the caller was white, they questioned its importance: “Look, it’s NOT because he is WHITE! It is because he is UNEDUCATED! … one stupid guy, which HAPPENS to be white is saying stupid things. …”

There is a fine dance going on here between the privileged and those they wish to exclude. While on the one hand the caller refrained from naming his race, his respondents, on the other hand, excused it as irrelevant. This call to “colorblindness” refuses to recognize the system from which the comments stem — a system in which immigrants and minorities are still deemed by some to be unfit or undeserving, in this case, for office.

Meanwhile, irate comments by quite a few on the YouTube site hurled other egregious hate slurs back at the caller. They denounced him as mentally disabled (“retarded”), irate female (“bitch”), and homosexual (“gay”). Why mobilize injurious language directed at other disempowered groups as a way of insulting him back? Perhaps it is because his whiteness doesn’t operate as a slur.  

Don’t be wooed
If the persistence of racism remains unspeakable in polite mainstream discourse, who stands to lose? Some have touted President Obama’s 2008 electoral victory as the ushering in of a “post-race” era of racial equality, tolerance and inclusion. If we allow ourselves to be wooed by this fantasy, a harsher, post-colorblind society will be less reversible and become more entrenched after elections to come.

Pa Der Vang is an assistant professor of social work at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. The following members of the Hmong Scholar/Activist Alliance also contributed to this article: Pao Lee Vue, assistant professor of sociology, St. John Fisher College; Ma Vang, Ph.D. candidate, University of California — San Diego; Ly Chong Thong Jalao, community activist; Louisa Schein, scholar activist, Rutgers University; and Bee Vang, student activist, Brown University.

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Jeffrey Kolnick on 11/16/2011 - 09:09 am.

    Thanks for your thoughtful essay…

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/16/2011 - 11:40 am.

    I feel your pain. I was once advised to leave a community meeting with my elected representatives because, as I had expressed a conservative point of view, I was not welcome at a “DFL meeting”.

    Of course that didn’t involve the color of my skin, which is actually quite a rarity among Democrats who, as a matter of policy, put the superficial (skin color, gender, sexual preference, national origin) first among the traits by which they identify people.

    It’s sad, really, that there are still some working so hard against Martin Luther King’s dream that we judge by character, not by the color of their skin.

  3. Submitted by Tengri Gold on 11/17/2011 - 06:35 pm.

    When whites came to the usa they came here for religous freedom. From catholicism. White anglo saxon protestants (WASP) came here not with any culture of their own. Not wanting to have any link or ties to the old country.

    And only identifying themselves with the myths and legends in the old and new testament. For example. Many europeans took the surname smith. To dissassociate themselves from their NW european origins. For all intents and purposes WASP’s are european-americans.

    They are decendents of europeans living in the united states. However, when non-white, non-anglo or non-anglo-saxon and non-christians started establishing themselves in the usa. They were/are not considered american.

    Irish and Scottish are anglo-celts and for the most part catholic not protestant. Protestants are reformed lutherans. Blacks came here as slaves. Native americans were here before anyone. You came here from somewhere else and then decided, “hey this is my home now” and thats all a given.

    Well its not, but if thats how you want to live your life fine. But lets make something clear. If your not white, not anglo, not anglo saxon and not a christian you are and never will be considered a *REAL* american. Period.

    Okay? So attack all issues from this understanding. There is this show on tv coming up: “Arab in america”. Perfect example of things “not given”. These people didnt get the memo.

    No one cares where you were born. Or how many friends of other races you have. Your presence here is only minimially tolerated if you at least go to church and believe in jesus. Other than that… There are non-muslims in arab countrys. But they are MARGINALIZED.

    American means white anglo-saxon and protestant. Thats the way its always been. Russian means slavic. There are non-slavic (read as: anti-slavic) races in russia but they never identifyed themselves as russian. Some guy shows up with a bible in his hand and plants a flag in your backyard and declaires it his land.

    And your supposed to buy into that? Religon is a culture. Just never the culture of the people that founded it. Notice how the founders of all religons are “blue eyed devils”. If you want to bear the cross for jesus and join the army or navy or air force to be “more american”.

    Fine, just understand that by claiming such loyaltys you are excluding yourselves in being members of other groups. Hmongs by no stretch could be considered “orientals” or are represenatives of asian culture.

    Pro-asian doesnt mean anti-white. It means anti-christian. If you want to get validation from token membership thats fine. Just remember that token membership in any group isnt a given. There are a lot of peoples going on theoretical givens and its not good enough.

    Thats one of the major issues here.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/19/2011 - 09:19 pm.

    When the first generation of Hmong refugees, led by Gen. Vang Pao arrived in America, they represented a staunch ally and fellow anti-communists, having fought bravely against the Pathet Lao communists and the North Vietnamese of Ho Chi Minh.

    American veterans of that era recognize the great loss of life and sacrifices sufferd by the Hmong people and we owe them a great debt of gratitude.

    But the younger generations since Gen. Vang Pao’s have been a huge disappointment. Rather than being anti-communists like their parents and grandparents, they’ve come to embrace the nanny state, the vulgar street culture, crime, and gang warfare.

    While the boys join gangs and end up in prison, the girls go on to college but only to study the fields related to big, activist government.

    So it wouldn’t surpise me that the ranting caller wasn’t so much a racist, but a taxpayer, angry at yet another candidate for office who embraces big government, or perhaps a Vietnam veteran saddened and outraged that the people who were such allies would now switch sides only a generation or two later.

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