This personal submission is a part of the “No Longer Invisible: In Their Own Words” project, a story series established to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month at the UW.
Name: Tsengyang Vang (formerly April Vang)
Major: Ethnic, Gender and Labor Studies (UW Tacoma)
Identity: Hmong American
“It is important for the AAPI community to be visible because we all have unique stories, experiences and struggles that are part of the American experience. Sharing these stories can deepen our analysis and understanding of our individual intersectionality and help build connections with each other.”
“Hmong are an ethnic minority from Southwest China and the northern regions of Burma, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Many of the Hmong people in the United States are from the highlands of Laos.
In the 1960’s, the United States government supported a clandestine air and ground campaign against the North Vietnamese Army and VietCong in the country of Laos, bordering Vietnam. The CIA and military were able to maintain this secret war due in large part to the help of the Hmong. When the U.S. lost the Vietnam War in 1973, many Hmong people, both soldiers and non-soldiers left Laos to escape persecution from the Pathet Lao government due to their collaboration with the CIA. Those who survived made way to the Thai refugee camps, and for some, the United States.”
What Are You Really? My response: “I’m a Human Being. I understand the implication of the question, but I don’t appreciate that it is being asked with ‘what.’ It implies I am an object or an ‘it’ rather than a whole person with a unique culture and history.”