What’s Really “Beneath the Veil”

Recently, I got to watch Beneath the Veil, a 2001 made for TV documentary, directed by Cassian Harrison, centered around British journalist Saira Shah’s venture into barely pre 9/11 Afghanistan to document and comment upon life under Taliban rule. Taking a first look at the documentary’s affect on Afghan women, in terms of how the film otherizes the Afghan women and girls these Western investigative journalists seek to understand and bring awareness to, I’d like to address the lucrative title of the film itself: Beneath the Veil. From my social observation I have noticed that non-Muslim Westerners seem to have this strange fixation with women who wear hijabs, veils, or any variety of headscarves and veils.

There’s this dominant, non-culturally informative belief that the veils some Muslim women wear are the ultimate icon or symbol of their oppression, that if these women were finally liberated in every facet of their lives by Western feminists that they would assumably, and gladly, shed their clothing and only then be truly free. But if they actually listen to the voices and insights of Muslim women, they could understand that these garments are not in fact inherently oppressive, and that many Muslim women actually feel empowered and liberated through wearing these garments. So the intriguing title Beneath the Veil really just reveals this odd obsession, almost fetishization of Muslim women in the eyes of non-Muslim Westerners who have this undying wish to see Muslim women/girls taking off their hijabs or other religiously/culturally appropriate clothing to fulfill their own white, Western savioric desires.

However, on the other hand, I also recognize some positive illuminations of the film which paint a richer and more accurate image of Afghan women and girls lives, oppression, and resistance. For instance, I found it very important that the journalists bring awareness to the feminization of poverty, and how due to strict Taliban regulations that prohibit women from occupying paid positions in the public sector of the economy, women and children experience disproportionate and acute poverty, and suffer because of it. I think it would have been great if the journalists would have posited this specific phenomenon in a broader, more global context, given that roughly seventy percent of people in the world who experience poverty are women and children. This would have shown that the feminization of poverty is not unique to Afghanistan alone, and is even present in Western cultures as well.

Another positive aspect of the docufilm Beneath the Veil is their highlighting of a women’s resistance movement under an oppressive and systematically violent government. There was a quote that I especially liked: “It is also from the most vulnerable that the first signs of protest come.” It is true that women are consistently at the head of all sorts of intersecting liberation liberation efforts all across the globe, though their efforts are often trivialized or omitted completely. 43e

In Taliban dominated Afghanistan, RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) are front and center, being shown leading a public march/demonstration to protest the murders of innocent people and the regime’s destruction of their previously peaceful lives in general. And after this scene, the journalists show the more private, underground functionings and organizing of RAWA, with their secret networks, operations, and cameras which allow them to spy on the Taliban and plan resistance strategies. I thought this was a very good juxtaposition because activism is not just about extreme visibility or marches and demonstrations, but in fact that most activism goes on behind the scenes, where people are often unaware even exists.

And resistance can be very personal and intimate, as exemplified in the scene with the Afghan women who run secret beauty parlours where they apply their faces with forbidden cosmetics and keep living their lives and expressing themselves the way they want to, despite an oppressive government that dictates otherwise. It is in these ways that I think the film represents these women and girls in a positive, more accurate light, while still being aware of how the film’s Western lens simultaneously obstructs the portrayal of these women and further oppresses them.


Ruth

Ruth May is a senior undergraduate student at St. Cloud State University, studying Women’s Studies, Human Relations, and Film Studies. Ruth is a white, gender nonconforming trans woman from a poor, working class background with a passion for feminism, fashion, film, and rad tunes.  Monitor blog analyst.

 

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The Art of Walking on Eggshells

Content Warning: Abuse

The first time she told someone that she hurt, they exploded. She didn’t remember much, the tears in her eyes blurred the chaos around her. She heard a plate shatter and felt a dull pain in her chest as two rough palms came in contact with her breastbone and the air she lost propelled her backward into the wall. It hurt in the way you’d expect, two bruises with pain reflected like mirrors, one on each side of the sternum. But it also hurt in a different way. A deep and visceral way that made her nerves thrum every time after if she heard a door close a little bit too hard.

Slamming doors turned into raised voices which turned into incredulous looks. The slightest shift in anyone around her sent alarms through her body. She imagined a ballet, always on her toes but never as dynamic. She kept going to the corners instead of the middle of the stage. She stepped carefully, every creak in the floor feeling like a landmine under her weight.

The second time she told someone she hurt, she didn’t mean to. She’d developed a system for how to deal with the Bad Stuff: Hold it in and hold it close. It made her stronger until the day it didn’t. She didn’t like the way her breaths came too quick that they didn’t allow any new air in. Her exhales punched the inhales back and an ache started in the corner of her eyes and spread across her forehead. Then she felt a hand close over her knee and a gentle pressure on her forehead. Her airways opened, and the first deep breath she took inflated her chest up to her shoulders, pulling them back and making them strong, and she felt full.

At times it still hurt, but she learned to move more freely. The spotlight still scared her at times, but she found that it washed over her more than it burned. Her ears tuned more to laughs, her eyes found more smiles as her body turned itself to the sun. It felt good, it felt easier.

The next time she told someone she hurt, a hand closed over hers and the squeeze of her palm helped in the way you’d expect. A rush of reassurance and a quick, grateful smile. But it also helped in a different way. A deep and visceral way that made her nerves hum when she heard, “It’s going to be okay.”


thumbnail_147Mariam Bagadion is a Filipino-American third year SCSU student. She is double-majoring in English and Women’s Studies and has loved writing from a young age. She is excited to use this passion to bring attention to and start conversations about feminist issues surrounding the world of politics and pop culture today. Mariam is an editor for The Upper Mississippi Harvest, SCSU’s literary journal and a writing tutor at The Write Place. In her free time, she writes for her personal blog, scribbles in journals and is the Game Master for her friends’ Dungeons and Dragons games.  Consulting editor.

Don’t Call Me Darlin’

Don’t call me darlin’
I have a name

Don’t call me sweetie, babe, and honey
To guys I never hear the same

Bud, Scout, and Slugger
But you always use their name

Tight squeeze on my arm
It’s just you being ‘friendly’

But what’s the big deal
You don’t mean any harm

You call me darlin’
I say that’s not my name

You walk away and laugh
It’s always the same

Next time you see me
It’ll be sweetie, babe, and honey

I guess I missed the joke
Cause to me this isn’t funny

Your words ring in my ears
It’s like the pat on the head

A gold star to a naive little girl
You don’t listen to the words I’ve said

Don’t call me darlin’
That’s not my name

Don’t call me darlin’
I’m not yours to claim


 

WhitneyWhitney is a senior at St. Cloud State University with a double major in Social Work and Women’s Studies with a minor in Human Relations. She highly believes in the power of self-care and full body mindfulness. She is passionate about understanding the relationship between trauma and the lasting effects it can have on the body and mind. Whitney has a love for community work and hopes to work within this field after graduation. Her hobbies include painting and other multi-media art forms and finds healing within creating new pieces.  Outreach and email consultant.

I Am Not <

We are all socialized to prioritize romantic love above all other forms of love–platonic, familial, and especially self-love. Attaining romantic love (and by extension sexual love) becomes a measure of our worth, success, and happiness as human beings. We are lead to believe that if we don’t find The One then we are less valuable, less worthy, less happy, less than.

Coming to the realization that I fall somewhere along the aromantic spectrum, has been in many ways a rollercoaster ride of a journey. It’s been difficult identifying it partly because I grew up believing that romance is the end all and be all. That romance is an essential and necessary part of our lives.

To be able to put a word to what I’ve been experiencing has been enlightening. I feel like I understand this part of myself much better now. I don’t feel that I’ve lost anything or that I have something to grieve.  Instead, part of my worldview on romance and relationships has shifted and I’ve started to reevaluate what love (looks like) means to me. 

Looking back on my experiences, the crushes that I had were never really mine to begin with. The catalyst for these crushes were dependent on a confession, spurred on by feelings that belonged to someone else. Very rarely did I feel romantic attraction even if I was attracted to these people in several other ways–platonically, aesthetically, sexually.

So there I was, getting into relationships with people I thought I had an inkling of romantic attraction towards, waiting and thinking I’d fall in love with them. At least that’s what I kept telling myself, that maybe it just took time, that if I waited a while longer I’d start to feel something akin to love.

Of course, it never worked out that way and the reciprocity of romantic feelings for the other person never happened. As hard as I tried, I never felt like I was on the same wavelength as them. Realizing that I didn’t share romantic feelings for this person in the same way they had for me, only made me feel shitty. It felt like a huge waste of time, mine and theirs.

I would end a relationship and when the next person came along, I thought that maybe it’ll be different. Maybe this time, I would feel something romantic. Lather, rinse, repeat, nothing changed.

For the longest time, I would rack my brain trying to figure out what was going on with me. I didn’t have the range or the language to help guide me towards an understanding of what I was experiencing. So when I finally discovered what aromanticism was, it felt like I had found the missing piece to a puzzle.

Learning to accept my aromantic identity was easy but dealing with the occasional bouts of self-doubt and finding out where I was on the spectrum was tricky. You don’t always end up on one end of the spectrum or the other, it can be a fairly gray area.

For example, some aromantics don’t experience romantic feelings while other aromantics do even if it may not be often. Not all aromantics are repulsed by romance, some enjoy fictional romance in the form of literature, music, and films/TV.  A lot of aromantics may not feel profound inclination for a romantic relationship but that doesn’t mean they don’t have intimate relationships. Queer platonic relationships do exist! 

The list goes on, but the point is that being aro isn’t exactly as black and white as we think, and despite what others may say, I’m a whole person. I’m not broken. I’m not devoid of love, emotions or feelings. I’m not less than.

*If you think you might be aromantic but you’re unsure check out this helpful post for or visit the LGBT Resource center on campus for more information.


me

Pliab Vang is a Hmong American, senior undergraduate student at St. Cloud State University, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies. She is a Master of Procrastination, and spends an unhealthy amount of her time binging (but never actually finishing) TV shows, scrolling through Twitter, and hanging out with friends. Social media consultant.

 

 

 

Running Towards Healing – Altering Expectations

(CW: sexual assault, rape, suicide, mental illness, PTSD)

This was it. On October 21st, 2017, I was going to attempt to run my longest race to date-  The Wild Duluth 100k trail ultra-marathon. I don’t remember what I was thinking when I initially signed up for this race, but I do know that I tend to be more impulsive than others and that ultra running tends to attract those with an addictive personality. It can be a blessing some days, and a curse on others. It’s not so much the 62-mile distance that stood out to me. It was the fact that I was going back to a place filled with my trauma, loss, and fears.  

Duluth is a place that brought a lot of joy and sorrow into my life. It’s the sorrow that sticks out the most to me. I’m reminded of one particular date when it comes to this town- October 31st, 2014. On Halloween night, I was raped. After that dreaded night, other than spending my time being admitted to the hospital for two suicide attempts and a medical condition that was unknown to me at the time, I took my frustrations and pain to the trails. The smell of the fresh crisp autumn air, the sound of the wind blowing through the trees, and the colors of the leaves are all what I love about fall, but they all happen to be triggers to me at the same time. I believed that facing those triggers head-on meant that I wouldn’t be bothered by them afterward. It meant that finishing this race would represent my healing process for that specific time in my life.I talked to my therapists about how I felt taking on this challenge. Not only was there a risk of my PTSD acting up, but I felt severely undertrained. And so, I was afraid. Someone wise once told me that when you have a goal that terrifies you, go after it. I know that there are exceptions to some situations, but I have a habit of chasing after things that present a high risk of failure.

The sun wasn’t up yet as we toed the starting line. Although it was going to rain all day, it was something that would feel good on our skin in 65-degree weather. The song “Welcome Home” by Radical Face was playing as we made our way down the pavement filled with the sound of scattered cheers and cars going down the streets. Soon enough, all of that faded as we entered the dark and quiet trails. It didn’t take long before the climbing began. This race had slightly more elevation compared to my previous two ultras. As the sun started rising and the life in the trails began waking up, so did my motivation. The sadness that I had expected to be enveloped in had disappeared, and the rocky path in front of me stole my attention instead. The Superior Hiking Trail is very technical, so any lack of focus or hesitation in your step could lead to a nasty fall.

Around mile 11, my smooth flowing thoughts transitioned into scrambled memories of my sexual assault investigation. I didn’t notice these thoughts swimming in my head until the next thing I heard was a pop followed by a sharp pain in my right ankle. I bit my lip as tears started to well up in my eyes. I went off trail to catch my breath and performed stretching exercises, hoping that would make the pain subside. I got a mix of responses from passing runners that ranged from questioning if I was okay to encouraging words that told me to keep going. After 5 minutes of muttering expletives and begging the Heavens to give me the strength to continue, I picked up my messy self and continued to limp on. There was no way I was going to drop out so early in the race.

During the race, I heard a variety of stories from other runners. It’s fascinating how people become so friendly and open with one another when going through the same difficult, often painful, task. It’s the camaraderie on the trail that I adore so much about ultra running. After getting lost for half an hour due to taking a wrong turn, my stomach started growling. I picked up the pace so that I could reach the next aid station faster. Strangely enough, I was in a good mood. I was actually smiling through all the physical pain. For some time, I was able to keep my dark thoughts in the back of my mind.

Around mile 21, I started talking to another runner since we were going the same pace for quite a distance. He told me that this race meant a lot to him, since it was close to the one-year anniversary of his father’s death. I received a lot of advice from him about running ultras that could easily be applied to everyday living. On top of that, any negative feelings were pushed aside as we bumped into one obstacle after another. One section involved crawling on our hands and knees up the very steep and muddy powerline section. Trying to pull ourselves up so that we wouldn’t slide backwards by grabbing onto some vines or branches proved to be a mistake, since they were full of thorns. After a while, I had to leave him behind since our paces started to differ.

The best way I would describe what happened between about mile 32 and mile 38 would be dissociation. I don’t remember that part of the race at all until I realized that I was walking. It’s almost as if my inner self began telling me “don’t fall for it.” For the next hour, my mind kept repeating that phrase like a broken record. It was getting dark as I started climbing Ely’s peak again and my headlamp was giving out. This was the part that I needed to see where I was landing my feet and where the arrows/ribbons told me to go. Getting lost or injured in the dark trails didn’t seem like the best scenario. Despite having food in my stomach, I felt fatigued and weak. If there was ever a worse time for my bad memories, fears, depression, and anxiety to attack me, it was then. I started to panic when I realized I was having a hard time balancing myself at times.

When I hit the mile 54 aid station, the volunteers told me that not only did I just miss the cut-off time, but my sprained ankle didn’t look good at all to finish the last 8 miles. I realized that throughout the whole race, I refused to look at how my ankle was doing. It was more swollen than I realized. At that point, my energy felt depleted. I sat on the ground with other runners who had to stop and was handed two cups of soup. I felt like a failure. I know that friends of other runners attempted to speak to me, some recognized me from other ultras, but I don’t remember responding to them fully. I was completely out of it and just wanted to go home. I was emotionally desolate.

Before the race, I expected to successfully finish, and then write a blog about how I’m finally over my past hurts and that this race represents my healing process. That was foolish not only because my trauma is more complex than just what happened in Duluth, but also because I learned that one can’t expect instant results. There’s a reason why we always hear why patience is so important. We tend to want fast results. It’s not surprising, considering how we are constantly surrounded by technology. It may be true that there were things that slowed me down that was out of my control during the race, but I also didn’t train half as much as I should’ve. And that showed. My inability to finish this race taught me that I need to go through the pain of training, so that I can develop the proper muscle for future events. How is this any different than my emotional healing process? Why did I expect a single race to make me “get over” my 2014 trauma? I’ll tell you why. It was because I didn’t want to deal with the pain of therapy, medication, self-care, vulnerability, and everything else that will actually help me heal. I tried to create a deadline to my healing.

The race taught me the importance of mindfulness. Running to me is meditation in motion. Once I let thoughts of my troubled past take over me instead of me taking over my thoughts, I stumbled and fell. The key is to stay focused on breathing and gain better control of your thoughts. It’s also important to accept the support of others and know the strength in vulnerability. From other runners encouraging me through their comments and stories to volunteers spending all day in the rain to serve the participants. This is important to remember when I am tempted to isolate myself from friends, family, and other supportive people in my life.

When something doesn’t feel right, don’t toss it aside and pretend it’s not there. It will catch up to you. I ignored the pain in my ankle and didn’t look at it for the whole race. I probably would have been in less pain and ran a bit better if I had taken the time to address the injury by icing it and/or wrapping it up. The same is true for one’s mental health. Whenever I start to feel really bothered or triggered by something, pushing it aside and not addressing it will do more harm in the future. Identifying triggers helps lessen the effects of PTSD and identifying when you need to seek professional help such as therapy or admitting yourself to the hospital is crucial to recovery.

Overall, I started the race long before the director said “go”. As someone who likes to have control over aspects of my life, it’s especially difficult to have things not go as planned. Life is continually teaching me how to let go and alter expectations. I may have failed to finish this race, but I’m certainly not a failure. I may have walked away with a sprained ankle, black toenails, blisters, and a bruised ego, but at least I know what to expect for running this race next year. There is a certain amount of glory that comes from failing. I learned a lot about myself because of it- physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I now know there is no timeline to healing, I am not broken, and I refuse to be a slave to my emotions and pain. As Brene Brown wrote in her book, Braving the Wilderness, 

“What we know now is that when we deny our emotion, it owns us. When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain.”


Mardon Ellen So

Ellen is a 4th year undergrad majoring in Sociology and plans to attend physical therapy school after graduating. She is half Hispanic and half Asian. She was born and raised in Houston, TX and moved to Minnesota with her mom and sister in 2010. Ellen is a hardcore feminist and is passionate about social justice. She enjoys talking about topics such as race, gender and gender violence, LGBTQ+, class, ability, and mental health. When Ellen is not at school or work, she loves to spend her time running ultra-marathons, doing yoga, meditating, gardening, playing the oboe and piano, playing video games, listening to people’s life stories over coffee/tea, spending time with family, volunteering, annoying her sister, and playing with her birds.  Email consultant.

 

Do You Hear the People Sing?

Do you hear the people sing?
Have you felt the subtle drum in the distance
Where freedom is begging to be free
And the people are anxious for revolution?

Singing the song of angry men,
Those who fight for us when we cannot.
Bayard Rustin, Nelson Mandela, Marsha P Johnson.
Do you hear their historical battle cries?
Have our ears been deaf and our senses dulled?

It is the music of a people who will NOT be slaves again.
We have fought and fought again.
Our histories have produced the music of freedom.
Of love.
Of compassion.
We are not born to be slaves of our system.
We are meant to be our own people.
The sounds of the revolution are distant,
But the sounds exist nonetheless.

When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums.
There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes.
When will we heed the call?
When will we find the compassion to help one another?
Our hearts must beat as one
Or the revolution will not come.
We will be stuck in chains put on by our masters.
Slavery is not over everyone.
It has merely adapted.

Will you join in our crusade?
Will you defend your fellow human
Or will you assimilate into the system?
How many times have you said “enough is enough”
Yet you still continue the oppressive behaviors?
When will it be the last strike for you?

Who will be strong and stand with me?
Marsha P Johnson didn’t die and
Bayard Rustin didn’t die and
The Black Panthers didn’t die and
The Revolutionaries didn’t die and
Black, brown, and queer lives didn’t die and
The working class didn’t die so we could lay on our backs.

The time is now.
The time will always be now.
There is a world we can live
Where we are kind and compassionate
And violence doesn’t have to be an answer anymore.


No more masters.
No more Slavery.
Only peace.
Don’t be left standing there when you hear the cries.
Don’t be left standing there when you hear the drums.


We can do this.


Hello! My name’s Archie Andersen, and I use he/him and they/them pronouns. I identify as a neurodivergent, AFAB, Fat, Queer, Nonbinary Transgender man activist. My main studies are in Queer Theory and Issues and the Prison Industrial Complex, but I also work to end all forms of oppression. I am in my 4th year at St. Cloud State University majoring in Gender and Women’s Studies and minoring in Ethnic Studies. My favorite color is pastel blue, and I really enjoy watching YouTube videos in my spare time.  Blog monitor. Editor.

Metabolic Faith

The pretty, giant nebula consumed while exhaling the oxygen. It takes someone who knows what she’s doing to metabolize such an enormous amount of energy; energy derived from constellations long forgotten but never diminished. Breaking down the proteins of an unruly scorpion and the eyes of twins, this process demands sacrifice. Sacrifice that is needed to continue the fluctuation of an animate entanglement residing within her essence. Some of the newly dissolved energy then makes its way through bundles of atoms called joints to those outermost extremities which tingle as she expands and contracts. Inevitably, that energy which is leftover is released beyond her holdings to further the oxygeneration. She trusts in this process, for she knows nothing different.

*Image courtesy of National Geographic


Ruth

Ruth May is a senior undergraduate student at St. Cloud State University, studying Women’s Studies, Human Relations, and Film Studies. Ruth is a white, gender nonconforming trans woman from a poor, working class background with a passion for feminism, fashion, film, and rad tunes.

 

Christmas Wishlist: 7 Funds You Can Donate To

(Content Warning: sexual assault, rape, abuse)

The season of giving is amongst us, with Thanksgiving having passed recently, Christmas is right around the corner. If you’re anything like me and you have the tendency to put off Christmas shopping until the very last minute, look no further.

I’ve compiled a short Christmas wish list filled with links to various funds and projects that you can donate your money to, as a present to me, your family, friends, and the rest of the world.

  1.      Muslim Anti-Racist Council

         The Muslim ARC hopes to build a physical space in Detroit, one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States, and are seeking to bring together a community to fight against racist policies, practices, and to provide solutions to advance racial equity. The current goal of this project is $25,785 and so far they have raised $13,978. The deadline for this project ends on December 15, 2017.

  1.      Assata’s Daughters

         The goal of this project is to earn up to $50,000 to open up a youth community space in Southside Chicago, to create “a home for our Ominira, Akerele and Assata University programs and continue to build out powerful place-based organizing efforts through our work with young people!”

There is no deadline for this project but as of recently they have raised $10,750 out of their $50,000 goal.

  1.      4th Annual Holiday Solidarity Toy Drive in Solidarity with Incarcerated Moms

–  Buy a Christmas present for children of incarcerated mothers, click on the Amazon link below to donate within your means to this project. It would mean a lot to these mothers and their children.

– Coordinated by Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration in Community with Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated mothers (CGLA), Nehemiah Trinity Rising/Trinity UCC, Lifted Voices, Love & Protect, and Chicago League of Abolitionist Whites.

  1.      Trans Women of Color Collective

         GIVE YOUR MONEY TO TRANS WOMEN OF COLOR. I don’t think I need to say anymore than that. THANK YOU.

  1.      Appolition

         Create an account with the Appolition project, it will take spare change out of any of your debit purchases and reroute them to a bail fund created for incarcerated people.

  1.      Jee Jing Sexual Assault Recovery Fund

          Jee Jing is a survivor of rape and is currently struggling with injuries she’s sustained after her sexual assault, on top of that she was fired from her job and has not been able to make enough money to survive and pay for her medical bills. The goal of this fund was set at $23,500 and so far $17,136 has been raised.

  1.      Help a Black Queer Woman Escape from a Abusive Situation

          All funds will go toward helping her move out of the environment and to avoid homelessness.  Currently $2,025 has been raised out of the $3,000 goal.

Any amount is highly appreciated and if you can’t donate please do help circulate this post around so that other people in your network of friends can help as well! Thank you so much.  


mePliab (Plee-ah) Vang is Hmong American. A feminist. An undergraduate senior at St. Cloud State University, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies. She enjoys talking race, gender, class, social issues and pop-culture and is passionate about Asian American and Pacific Islander issues. Pliab is a Master of Procrastination. She spends an unhealthy amount of her time binging (but never actually finishing) TV shows, scrolling through Twitter, and hanging out with friends. Social media consultant.

I’m Disappointed as a Hmong

I am utterly disappointed in what council member Blong Yang had to say about his loss in the Minneapolis elections. I’m not a constituent, however, as a young Hmong American,I’m disappointed, disgusted, and ashamed–though I can’t say that I’m at all surprised.

Here’s what he had to say:

“It has been an honor serving the people of Ward 5. I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to do the hard work for the people of Ward 5, who deserve great representation, service, and results. The people of Ward 5 have spoken. I make no excuses for losing. You win some and you lose some. Life goes on. Serving as a city council member is temporary and it has never defined who I am.

Congratulations to the winner: Jeremiah Bey. I guess the name, Ellison, carries some weight in Ward 5. As Minneapolis replaces a dynasty with another dynasty, I’m left to wonder why one is more acceptable than another. I’m sure there isn’t a good answer. The reality is that there are a bunch of hypocrites on every side. They want what they want and they’ll say anything to get it.

I wasn’t supposed to win in 2013, but I did. I guess that’s the story of our lives as Hmong in North Minneapolis. When people talk about “FUBU: For Us, By Us,” it’s not about us Hmong. When people talk about people of color, it’s only about us Hmong if we add the color, but not a voice or a viewpoint. When people talk about being a Northsider, we Hmong aren’t really included. From 2014-2017, it wasn’t that way. We had a voice and our voice was strong and powerful.

The saddest reality in Minneapolis politics for a person like me is the expectation that a person of color is supposed to be a certain way or else s/he isn’t a person of color. For those with whom these tactics are in your repertoire, let me just say: f you. I was born this way and I can’t change it. I may hold a different viewpoint than you, but my identity never changes. We people of color are not monolithic and for those thinking that we are, you are dumb.

Another sad reality is hearing certain people talk about how young people can now see a face that looks like them. It sounds cool, but it’s narrow in thinking. If young African Americans should expect to see an African American elected, why shouldn’t young Hmong Americans expect the same thing? But if that expectation isn’t met, why is it that Hmong American kids are supposed to see an African American elected as a “face that looks like them,” while African American kids aren’t supposed to see a Hmong American elected as a “face that looks like them?” Aren’t we all people of color? It’s a rhetorical question. I already know the answer. People are stuck in a black and white paradigm. Inclusion isn’t really inclusion.”

First, Yang insinuates that Jeremiah Bey Ellison won the election because his father is Representative Keith Ellison, completely invalidating the hard work that Mr. Ellison put into running his campaign.

Second, he brings up the racial binary implying that by not being Black (like Jeremiah Bey Ellison) or white, he wasn’t taken seriously as a Hmong man thus it contributed to his loss. There is a time and place for critiquing the Black-white paradigm but this isn’t that time. If Yang wants to call out the black-white binary, I’d rather he offer solutions for people of color to organize and work together in order to deconstruct the paradigm and to move beyond it.

Third, he points out the importance of Hmong representation in politics, which I agree is needed, but he was wrong for throwing the Black community under the bus. Communities of color have long been pitted against one another, hence why the ‘Model Minority” myth was created in the first place. It was a tactic used by the dominant group to create division and tension amongst subordinate groups. He shouldn’t demand for space and inclusion of Hmong people in politics if it must come at the expense of another marginalized community. Representation goes further than just “seeing a face that looks like mine.” Good representatives must also have the interests of the people they serve in mind.

Blong Yang’s words reeked of anti-black politics, clearly demonstrating his lack of understanding of the nuances of race. Not only that, but it’s apparent he never understood his own constituents, nor did he seem to care about what they thought about his campaign. He lost the election not because he was Hmong or wasn’t Black, but because he failed to meet the expectations of the communities he claimed he’d help and support.

A worthy leader engages all communities regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and class and does everything in their power to uplift them.  


mePliab (Plee-ah) Vang is Hmong American. A feminist. An undergraduate senior at St. Cloud State University, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies. She enjoys talking race, gender, class, social issues and pop-culture and is passionate about Asian American and Pacific Islander issues. Pliab is a Master of Procrastination. She spends an unhealthy amount of her time binging (but never actually finishing) TV shows, scrolling through Twitter, and hanging out with friends. Social media consultant.