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.
Pliab (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.