Hmong Globe is a newspaper printed quarterly bringing news to the Hmong community.
With the current order to practice social distancing, the transport of Hmong Globe’s April, 2020 print edition will be delayed until it’s safe to distribute. Meanwhile, you may email us at [email protected] to get your e-copy.
U.S. death toll rises to 14 — all but one fatality in Washington State
What is Super Tuesday and why is it important? Here's what you need to know.
Another person has died in Washington State from novel coronavirus in what local health officials on Sunday called an “outbreak.”
The travel warnings are intended to prevent coronavirus from spreading as health officials in Washington state announced the first U.S. death from the virus.
The rapid spread of the coronavirus now called COVID-19 has sparked alarm worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency, and many countries are grappling with a rise in confirmed cases. In the US, the Centers f...
From all of us at Hmong Globe, Happy New Year.
Join us at Hot Springs National Park
Join Hmong Globe at Centennial Country Club.
Where there is a will, there is a way. Keep practicing.
It’s a beautiful day. Go play some golf.
Follow these golfers.
Coming your way!
The clouds dance.
A new beginning.
Congratulations to Yia Vang. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. He will pursue medical school in the Bahamas.
Hmong Women in a Complex World
America is a complex society. Living in a complex society means to adapt and acculturate living and balancing life but within the boundary of a meaningful and truthful context; a context that stays true to the core of truthful values and traditions as passed from generations prior. Today, many Hmong live in this complex society of America. America has changed the Hmong in more ways that can be counted. In fact, many rightfully argue that it has shaped the Hmong for the better, that America has provided opportunities no other country can provide. America is, in actuality, a land of opportunities, a land of materialistic thinking, a land of yearning and wanting, a land that modifies and develops a person. It is a land, that should one know how to adapt and acculturate “correctly” it will carry that person to a new level, a higher height that can only be achieved by truly understanding the ways America changes that person and connecting that understanding with the core values of who that person is and originated from.
Because the Hmong are not prone to the influences of America, we would like to say that we have made changes for the better. We have advanced in ways that may have been impossible should we have stayed in our home country. We strive for advancement and to understand our place in this complex society. We continue to make strides in coping with shifts in revolutions that deem to transform. And yet, there are still troubling trends that continue to plague the Hmong community. These troubling trends progress in ways we didn’t see it coming. In our efforts to keep up with how a complex society changes people, we have interpreted this acculturation differently than it was meant to be. And as a result, we see clashes between the Hmong community and the general society; clashes that continue to infest an acculturation process that isn’t fully understood by both communities.
Acculturation, according to the definition taken from the Merriam Webster dictionary, is the “cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture.” Not found anywhere in this definition is the omission of the core beliefs of a culture and substituting with the core beliefs of others. The key words in this definition are “modification” and “adapting.”
Acculturation has proven difficult, especially for the Hmong community. Living in today’s complex society of America is to live with (to name a few) laws and order, regulations, others who possess different views, and rules that need careful alignment between traditional culture and societal culture. In the Hmong community are many professionals vying to make this acculturation piece easier between the Hmong and the outer society. In doing so and without the proper understanding of certain core practices within the Hmong community, this incapability has led to misunderstandings that have strong repercussions and consequences for the Hmong.
Many in the Hmong community argue for the need to have more Hmong women in power. They say that Hmong women need more rights than what they have had in the past and what they currently have. They dispute that Hmong women have equal shares of what Hmong men have. Additionally, they argue that Hmong women are not given what is rightfully theirs and what they have rightfully, and dutifully won. These controversies have produced many professional Hmong women fighting for “justice” for women in the Hmong community. Quickly, these altercations brought into actualizations of strong women with strong and loud voices fighting for the rights of women in the Hmong community.
Women, such as Bao Vang, CEO of Hmong American Partnership, Mao Khang, Laura Xiong, and Hmong women groups across the United States represent some of the Hmong women advocates we will mention in this article. The actions of these women are bold and courageous. They are heard loud and clear and they send a strong message not just to the Hmong community but also to the outer society. In a complex society such as that of America, these women use their voices but they need to use their voices with thorough understanding and full competency regarding Hmong cultural practices and the outer society.
Mao Khang continues to use her voice in the domestic abuse of women. At times, culturally competency is not fully realized in using this voice to fully bridge between Hmong and outer society. Although difficult to understand in a complex society, Hmong culture does have its say and place. As we mentioned earlier in this article, Hmong cultural practices do not actualize just because. It actualized because there is a reason and rhyme, because there is a good cause, and because there is a core belief that drove that practice to reality. Without understanding this core belief, advocates such as Mao Khang, will have a hard time adapting and connecting from Hmong cultural practices to rules, laws, and regulations of the outer society.
Touger Xiong, also a self-proclaimed women’s advocate also claim to do justice in the name of fighting for Hmong in the community. He, too, will need to analyze his actions and consult with individuals professionals from a legal fields. A sole voice can add a forceful punishment by authorities. Seeking others can be a more comprehensive overview of how to deal with some of the issues plaguing the Hmong community and how to communicate these issues to the outer society. This is inclusive of those that truly know the underlying behind practices that are done within Hmong culture and why it is maintained by so many in the Hmong community.
What these activists do, argue, and advocate for is within their rights as individuals and as groups. It is their right living in a complex society. They do what they know and what they feel is best in defending what they passionately work towards. Just as Donald Trump wants to send detainee immigrants and asylum seekers into sanctuary cities without fully understanding the justification or the ramifications of such a decision, perhaps, it is the same with these advocates. To fully understand and fight against or for a certain issue, both sides of the issue have to be understood. These advocates fight for one-sided issues without a full realization of both perspectives. Let’s take for example the following traditions practiced in the Hmong culture for many generations prior.
The Hmong tradition for thousands of years has had the traditional “zij poj niam” as an acceptable form for two people to marry. “Zij poj niam” has been traditionally initiated by the woman as an approach for the public to witness that the man loves her and takes her willingly, supposedly to show the public that although she may or may not agree fully, this serves as a testimony of his love for her. Should, in the future, the man loses his love for her because he “zij” her, would provide her more say and more power in the process, thus giving her more “face” over the man. This form of marriage is mutually agreed upon by two parties and carried out in the Hmong for many generations. Those that understand the core value and belief of this form of marriage, understand it to be acceptable providing leverage for the woman and giving her rights beyond the man.
“Zij poj niam” in the United States in many parts of the Hmong community has been interpreted as “bride kidnapping.” The core and initiated meaning of “zij poj niam” has been translated incorrectly in America to be this “bride kidnapping” term. As stated earlier, when core meanings of traditional customs are translated incorrectly in a complex society in the process of acculturation, it equals grave consequences. Currently, this incorrectly translated version of “zij poj niam” has crossed over to the general society and they, too, know and understand it to be “bride kidnapping.” This form of understanding of “zij poj niam” is dangerous as it doesn’t sit well with the laws of American society. The implications of the wrongful interpretation of “zij poj niam” has and will continue to land many Hmong men in jail. However, when the authenticity of such a practice is studied to the cores of why it began, will provide justice to the practice in ways that justify why it was practiced and was/is part of Hmong traditions from so many generations ago.
Mai Neng Moua’s book The Bride Price implies the wrongness Mai Neng feels about a bride price in the Hmong community. Such as “zij poj niam” is deeply misunderstood by not just the general society but also by many in the Hmong community, so is the “bride price.” In the Hmong community the “bride price” is known as “nqi taub hau, nqi mis nqi hno, nqi tshoob nqi kos.” Traditions would have it that the history of the “nqi taub hau, mqi mis nqi hno, nqi tshoob nqi kos” came about when the Hmong lived in their homeland. Back in those days, transportation was rough. To travel to another village would take days even weeks. When a Hmong woman marries into another family, normally that family is from another village from far away. To travel back and forth is almost never done because there weren’t many forms of transportation other than to have to walk. And as mentioned earlier, walking could take days even weeks to arrive from one village to another. As a result, traditionally, when a Hmong woman marries, she almost always never came back to visit her parents and it was expected that she would never live with them again. The Hmong elders were smart. They knew this! As a way to ensure that the family the woman was marrying into and her new husband will love and care for her until she passes, they imposed a heavy promise from the family and from the new husband to endure. They imposed that the husband had to pay a heavy fine, a fine that is heavy enough that should he ever not love the woman and returns the woman back to her family, that it would hurt him to some degree remembering how hard he worked to make up the fine he had to pay for the promise he made to her family. This was also a promise that the wife is to give affection, love and care for his family as if they were her own. The elders knew that the hurt the man would feel should he ever break his promise is nothing compared to what the woman would feel; however, this was one small token of a gesture to ensure happiness for the woman. Mai Neng’s book is written with one perspective, from her own perspective, perhaps without her fully understanding the implications of what her writing might complicate for this practice within the Hmong culture. It sends a different message than the reason of what the practice was initially created for and could send confusion to the outer society and the younger Hmong. In the end, it serves as a resource for a one-sided perspective without fully understanding the breadth and depth of the practice. The “Bride price” as thinly described in Mai Neng’s book or “nqi tau hau, nqi mis nqi hno, nqi tshoob nqi kos” has transformed and come about as other traditions from other cultures: with a deep rooted meaning with a purpose!
Another cultural issue that continues to surface in the Hmong community is the abuse of children. What may have been accepted in the Hmong community traditionally may be viewed as inappropriate and inhumane in American society. Traditionally, children help with hard labor at the farm fields. It is an obligation that children have to their family. They help out as much as they can. They are brought up understanding their roles within their family. They understand and perform their duties and responsibilities with respect. In a complex society such as America, this hard labor that children perform and have as a duty and a responsibility to their families are considered as child labor, something frowned upon by the laws of a complex society. When the Hmong first arrived in America, many young girls did not enjoy doing chores as suggested by family as it is their obligation to the family and as practiced from generations prior. This was blamed by society to Hmong parents as guilt for child labor.
Being a cultural broker is not enough. Being Hmong and working in a profession that uses the difficulties of acculturation in the profession for his or her own benefit as a cultural broker is wrong and does not do good to the community. In actuality, it does the opposite. It sends and creates another layer of issues for the Hmong to tackle, not that living and navigating in a complex society is not hard enough. When Hmong professionals use their professions and self-proclaim or are assigned to as being a cultural broker, general and broad knowledge of Hmong traditional practices are not enough. Specific and core beliefs have to be understood from the depths of mind, body, and spirit to truly her carefully chosen behaviors and statements. She remains true. She understands that to elevate women and to acculturate at a pace that meets the needs of society, she has to remain calm and dutiful, always looking for ways to show through her actions of how to acculturate between different worlds.
Kao Kalia Yang writes about the Hmong in poetic forms teaching and providing the Hmong community a healing path forward. In her writing is the foretelling of the past that demonstrates an understanding of the connection from the past to present and future. Kao Kalia understands the need to maintain and sustain the traditions of practice ingrained within a deeply rooted culture; the Hmong culture. She writes as a way to heal not only for herself but for the Hmong community to heal, to come together remembering how we arrived to where we are today and to never forget where we came from and who and what we were. Who we are is implanted profoundly in the roots of practices within our culture.
These women take into consideration the rooted causes of traditional practices that occur in the Hmong community. With a mesh of this understanding and their understanding of the outer society, they have chosen to take action in this process through their words, behaviors, and inclusive strategy of remaining true to the core beliefs of the Hmong. They have a specific field in which they are experts but they do not proclaim to know it all. Instead, they remain open to others with the understanding that they, too, can learn from those who they speak with every day.
Living in a complex society has proven a difficult process for the Hmong. Acculturation is slow but the Hmong continue forward. And should professionals who claim to advocate for Hmong women understand the rooted causes of traditional practices within the Hmong community, acculturation can be achieved sooner and quicker, but also at a deeper depth. Should Hmong women and advocacy groups continue to shout loud and clear their message without this understanding and realization, they will continue to add and create layers of issues to the acculturation process they claim to contribute some good to.
This article is to be viewed from a three-dimensional view. It takes on perspectives from another side and only hopes to help the Hmong move forward in this struggle of acculturation in American culture. It views the work of Hmong women and Hmong women advocacy groups as important and are much needed; however, it argues for another look, a deeper look. It calls for another analysis of what the actions and voices those who claim to work for the benefit of the Hmong community, to turn around and understand true core beliefs and the justifications for these beliefs in the Hmong, while connecting these core beliefs to their profession in the outer society. In doing so, perhaps, they may become a stronger bridge that fastens the acculturation process for the Hmong community in a complex American society. �By Snyu Yang of Hmong Globe
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