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Hin Cai Bak Meo is a positive of the Hmong: being able to use their empathetic, unflappable characteristic as a means to bring peace to where-ever they live ...
Hin Cai Bak Meo:
By Snyu Yang of Hmong Globe.
When we discuss the Hmong story, or as some would call the Hmong as “Meo or Miao”, we can see so much good that comes from their bare hands and feet that produce the most alarming results. We can discuss how the Hmong have adapted to their surroundings and to the government that regulate the land they reside in. We can continue to discuss how the Hmong are complacent in a lot of different aspects of their lives to the people and ambience that surround them; being passive in ways to stop, demote, or discontinue conflicts. This is a positive of the Hmong: being able to use their empathetic, unflappable characteristic as a means to bring peace to where-ever they live and who-ever they come across. But as much as this passiveness is being used for good, at times this compliance of passivity brings about oppression and marginalization in ways that potentially have big effects on the road ahead.
Throughout the history of the Hmong, we can agree that the Hmong have, most of their past, “given in” to the needs of others, never really asserting themselves to the oppression and marginalization by different groups of people. To this point, COVID-19 has really brought to light this oppression and marginalization in current society. Politicians and many others in the community, in their effort to re-open schools, use marginalized populations as their excuse to re-open schools. They (politicians and those wanting to re-open schools) state that it is these marginalized populations that would lose the most, when in fact, they (marginalized populations) are sent out to the frontlines of a pandemic that could potentially cause havoc to their health and their families. Those that can, usually wealthier and more privileged, stay home. They stay home because their situation and privilege in society allow them to choose an alternative road to education with the full understanding that leaving their homes and entering a school environment would allow them first exposure to a virus that can kill.
A true story of a young Hmong boy beginning his journey in adulthood, Yang Chee, who in a passive approach, gave up his right to an early education in America that could have re-routed his journey in life. Why? Because to stop havoc from wreaking into his and his family’s life but overall in the lives of the Hmong. He complied in the most passive way that would condemn any type of aggressiveness. He would give up his dream of becoming a young Hmong man who would venture into American society to enter and be part of the school system in higher education. We begin Yang Chee’s story in the era of his high school years. He dreamt of attending schools in the United States and, perhaps, become something great; something that will help make a difference in his life and in the lives of the Hmong. Yang Chee was one of the individuals who tested and passed certain voluminous stages of different exams to come to the United States and attend school. In the first round of testing were one hundred sixty- eight students. This first round was extensive and comprehensive. It gave all who wanted to grab an opportunity to a full education ride in the United States the chance to do it. The first round of testing gave Yang Chee a passing score to become one of sixteen students making it to the second round; then 8, and finally, the
October 1, 2020
final four during the last stage of testing. Yang Chee was one of the four students preparing themselves for schooling in the United States. It came with great responsibilities but also gave Yang the pride of a young Hmong man rightfully earning his way and his place in the final four to learn from schools in the United States, a dream that, to many, was impossible and was only something they can only imagine but never live.
As Yang Chee prepared himself to enter the United States and go to school, a big hiccup that came in the form of blockage occurred. A Laotian colonel suggested to the Director of the program that Yang Chee not be included in the final four to go to the United States. Instead, the colonel suggested replacing his own son with Yang Chee. The Laotian colonel’s son was one among the one hundred sixty-eight students who took the extensive and comprehensive exam the first round. The colonel’s son did not pass this initial round.
His suggestion to replace his son to take Yang Chee’s place came at a time when Hmong was new to the world. Not many have heard about the Hmong nor knew of their existence. To many people in Laos, the Hmong were classified as “Meos” or devil wild cats. Meos, in the perspective of those living within city limits, were not to be tamed or brought into city life. They were viewed as people of the mountains and were not to be civilized or acculturated with those in the city. This was the Laotian colonel’s view of the Hmong and of Yang Chee. To him, to send Yang Chee to America would be an embarrassment to Laos and would cause an uproar; there would be much shame brought to Laos of sending an “uncivilized” student to study in one of the most civilized countries in the world.
To create some form of solitude with his suggestion of sending his son in replacement of Yang, the colonel suggested starting a master’s program at the National University of Laos to the director of the program responsible for sending the students to school in the United States. Perhaps this was to calm his conscience of guilt and commission a guidance to the director that should the director feel a sense of empathy for the “Meo” for him to create the master’s program. This master’s program would serve as a solace for this wrongdoing and replace the shame and disgrace with a form of remorse that would compensate for the replacement of Yang Chee attending schools in
the United States. Beginning a master’s program that would allow Yang Chee to continue his education in Laos was done so in a form of “love” for “Meos” as suggested by the Colonel. The master’s program was created for the “Meo” that will never get to attend schools in the United States but will serve as payment and as a benefit to Yang Chee.
In the end, Yang Chee did not attend in the United States. Instead, he attended the master’s program at the University of Laos. Following the same pattern as that of how students were able to enter the testing for an opportunity to attend school in the United States, the master’s program allowed sixteen students to compete getting into the program. Of the sixteen students, twelve came from prestigious families. Yang Chee would have a guaranteed spot; however, the director made it that it followed the same process. After the initial round of sixteen would come another round of eight students. The final round resulted in four students being allowed to enter the first master’s program at the Laos National University; Yang Chee being among one of the four.
There were passive forms of protests following the decision of the director not to allow
Yang Chee to attend schools in the United States. The director of the abroad program he, himself, resigned because he felt an injustice in the decision and because there was pressure among the Laotian colonel and the elite to allow someone else to go in replacement of Yang Chee. After resigning, he left the program and returned back to the United States in protest. During this time, many wondered why Yang Chee did not attend schools in the United States. It was not a secret that Yang Chee had worked hard to qualify for a spot among the four students to attend schools in the United States. Sensing this injustice and the denial of the right for their fellow student, Yang Chee, some students took to an early form of protests. A young student with the last name of Moua raised in protest of this decision. With much effort and an understanding of the breach of trust and maltreatment that this decision had on Yang Chee and the Hmong, he climbed onto the roof of a building and protested, challenging the decision to allow the colonel’s son to attend school on Yang Chee’s behalf. In his words, he stated that Yang Chee is to be in America attending school and yet here he stands, still in Laos. He asked who attended in Yang Chee’s place although it was well known who went in replacement. As part of his protest, he discontinued his education and never returned. His actions taught the Hmong a good lesson. No matter the hardships, there is still hope for tomorrow. If not today, believe that there is still a chance for tomorrow ahead. The Hmong still have a story to tell and more dreams to live. Tomorrow is a new beginning to this belief.
Yang Chee went on to attend the Master’s program at the National University of Laos and finished the program. After graduation, he became a professor. He was sent to teach in the Vang Vieng District. He landed the position after a Hmong professor left to learn abroad. One day Yang Chee was invited to a Laotian student’s home. Yang Chee, being just a little bit older than his students, could easily have been mistaken as a student, himself. Along with him being invited, were two other Laotian students. When they arrived at the student’s house, the mom served the three Laotian students from three clean shiny glasses and to Yang, she served a drink from a dirty cup. The student yelled at his mom but his mom responded “This student can only be allowed to drink from this cup.” The student informed his mom that Yang Chee is his professor. Once she realized her mistake, the mom kneeled down and asked for forgiveness. To her amazement, Yang Chee told her that this was the best cup that he could have been served from and that he will take the good luck she’s given him by serving him this cup. This is a sample of the infringement and transgression that are transferred from society into a household that holds a true belief that Hmong are “Meos” and that “Meos” are wild and worthless, not worthy of something as simple as that of water in a clean cup. This transgression became a deep and rooted contempt and disgust of a people different from their own such as the “Meos.”
During the Vietnam War during the year of 1975 Laotian generals came to Vang Vieng to discuss concerns regarding the unrest in the country to the students. The discussions encouraged the students to be problem solvers of current society and the topic of how some in the country were still fighting against the country. The generals said the “Meos” were the people fighting against the country. Yang Chee’s students informed the generals that their professor is a “Meo”. Yang Chee was asked by the generals to clarify that there is a certain kind of “Meos” that are fighting the country and not people just as him. The generalization
and classification of all “Meos” to be of bad nature and all to be against the country of Laos was the goal of the Laotian generals. This generalization, yet, again served as a deep and rooted form of grudge and bitterness toward the Hmong. And yet through this core and deep alienation of the Hmong, Yang Chee conducted himself in a calm and respectful manner understanding that this form of passive manner can only be the way to savor the moment and demonstrate that Hmong want peace and respect not violence as they have been portrayed.
There was a time when Yang Chee rode the bus to see his family. When he returned to Vietiane, the bus arrived at
Heng Her valley, where there was a bridge. Laotian soldiers were at the base station.
The Laotian soldiers blocked the bridge.
Those riding the bus were forced to unload. Yang Chee went to seek shelter at a pho street restaurant. Yang Chee, dressed to fit Laotian society was not recognized as a Hmong. While he was having his meal, a group of Hmong men and women approached Yang. They didn’t speak Lao. They asked if Yang Chee would help to buy some salt from the restaurant owner for them to eat. Yang then, asked the owner of the pho restaurant if she could afford to sell the Hmong some salt to eat with their rice. She responded in the form of hate toward the Hmong by stating”Meos do not know how to eat salt. Only animals eat salt. Are Meos animals?” At the restaurant, there was a Laotian soldier, who his heart can’t take the notion of his own people treating minorities as “animals”. He asked Yang Chee to recognize his serving in the Laotian army. Yang Chee was a Laotian Hmong professor.
He honors and respects soldiers for serving their country. Yang Chee provided words of high remarks to the Laotian soldier giving him the proper respect and honor he deserved. This soldier, in recognition of Yang Chee’s respect and honor, informed Yang Chee that he should stay up with the Hmong through nightfall. By midnight, if the Hmong falls asleep, the Laotian soldiers would ambush them. After learning this, Yang Chee went to tell the Hmong not to sleep and to stay up all night. Because of this, the Laotian soldiers were not able to ambush down the shelter where the Hmong were sleeping for the night.
These events that occurred in Yang Chee’s life are no strangers to the Hmong. Events such as the oppression of Yang Chee by the Laotian general not allowing him to
business owner making hatre remark of the Hmong in Heng Her Bridge are fine examples of the marginalization, oppression, brutality, and coercion that the Hmong faced back in Yang Chee’s younger days to current time. The Hmong, a minority that has little say have always been pushed. Just as Yang Chee was pushed, even as he was the professor of his students. The systemic maltreatment of the Hmong springs into action in big and small ways that hinder the Hmong from making strides such as that of other ethnicities. As illustrated when the Laotian soldiers insinuated that all the Hmong were putting a stoppage to the progress of Laos by fighting against Laos and yet, when a Hmong (such as Yang Chee) can serve to their purpose or can be used by them, they filtered their thoughts asking him to clarify that Hmong people, unlike him, are the ones fighting against the Laotians. When the Hmong can be used to translate for the success of others, other people are not afraid to seek the help of the Hmong; however, when the Hmong can use their own translations for their own progress, others put a stoppage to this path and hinder it in ways that cripple the advancement of their own. Through all these events, Yang Chee remained faithful to his Hmong roots. He continued to help and save the Hmong as much as he knew how and as much as his strength allowed him to.
Jerry Daniels, the CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer, asked Yang Chee to migrate to the United States in 1976 to serve as an example and demonstrate to the American government that the Hmong can easily acculturate and adapt to American society; that the Hmong can survive in America. Yang Chee turned down Jerry’s offer because he was a single young man; instead, he suggested that Yang Txim. Yang Txim became the first Hmong person to set foot on American soil. While he turned the offer down to be the first Hmong to come to the United States, Yang Chee continued to work with Jerry Daniel as they traveled the refugee camps in Thailand interviewing Hmong people.
Because of the efforts of Jerry Daniels, Yang Chee, and Yang Txim the American government was willing to accept Hmong to rightfully take his place among the four students to attend schools in the United States, the event of the Laotian student’s mom serving Yaj Cib’s water in a dirty cup, the event of the Laotian generals generalizing that the all Hmong are against the country and were fighting against the cause of the Laotian government, and the event of the Laotian the United States. Jerry Daniels selected a batch of Hmong cases that would be interviewed to come to the United States. There were many Hmong and Laotian cases and piles that are yet needed to be brought to the
United Nation’s consulate for interviewing. However,
the Laotian interviewers replaced all the Laotians’ cases for interviews and rejected every single case that was identified as Hmong. On an afternoon, Jerry saw a pile of rejected cases from Laotian interviewers. Confused, Jerry asked Yang Chee and three other Hmong individuals working about the pile. Jerry had specifically picked those piles to interview to come to the United States. At the thought of the rejected pile, Jerry asked Yang Chee and the other three Hmong individuals, “If you do not have lunch, will you die?” The three answered no and while everyone was at lunch, including the Laotian interviewers, created new cases for each application on the rejected pile and placed them in different envelopes. These newly created files were turned into the United Nation consulate and were approved to come to the United States. During the processing of these cases, the Hmong who worked directly with the CIA and who should have been eligible to come to the United States were rejected and denied by the Laotian interviewers. Yang Chee had once been denied. This time he stood tall and fought for those oppressed and marginalized. Yang Chee was well educated in Laos. He earned his place to work and served the refugees. The Hmong people went through so many dark tunnels of denial. Yang Chee touched the hearts of the Hmong in many shapes, forms and angles.
Be A Good Citizen in America
After completing his work in the refugee camps in Thailand, Jerry Daniels sent Yang Chee to Colorado in the United States, where he remains to this day. Jerry gave him $20. Jerry said to Yang Chee, “When you first set foot in America, buy American fast food. Eat, feel, and say hello to the world that you are now a free man.” In the refugee camp, Yang Chee was known as a “Jerry’s Boy,” a Hmong boy that spoke English and worked for Jerry Daniels for so many years before he came to America. Jerry had so much hope that one day, Yang Chee will make the Hmong stand tall. He will bring the Hmong and introduce them to his American friends or elected officials to feel his life experience. Yang Chee only asked his American friends to allow the Hmong a chance to become good citizens in America. As Celine Dion’s song “My heart will go on,” Yang Chee’s heart continued on as he became a hero to the Hmong because of his kindness and,
October 1, 2020
indeed, his heart will go on for the Hmong people.
With his many letters of recommendation from the United Nation consulate, Yang Chee was offered a position at IBM where he worked until his recent retirement. Although, in the United States, Yang Chee continued to be of service to the Hmong people. He became involved in the Neo-Hoo organization as organized by Vang Pao. Yang Chee became president of the organization and wanted to lead the organization in a direction where they would lobby American politicians to create laws and regulations to help protect the Hmong. Yang Chee loved helping the Hmong people and wanted to create an organization that would continue to help the Hmong veterans in America and abroad. This vision; however, would conflict with Vang Pao’s vision of “selling” positions to the Hmong community for money. Yang Chee understood this to not be the right thing to do. As a result, he left Neo- Hoo. Because he left Neo-Hoo, there are countless others who see him as a traitor, someone who did not fulfill his duty to the organization. After leaving Neo-Hoo, he continued his path to organize and lobby American politicians for the interest of Hmong veterans. He is a hero. His effect on the organizational effort to unlabel the Hmong as terrorists in HR2764 was instrumental. His effort was awarded when H2764 became policy. Yang Chee helped change the Hmong to unlabel them as
organized by HR88
that would honor
the Hmong in
was also declared
as July 22, was
Hmong Day to
honor the Hmong
soldiers that died
during the Secret
War in Laos. It was
also designated as
day for the Hmong
starting a new life
in America. I had
traveled with Yaj
Cib to Washington
D.C. to meet with
“code of life can as
deniable.” It was as
dark as a tunnel. It
had the smell of a
who worked all day
and came from
damp soil. Yang
Chee joined with
Dr. Yang Dao and
educators to clean
the Hmong from
being labeled as terrorists.
Today, Yang Chee continues his legacy in helping his Hmong fellows in America. As much as he was trampled, mistreated, or preyed upon, he worked in passive ways that helped him to ultimately reach his goal of helping his fellow Hmong. He understood the need to use tamed devices that would eventually lead him to where he is today. He worked most of his life for his fellow Hmong becoming a nameless hero unknown to most Hmong. He quit his job at IBM to focus on his ambition and passion. And yet, this unknown hero sings beautiful songs of the Hmong to the Hmong and continues to be the hero he needs to be to help carry his fellow Hmong forward. The motif of Yang Chee is a magnificent character placed in the life of too many Hmong. Today, the Hmong in Laos have been relieved and have rebuilt with their country, side by side. The Hmong living globally are stronger with their current society.
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