Friday, September 30, 2011
One Question leads to a million Questions
Ashley Cooper, one of the Breakthrough Staff members said to me in an email: "I was walking around Barnes & Noble a couple months ago and was appalled to see that there were only 3-4 books about the Hmong culture. Granted, it's something isn't surprising for many Hmong people but I would love to see the younger generations debunk this trend and being publishing their experiences for others to learn from."
It is moments like this that really ignite the fire inside of me to write.
Being in China and just being far away from home this entire year has really hit me how important my identity is in this world. Our biggest project this semester for our China study abroad seminar is this thing called the "One Question Project" where we pick one question and dissect it. My classmates are tackling issues such the One Child Policy, Buddhism in China, Chinese Tradition Marriages, etc. I decided to focus my one question on the Hmong-Miao minority population in southwestern China. I've read up on the history of Hmong people in China - I've learned so much about what happened to the Hmong people before the Vietnam War. Anyway, one of my biggest discoveries about this one question is: SO WHAT, WHY SHOULD PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT THE HMONG PEOPLE? WHY SHOULD IT MATTER?
The more I dig into the Hmong history, the more I wonder why I am even doing it. The more I talk about the Hmong history to people, the more I realize how unimportant it is to them. So why bother educating people about things they don't care about? Just because it matters to me does not mean it matters to the world.
If we don't write our own stories, others will write it for us. For the longest time, especially growing up in the States, my identity and cultural heritage as a Hmong person had always been neglected and put down - when I speak Hmong and practice Hmong traditions it never seemed as valuable as speaking English or practicing "American" traditions (Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Independence Day, etc). As time went on and I grew older, I began to believe that my story, the Hmong Story, was not as important as other people's stories. I began to believe that my story was not worthy of telling, not worthy to record down in history and not worthy of researching.
Who are the Hmong people, anyway? Why do they cling so tightly to their culture? Why can't they assimilate to their surrounding and accept their new environment is their new identity? Why are they so defensive?
I'm still trying to uncover the answers to these questions. But it’s exactly like what Ashley said; it's really up the younger Hmong generation to fill up those bookshelves at Barnes and Noble.