On July 11, 2015 my team and I put together the presentation “Are You Hmong?” that aims to explore how identity influences the way we interact with our immigrant community and how we organize, through storytelling. The basis for the presentation is an identity story about self-identification; how our community can divide itself by defining our people in a way that oppresses us to self-loath and acceptance of other people’s definition of who we as individual is and isn’t; and whether we create stereotypes or stereotypes create who we are by becoming a check-list that we must check-off in order to be a person of a certain ethnic or community.
The presentation started with a brief segment about stereotypes: do we create stereotypes or do stereotypes create who we are? At the end of the day, it can be both because there are negative and positive stereotypes that embodies what a community’s behavior and culture are.
The second half of the presentation was my story about growing up as a refugee child who came to the United States at age 5 and spent the next 20 years feeling as if I was too American to be a Hmong child because I easily embraced American culture. I didn’t struggle as much as some of my peers who grew up in traditional refugee households. Even though I understood the struggle that many peers went through having to navigate their life within their home and outside where they have to assimilate into American culture, I didn’t experience that kind of harsh identity crisis of wanting to bridge both American and ethnic culture. I always knew I was Hmong and that I was American both at the same time the moment I became an American. I had to learn how to be “more Hmong” because I was told I wasn’t Hmong enough due to my easy assimilation into American culture and how easily I was able to be Hmong and American at the same time.
With this presentation I have receive numerous responses from other Hmong who experienced the same dilemma that I did about being told that they were too American and not Hmong enough. It is wonderful that we start sharing stories about the different kind of experiences that Hmong refugees have, especially those who are of the generation 1.5—those who came to the United States at a young age. Not all of us struggled trying to be American. I am glad that others, even non-Hmong, can relate to my story.