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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

December 4, 2004

Written by C.N.

Tragedy in Wisconsin

Originally posted Nov. 2004

Chai Vang, a Hmong refugee living in Wisconsin, allegedly shot and killed six people the other day in an hunting dispute. Apparently, Vang mistakenly occupied a hunting perch located on private property, was confronted by the owners (or those who knew the owners), told to leave, started to leave, but then turned around and fired dozens of shots from a semi-automatic rifle toward the people and later, those who came to help.

The details are still emerging about this tragedy, but the question that comes up is, was Vang set off by racial taunts or derogatory slurs, as he now claims? As an earlier article reports,

Some Hmong leaders questioned whether racial differences may have figured in the shootings; authorities have not determined a motive. . . In Minnesota, a fistfight once broke out after Hmong hunters crossed onto private land, said Ilean Her, director of the St. Paul-based Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans. . .

Area where shooting occurred © CBS News

Vang’s arrest left some Hmong citizens in his hometown fearful of a backlash. About 24,000 Hmong live in St. Paul, the highest concentration of any U.S. city. And the shooting has already provoked racial tension in an area of Wisconsin where deer hunting is steeped in tradition.

Locals in the Birchwood area, about 120 miles northeast of the Twin Cities, have complained that the Hmong, refugees from Laos, do not understand the concept of private property and hunt wherever they see fit. Michael Yang, a Hmong activist, said various Hmong groups held an emergency meeting Monday to talk about how to respond. Those at the meeting heard stories from some Hmong hunters about friction with white hunters.

Of course, there is no excuse for what Vang did. As the article also points out,

But, Minnesota state Sen. Mee Moua rejected the idea that cultural differences played any role in the shooting. “We’re all just speculating that may have been a trigger for him,” said Moua, who is Hmong. “We’re all searching for answers.” Moua added that Hmong-Americans feel racism on a daily basis, but “that doesn’t mean you kill people.”

A recent article in the New York Times elaborates further on some of the racial/ethnic aspects of this story. Ultimately, Sen. Moua is right — facing racism does not mean that you kill people and in no way am I justifying what he did. But it would clearly explain what made Vang snap — the last spark that finally ignited years, even decades of having to quietly and passively deal with prejudice, racial hostility, and systematic racism.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Tragedy in Wisconsin" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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