Emerging Voices: Experiences of Underrepresented Asian Americans

By Huping Ling | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
Hmong American
Contemporary Experience

KOU YANG

The Hmong American community is one of the least known and less-documented Asian American groups. They are a minority within the Asian American community; being obscured under the stereotypes of the “model minority” myth, many of their pressing needs and issues are not properly addressed and responded to. Moreover, they have experienced a vast variety of acculturation barriers, problems, and needs as a result of being refugees of the U.S. “secret war” in Laos, and they are one of the least educationally and vocationally prepared refugee groups from Indochina to adapt to life in the United States.

The interface with American culture, economy, technology, and political system, which contributes to many stressful issues and pressing problems, also creates opportunities for change and development, and as a result, the Hmong American community has had many success stories to celebrate. After three decades in the United States, they have become a people of transition, spreading to two very extremes of the adaptation spectrum. This chapter reviews the contemporary experience of Hmong Americans, highlighting their issues and needs, in addition to their progress and success stories.


The Hmong

The Hmong are a people of diaspora, with China as their ancestral home. The Hmong have been forced to disperse to four of the five continents; they are currently found in China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Australia, Germany, France, French Guiana, Argentina, Canada, and the United States. The Hmong language is from the Miao-Yao language family, and they are a subgroup of the Miao in China. “Miao” is a term that includes the Hmong and several other groups that made up the fifth-largest minority group in the People’s Republic of China. The population of the Hmong in China is estimated to be about 1.8 million, and their worldwide population ranges from 4 to 5 million.1 The 2000 U.S. census counted 186,310 Hmong Americans, making them the fourth-largest Hmong community after communities in China, Vietnam, and Laos.

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