Chai Vang: Another Perspective
Does being a minority in the United States of America decrease a person’s individual power in the reciprocal of equality? Chai Vang is a Hmong American who’s had the misfortune to face the adversities of racism and unequal treatment. He took action into his own hands against the injustice, but was found guilty by the American Judicial system for his self-defense argument. “The jury rejected the self-defense argument, though prosecution witness testimony did reveal that racial slurs were aimed at Vang” (McCombie 22). Chai Vang’s status as a Hmong American has negative affects on his ability to influence others initial perception on his skin color, to be treated equally, and to reason with white hunters due to already high racial tensions among Hmong and white hunters.
Most people of color have encountered some kind of racism or unequal treatment. Chai Vang’s status as a Hmong American has negative affects on his ability to influence others initial perception on his skin color. Many people experiences, or were taught about racism at a young age. Mary Mclaurine, author of “When does racism begin?,” an article on the Washington Post online talks about racism and where it began for her. She explains:
I remember throwing a bit of a tantrum to the point my mom had to take me inside and sit me down. She told me that Mary and Kenny were “Negroes” and explained to me what that meant. They were a different race; they were black and we were white. She said it wasn’t acceptable for both races to intermingle, that they had their neighborhoods and we had ours (Mclaurine).
Sometimes it’s ingrained in them on an explicit level; however, there may be instances where many were groomed through learning this habitually in an implicit level as well. In the multicultural magazine Skipping Stone the “Ask Nana Jean about skin color,” a column where Jean Moule answers questions to her audience, she states:
Parents may accidentally teach their children that certain skin tones are “scary.” Babies begin to learn racism when they are just months old. For example, a White mother in an elevator is holding her five-month-old baby. A Black person gets on an elevator, and the mother tightens her grip. The baby experiences “threat” or “danger” (Moule).
Chai Vang was doomed on the initial contact with the first White hunter, Terry Willers. Colleen Mastony explains that Willers, “Radioed the cabin again to say he ordered the man off the property” (Mastony). From there, she further explains: “Five of the men at the cabin hopped on all-terrain vehicles and rode out to join Willers in the woods” (Mastony). He was surrounded and felt threatened. “Vang said the group of men surrounded him, calling him ‘gook,’ ‘chink,’ and ‘[expletive] Asian” (Mastony). When confronted, the color of Chai Vang’s skin becomes his enemy. Would this have ended differently if he were white?
Everyone wants to be treated equally. Chai Vang’s status as a Hmong American has negative affects on his ability to be treated equally. In an article from the NY Times online, author Sam Roberts explains: “Fewer than one in three black Americans and not even half of whites say the United States has made ‘a lot’ of progress toward achieving racial equality in the half-century since the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. declared he had ‘a dream'” (Roberts). Chai Vang was confronted by a large hunting party. They exploited this opportunity because he was one person versus eight. What if they treated him equally that day, could this have prevented the mass killings?
Chai Vang’s encounter with the white hunters was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Wameng Moua, publisher and editor of Hmong Today commented to the Chicago Times, he said: “‘Hmong people believe deep in their hearts that Chai Vang was cornered,’ Moua said, ‘and he was fighting for his life.'” (Colleen). Chai Vang didn’t have a chance to reason or plea his case to the white hunters because he did not know he was on private land. There was another possible outcome that could have prevented the mass shooting. Willers, the first white hunter, should have just told Chai Vang to leave and not radio to his fellow hunters for back-up. Would the outcome have ended differently?
Imagine if you were in a similar situation. You are alone in an isolated wooded area where no one can hear you scream, or no one can find you if you were killed. You first encounter one person, who then radios his gang, and now in front of you were seven to eight men who are attacking you with racial slurs. On November 21, 2004, Chai Vang was faced with this very dire situation. Chai Vang never had the chance to escape from his perpetrators who saw him only on the surface of his skin color. Consequently, without equality on his side, he was mistreated. With the already high racial tensions among both Hmongs and whites, Chai Vang had no influence to tipping the pendulum to his side. He made a rash decision to protect himself from the aggressors before they have a chance to act on him. Chai Vang, the wrong colored skin, so he must be the one in the wrong. If this happened to you, would fear come to your mind? Would you be afraid that they would physically harm you? Why did he call out his gang on you? Would you take offense first? I can tell you that I do not condone what he had done. If faced with the the reality of our natural body’s instincts of heightened fear creating chemical imbalances to boost your adrenaline, your concentration is distraught, your consciousness is swirling around with visions blurred, and all the while you are outnumbered 8 to 1 where all the strangers are attacking you with racial slurs. I think that if anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation, they may find themselves doing the same thing.
Mastony, Colleen. “Part 2: Angry words, then hunters become prey.” chicagotribune.com. 2005. 22 February 2017. Web.
McCombie, Brian. “Trespasser Found Guilty of Slayings.” Outdoor Life, 1 Dec. 2005, P.22. Print.
Mcluarine, Mary. “When does racism begin?” washingtonpost.com. 2015. 22 February 2017. Web.
Moule, Jean. “Ask Nana Jean about skin color.” Skipping Stones, Mar-Apr. 2008, P.9. Student Resources in Context. Print.
Roberts, Sam. “Equality is still a working progress, survey finds.” nytimes.com. 2013. 22 February 2017. Web