Hmong in Wisconsin

Learning Objectives:

Students will learn about Hmong experiences living in the Midwest and Wisconsin and their experiences with discrimination and racism.

Students will understand how the Cold War context directly contributed to Hmong refugees resettling to the U.S.

Students will learn how Hmong experiences of discrimination and racism affected their experiences in Wisconsin and at UW–Madison.

Sources and Readings

Recommended Primary Sources:

These four articles document the different forms of racism and discrimination Hmong people experienced while living in Wisconsin. The testimonials focus on racial stereotyping and discrimination students encountered both in and out of schools, and the daily threats and presence of physical violence Hmong people endured.

Read testimony of Hmong students: Trisha Xiong, Chee Thao, Christina Yang, Kaying in “Kids, adults react to racism,” Madison Wisconsin State Journal Article: Read Article Here

Read testimony of Hmong student: Xe Yang in “Eighth-graders relate brushes with prejudice,” Madison Wisconsin State Journal Article: Read Article Here

“Time comes to speak out,” Eau Claire Telegram Article: Read Article Here

Asian men learn lesson in hate” Janesville Gazette Article: Read Article Here

Recommended Readings and Viewing:

Public History Project Blog: ““Being Hmong, you don’t really have a place”: Hmong American Alumni at UW Madison” By Chong A. Moua. Read Blog Post Here

Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions Research Brief #7: “Our HMoob American College Paj Ntaub.” By Lena Lee, Pangzoo Lee, Bailey B. Smolarek, Myxee M. Thao, Kia Vang, Matthew Wolfgram, Choua Xiong, Odyssey Xiong, Pa Kou Xiong, and Pheechai Xiong. Read Research Brief Here

Documentary: America’s Secret War: Minnesota Remembers Vietnam. Watch Documentary Here

Additional Primary Sources:

Community based exhibit: Cia Siab (Hope) in Wisconsin: A HMoob Story: View Exhibit Here

This is a community-led and community-driven exhibit about Hmong life and experiences in Wisconsin. The exhibit invites audience members to engage in conversations about war, historical trauma, memory, resilience, and healing. The exhibit showcases the voices of Hmong and how they have made home in Wisconsin.

Additional/Alternative Readings:

Selected chapters from: Wendy Mattison, Laotou Lo, and Thomas Scarseth, Hmong Lives: From Laos to La Crosse (La Crosse WI: Pump House Regional Center for the Arts, 1994). Access Book Here

Selected chapters from: Mai Zong Vue, Hmong in Wisconsin (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2020). Access Book Here

Discussion and Questions

Primary Source Discussion Questions

Newspaper articles of Hmong experiences of racism in Wisconsin:

  • What are the similarities in the experiences of racism and discrimination across the articles?
  • How did these experiences of racism and discrimination affect how Hmong and Asian students feel about themselves and their sense of place in school?
  • Why did the editor of “Connections,” the newspaper’s section for teenage readers, Susan Barber, feel like she had to speak out? What was it about the caller’s comments that upset Barber?
  • Are there recent examples of similar types of racism and discrimination against Hmong and other Asian and Asian Americans?

Secondary Source Discussion Questions

  • What are the different ways in which Hmong alumni experienced racism and discrimination in their schooling experiences?
  • How did these experiences of racism and discrimination shape Hmong alumni views and relationships with white peers and educational institutions?
  • In the “Findings” section, which of the quotes about invisibility, exclusion, and belonging stood out to you and why?
  • How has this article demonstrated the various challenges and opportunities for HMoob students to “negotiate their racial and ethnic identities” at UW?
  • Why did Laos and Southeast Asia become an important battleground for the U.S. during the Cold War?
  • What was the process like for Hmong to resettle to the U.S.? When they resettled, what challenges did Hmong refugees encounter?

Discussion Norms: These are based on Walter Parker, Teaching Democracy: Unity and Diversity in Public Life, 138-9

  •       Do not raise hands
  •       Address one another, not the discussion leader
  •       Invite others into the conversation
  •       Cite and/or reference the texts to support your texts
  •       Base response in the reading/sources
  •       Listen to and build on others’ comments
  •       Critically Agree and Disagree

For more ideas about structuring discussion and asking good questions, see The Discussion Project