Thursday, April 15, 2010
Hmong Children Respond to Community Meeting
Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman
After last Saturday's recent meeting between many NoMi Hmong residents and several public officials, some organizers had a discussion with Hmong youth ages 9 through 13. They told an organizer what they liked and didn't like from the meeting. It should come as no shock that the "didn't like" column was focused largely on the behavior of the police.
I was asked to publish this list, and whether I agree with its content or not, whether I think it is politically savvy or not, the list is substantive. I decided to use the same standards for what these kids wrote as I would for any other comment submitted to the JNS blog. Virtually all substantive comments get approved.
ADDENDUM: I expressed doubt regarding the "over 100 people" comment below and was later informed that organizers did a head count and tallied 91 people in attendance. More came after that count, so the claim of having over 100 people is likely accurate.
So, without further ado, the children in attendance liked and did not like the following things...
-Everybody stood up, talked
-Adults spoke up
-Girls row had attitude
-More time for volleyball
-Blong, parents, most powerful, said I'm angry
-Over 100 people
-Police say sorry
-I don't care what police say
-Yia say in Hmong
-Kids talk about problems
Did Not Like
-Police talked too much
-Talk about gangs, not what we wanted
-Police changed subject
-Councilmember doesn't talk
-Police talked impolite
-Police talked bad
-Police talked hostile
-Said no to Hmong translator (unclear if this "said no" was in reference to the translator at this event or to whether translators were otherwise available)
-Police only talk of gangs
-Police talk for two hours (also unclear if the time is accurate; but this is what the children said and is being reprinted here)
-Police yelled at us, we need video of his behavior
-Police talked to much
I was also sent the following letter, attributed to the kids who participated in the post-meeting discussion. It should be noted that although the list and the letter often say "police" in general terms, there was only one police officer present for the duration of the meeting and the discussions.
"April 11, 2010
To Councilmember Samuels:
We are Hmong students at Saturday’s meeting.
At Saturday’s meeting, we did not like police officer Lembek.
He was mad
He was mean
He said he doesn’t need Hmong translators
He doesn’t listen
He talked too much
He only thought of gangs
He yelled at us
He was impolite.
He talked about gangs, not what we wanted.
We do not want him at our meetings
He was scary
He hates the Hmong
He said we are gangmembers, and we aren’t. Our families are angry at him for saying that.
He read our list of problems, but he minimized what we said."
Once again, I wish to stress that Lindback did apologize and that many of his ideas were solid ones that deserve immediate action. I also personally disagree with the statement that "he hates the Hmong." But the responses above and the specific request to publish them here indicate a serious issue.
One other anecdote is important to note here. At one point when Lindback was suggesting a series of community discussions, he asked whether people would be interested in knowing what happens if their own child were arrested and charged with a serious crime. Wouldn't people want to understand the criminal justice system and how their child might navigate through such processes?
In short, the answer was "no." If their child was arrested, or if he did something wrong, let him suffer the consequences. People who responded essentially said that they weren't overly concerned about what would happen to their child as long as he (or she) were held accountable for breaking the law.
Later, I asked if this response was a reaction borne out of opposition to Lindback or whether it was expressive of Hmong cultural values. I was told that "you could not have an immigrant group more tailor-made to interact with the police," from the standpoint that they place a high value on law and order.
The Hmong youth and the "girls with attitude" have been calling officials to schedule a follow-up meeting so that the dialogue can continue.