A few weeks ago, on a morning talk show on KDWB, a song was written and performed by Steve LeTart entitled “30 Hmongs in a House”. The lyrics are full of racism, sexism and bigotry and the delivery was full of smug disdain for a culture different from that of the three white talk show hosts chuckling behind their microphones. When I first heard the song, my reaction was not one of anger and shame (at first). My reaction was one of deep and profound sadness.
I realized in that moment that because of our society’s deeply inbedded structural racism and tolerance for public intolerance, my children would someday soon face a very difficult decision.My one and three year old children are raised by dear friends of ours while my husband and I are at work each day. We truly count this family among God’s greatest gifts to us. Mommy Niam, Daddy Ger and their children are our second family and thanks to them our lives are more full of love, care, culture, and joy.
The day that I heard the ugly words delivered by a so called comedian, my heart broke. It broke because I realized that I would not be able to protect my children from someday hearing similar racist sentiments. Because of the tolerance for blatant racism in our society as exemplified by the KDWB radio show and people who would have us “laugh it off” or “get over it” or “just change the radio station”, some other person (and very likely many children) will think that it is also okay to make racist jokes and comments in front of my own two children. I will not be able to help them. They will face a very difficult decision that day. They will have to decide what they have to be more ashamed of: Mommy Niam’s family and the Hmong culture that they feel so much a part of, or their own white culture that perpetuates hateful stereotypes and racist humor. My stomach churns and my heart breaks as I think about how I prepare them for this day.
Please, I ask you, help me make it so that this day and this decision are not inevitable for my children or any of our children. Let us use (and listen to) words and humor that make us proud and bring us together. We can do better for ourselves and for our kids.
Martha Skold is a TakeAction Minnesota member and current Chair of TakeAction Minnesota’s PAC Board of Directors. She lives in St. Paul with her husband and two children, and is a teacher at Highland Catholic in St. Paul.