Updated: Mar 4
Update: Elk Grove Hmong Americans has been alerted that Cathy Thao is no longer the Board President and CEO of Hmong Youth and Parents United (HYPU). Corrections have been made to clarify this.
Sacramento, Calif – On Thursday, February 25, an indisputably offensive video shared by Cathy Thao, former Board President and CEO of a Sacramento nonprofit organization dedicated to providing “culturally sensitive resources and services to the Hmong” community, Hmong Youth and Parents United (HYPU), circulated widely on Facebook alerting the public.
“Please share! This is a teacher at Grant High School where there is a large population of Hmong/Asian students attending. A student recorded her during zoom where she was making fun of Asian eyes. At a time like this when there is an increase number of attacks and violent crimes against Asians, her conduct should not be condoned. Please speak out! We will demand a formal apology from this teacher to our community and for her resignation. Take your time to call Grant High School Principal Mr. Hinson and TRUSD Board and Superintendent Dr. Steve Martinez to address this unreasonable and racist conduct of this educator in our public school system! You can hear the student say, “I should leave your class right now.””
An attached video shows the Twin Rivers Unified School District teacher mimicking Asian eyes as an identifier of the varying ethnicities of Asian descent.
As awareness of anti-Asian racism continues to spread across the country, the revitalization of racially motivated attacks on Asians throughout the world due to COVID-19 has generated a more complex, internal discussion often fraught with disagreements on how to proceed in combating the hate.
In the Sacramento region, contentions permeate throughout the Asian American communities with some speaking out against anti-Asian racism while others have exacerbated anti-Asian rhetoric against their own. And in between these factions are many who remain fearful of disrupting the illusion of peace but even worse – those whose political alliances dictates their outrage against anti-Asian racism.
In July 2020 before anti-Asian racism made mainstream news, the mayor of Elk Grove, Bobbie Singh-Allen, who was a Trustee for the Elk Grove Unified School District at the time, spewed hateful rhetoric against the Hmong Community calling their culture a “controlling and intimidating” system and engaging in online content stereotyping them as “gangs.”
Three local Hmong women feared that Singh-Allen’s hatred had placed a target on the backs of the Asian community, particularly during a time when anti-Asian racial attacks had spiked. They responded by leading multiple protests demanding an apology and her resignation.
Marie Vue, one of the mothers who led these protests, reached out to HYPU’s Executive Director, Mai Yang Thor, for support. Despite the former HYPU President’s rightful outrage at the TRUSD teacher today, back then, HYPU declined to lend support to seek justice against anti-Asian racism citing that “…there are stronger community advocates and activists who can speak on the issue.”
A message to Hmong Innovating Politics (HIP), as advised by Thor, was read but ignored.
As elderly Asian men and women continue to be targeted for racial attacks, the Asian-American community must confront the ongoing dilemma of whether we will actively stand against hate loudly and unconditionally…or perpetuate the passive Asian stereotype by only taking a stand when it’s deemed acceptable to do so by the larger society around us.
Hate speech, especially coming from authority figures such as Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen or the TRUSD teacher, has the power to influence.
The incident involving the TRUSD teacher indicates without a doubt that those who assumed the hate generated against the Asian community in Elk Grove, Ca by an elected official would not impact them were dead set mistaken.
A successful resolution in spreading awareness and stamping out hate targeting any ethnicity demands tough conversations, and during a time where hate crimes have surged against Asian American communities, it is critical that we come together to denounce this type of behavior. But our response must be firm without pandering to the agenda of politics. While we must not allow ourselves to get dragged into the dirty politics of racism in America by blaming any ethnic group, we must demand that those responsible for these crimes and incidents be held accountable.