Overview of Charles Pearson
The talk given by Charles Pearson was haunting and moving. He spoke of the Civil Right Movement in a way that a history book could never emulate. Everything from his mannerism, word choice, body language and humor gave a sense of depth to him and his experiences. Most importantly, those traits solidified the notion that the person who was sitting in front of me was authentic and had fought for something very real. To me, Mr. Pearson’s account of the Civil Rights movement highlighted why it is important to remember the lessons of the past and why it is important to continue fighting the inequalities of today in hopes of a better tomorrow.
Got me thinking…about myself
Mr. Pearson’s talk also helped me to put my own previous experiences and struggles into context. Growing up as a second generation Hmong U.S. citizen is nothing to scuff at but at the same time it is nothing to expect praise for. Simply, it is one among an array of a million different ways to grow up today in America. This upbringing had its ups and downs; nonetheless it taught me many lessons and has forever changed me both for the good and the bad.
The early years, enter Hmong culture:
Hmong culture is a patriarchal culture that places emphasis on lineage. Traditionally, it is known to primarily focus on the needs of the “Elite” class at the cost of the lower class. This inequality would always be at the center of my thoughts as a child. While growing up I often thought, why did I have to give up 12+ hours a day in the summer every summer working on ginseng farms to only help the “Elite” class of the community get richer knowing that they would never even say “Thank You” let alone return the favor? Why did people have to enjoy being indentured servants to an elite class and their kids? As I grew, I learned the secret. The elite players had simply started the game better off than everyone else and now they had the game conned by holding all the cards.
Could you get on the bus?
Today during Mr. Pearson’s speech, we were asked about whether or not we would be willing to get on a bus and fight against the injustices we saw. This reminded me of an important choice, I still have left to make. It is a decision all Hmong graduates make. It is whether or not to return to the Hmong community upon graduation. On one hand if you return, you will not only be subject to all aspects of an organization you hate but you will knowingly become a part of it. Being only sustained by the dream that one day you can change the system from the inside out but fearing the nightmare of being devoured by the very same system. On the other hand, you can simply walk away from everything about the Hmong community and saving yourself any additional pain associated with the community. Leaving the existing system to rip through another lot of unsuspecting kids and hoping someone from their generation has the will to ride the bus and return to the Hmong community and be the change you and they will hope to see.
And to answer Pearson's question, I simply do not think I will be able to get on the bus and return to the Hmong community to become the change I want to see. So, I ask everyone do you feel that this is the incorrect choice?