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Engaging his people in the Census was a natural extension of my dad’s advocacy – to ensure Vietnamese representation in America’s self-portrait. He went all-in, knocking door to door, making speeches, strewing Census infomaterials over various neighborhoods from boxes of the stuff in his bedroom and basement.
To be further useful in movements for Black liberation, we must look into the specific ways we ourselves are functioning under state violence and white supremacy. We can do way better than attempting to organize around a myth.
The protest is on 38th and Chicago, at the site where a white cop murdered a black man, George Floyd. I am very familiar with this intersection: I grew up not far away, in Phillips, and currently live even closer.
The Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network stands in solidarity with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, as well as their grieving families and communities. It is important to recognize that the recent constellation of police brutality is by no means novel, but deeply rooted in the United States’ long genealogy of anti-Black violence and white supremacist logics.
Bao: My parents loved Vietnamese arts and poetry but knew they lived in a culture that doesn’t value that. And yet here they had a son who was going into art in the English language, and they feared for my survival, which is a pressure a lot of people don’t understand.
I used to dream of a simpler time, a Vietnam of thatch roof huts and banana leaves and lotus flowers. But this Vietnam only exists in my imagination. We must not romanticise a past that never was, or choose only to remember the innocence of our history. Spoiler alert: Nobody’s history is innocent. We must be brave enough to claim it all. People like me, who by today’s standards are referred to as 'people of colour' or 'minority groups', belong to histories which are not only as tremendous, as grand, and as civilised as the Europeans, but as brutal.