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Why Little Laos is Voting ‘No’ this ‘No’vember 6th

There was a time when I was young, naive and just plain oblivious. Oblivious to my community and what ‘community’ itself meant to me. Time went on into college. Then constant discrimination, racism and sexism bore its ugly face in my encounters with random strangers, my classrooms and my workplace.

As a daily interpreter for my parents, nothing hits home harder than when banks, healthcare providers, and insurance companies take advantage of their good faith in them.  It drew the line for me. My mind was bombarded. Why are my parents plagued with such obstacles? Why are we stuck in this stagnant stage of oppression?

It wasn’t just me and my parents’ experiences. It’s a similar story of many immigrant families. Enough was enough. I threw myself in community work. I had a renewed understanding that I couldn’t continue being silent. Because silence is what killed my parents’ sense of livelihood in the ‘American Dream’ and silence is what led me to allow it to happen.

We all know about the elusive so-called Minnesota (passive aggressive) nice. It was just a few weeks ago when I encountered one of the most troubling situations with one of my many neighbors.

While driving back home, I was passing by my neighbor’s house. A man kicks down a ‘vote no’ marriage amendment sign. He grabs his son’s hand and walks away. In disbelief, I stop the car. Seeing that the man seemed pretty scary looking, my immediate reaction was to look back at my daughter Coraline. I get out of my car to hoist the tattered sign back up. The man looks back at me and snickers. Then his son’s eyes met mine. At about 2-years-old, it was full of innocence and confusion. As a mother, it infuriated me. I yell at his father, “What if your son loved another man? Would you kick him down too?”

I didn’t get a response. Of course. But this is how discrimination continues to be learned. I felt relief. Relief that my conscience spoke. And it felt good.

The latest census reported that Minnesota’s growing AAPI population is reaching over 50% and there are over 12,000 Lao Minnesotans in this state. The Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans noted that less than 59% and 40% of Lao students were proficient in reading and math. On a bigger front, a recent national report on AAPI voters left the Lao community completely out.

These stats and numbers are telling. We should be angry. Angry at the systems that put our youth behind, angry that our voices don’t matter, angry at ourselves for continuing to sit at the sidelines.

That is why Little Laos on the Prairie is against the proposed Minnesota amendments that put not only the Lao community at risk but other disadvantaged communities at risk of further marginalizing our voices.

2012 ballot sample

Tomorrow, we ask that you vote no on both amendments. Here’s why:

Amendment 1: Recognition of marriage solely between one man and one woman (aka limiting the right to marry)

This violates fundamental human rights principles in article 16 of “non-discrimination and freedom to marry and found a family” (UDHR). Under this definition, GLBT couples cannot get married and they are not allowed the same legal and basic rights and benefits as married heterosexual couples. Who’s impacted? People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.

Amendment 2: Photo identification required for voting (aka voter restriction)

This restricts certain eligible voters by restructuring voting procedures that are costly and has unintended consequences against the right to vote. This violates article 21 of “elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage” (UDHR). Who’s impacted? People with low-income, seniors, college students, and military members.

Voting yes would allow these amendments to be in our constitution and we cannot allow the human rights of our fellow Minnesotans to be limited or taken away.

To learn more about these hurtful amendments, go to these campaigns that have an abundance of resources for you to make your decision and to help others make theirs:

Voter ID

Marriage Amendment

When injustice is ignored, then the consequences are the same. There is no progress for social justice when silence and inaction speak louder than our voices. We have a stake in society. So write about it. Blog about it. Speak to your local rep about it. Volunteer with fellow advocates about it. DO SOMETHING. Through these actions we can start to rebuild the sense of pride in our community that so many others discredit.



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