Office of Inclusive Excellence

An Interview with Palia Vang, Global Studies Major

May 17, 2022

Interview conducted April 8, 2022, by Angie Tran 

Tran: Please introduce yourself to our readers, sharing with us your cultural identities (in terms of intersectional framework). How long have you lived in this area and what is your role in the community?

Vang: Hello! My name is Palia Vang. I am a first-gen, non-binary, queer, Asian (Hmong) American student here at CSUMB. I have lived in this area for approximately 3 ½ years. I mainly only live here for school. I currently serve as a Residential Advisor (RA) in the on-campus housing available here at CSUMB. As a RA, I care for a specific hall in a specific building and the students that live in that hall. I am a resource to them and I tend to their questions, concerns, and really anything that they’d like to know more about. I also work at another on-campus job here at CSUMB. I work with the Otter Student Union (OSU) which is a student-centered nonprofit organization. I work as a customer service assistant and there I tend to the needs, questions, and concerns of the study body as well as community members that come by.

We just passed the one-year anniversary of the killing of six Asian women in Atlanta, working in beauty salons. As the incidents of anti-Asian hate continue to happen (with the recent incident in New York), could you reflect on these incidents?

These terrible hate crimes against Asians are heartbreaking. It’s scary to know that these people being targeted could be my parents, my sisters, my brothers, my nieces, and my friends. I - and I am sure many other Asians, feel as though we have no control of protection over our families and friends. And although the hate crimes against Asians have increasingly spiked since COVID-19, we must understand that these hate crimes have been happening long before that. These hate crimes come hand in hand with xenophobia and racism. It’s extremely bewildering to think about how so many people come here to America to seek protection and a better future, yet this is how they are treated. My parents are refugees. They left during the Secret War around the 1970s, where America used them and promised them that bringing them to the states would give them security and protection. They left their homeland because they were not safe. Yet living here, they are still not safe. These anti-Asian hate crimes showcase how America and the American people use and abuse the marginalized groups that live here. Asians are not the only ones who deal with these hate-crimes. The Black and African American communities, Latinx communities, Indigenous communities and so on - we all deal with this. All marginalized communities deserve justice.

From your perspective, what could be done to overcome this alarming trend and to build solidarity with other affinity social-justice groups, on and off campus?

To overcome this alarming trend, we must hold these people who commit these crimes accountable. The justice system is flawed. Racism is embedded into this system and in order for us to gain the justice we deserve, there needs to be people in office who look like us, who come from where we're from - we need people like us who understand first-hand how it feels like to be a target. In order to build solidarity with other affinity social-justice groups on and off campus, we must understand that we are all, in many aspects, in the same lifeboat. We are not fighting against each other but fighting for and with each other.

What are your future plans and any other issues that you would like to bring up?

My future plans are to soon graduate college. I hope to pass all my classes first - you have to take the small steps to get places. After college, I hope to attend graduate school and continue working for and with non-profit organizations. I hope to help my community as much as possible. Besides helping my community, I hope to join others in support of them and their communities and social movements toward equality, justice, and peace. There are many other issues that concern me such as gentrification, modern-day colonialism, climate change, food insecurity, and so much more. These issues concern me greatly because they are all symptoms of capitalism. In order to combat these things we must abolish or at least reform these systems that continue to create pain on us.

Thank you so much, Palia, for your wonderful and insightful perspective!