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The need for data equity for our communities

From the desk of Natalie Bui, Digital Illustrator and Movement Artist, SEARAC Artist-In-Residence


“What does your art serve if it can’t stand against genocide?” is something that is top of mind for me as we are witnessing a genocide of innocent Palestinians abroad. And I think similarly - what does our art serve if it can’t speak truth? If it can’t reveal the ills of our society - and activate our communities to stay critical and improve? 


My name is Natalie Bui, I am a movement artist. I illustrate pieces to support our community organizations to uplift the issues impacting our communities today. One of my current projects is expressing the importance of Data Equity, which is the need to capture data unique and distinct to (for example) Cambodian/Khmer, Lao/Laotian, and Vietnamese communities, etc. vs using “Asian American” as an umbrella. In doing so, this helps allocate the appropriate resources based on equity vs equality and helps us understand what issues our communities are facing. 


For example - if we were to look up the pay rates for Asian American women - we find a much higher rate. But when we break down the data and look closely - we see that Laos, Cambodian, and Vietnamese women make considerably lower pay than compared to their Chinese, Korean, and Japanese counterparts. And of course - several factors impact that: different immigration histories, different access to resources, and different war traumas - that affect the visibility of WHICH communities got these resources and why. 



This led me to illustrate pieces to understand how when we break up data to be more specific to our communities - how much more expansive our stories can be, and how much we can understand how different historical contexts have impacted different Asian American communities' ability to thrive in their migration to the states. 



Knowing this helps connect the dots to how our Lao & Cambodian/Khmer communities have been disproportionately resourced compared to their Vietnamese counterparts, whom MORE people were more aware of were impacted at the time.  




And even then the data STILL doesn’t fully detail the true atrocities that took place - because data was not formally captured. We still aren’t clear on the number of deaths that took place due to the bombings - and there will never be justice for that. 


Take a look at the impact the war in Vietnam had on Cambodia as well.  There still isn’t enough data on how much Cambodia was impacted. 


It also feels important, for Vietnamese Americans like myself to understand how our communities can come in different waves - and also impact what resources were accessible for them to acclimate, and how that might impact their readjustment to the states. 


We know this with more disaggregated data. And I believe that with more disaggregated data, with more engaged communities - we can move our narratives of trauma, of war, of American war violence - to encourage and advocate the need for our unique stories to be told, to help us heal, to thrive, and to live in dignity. 


Our movements also need to envision a world in not only rectifying our past, in never forgetting our history, but also moving towards legacies rooted in healing, and in caring and uplifting one another. I strongly believe that is the arc of our movements today. I hope that’s where our art can shape us towards. And I am grateful for organizations like Legacies of War working to create proper documentation on America’s Secret War in Laos, that help create the understanding and compassion that is necessary to bridge not only our generations but our communities as well. 





References:


America’s Secret War in Laos 

Sources:

History.com: Why Laos has been bombed More than Any other Country; Warner, Roger (1996). Shooting at the Moon: The Story of America's Clandestine War in Laos. Steerforth Press. p. 135, Laotian American National Alliance Review 


The Bombings of Cambodia:

Sources: Yale - Genocides Studies Program; BBC.com “Henry Kissinger’s Cambodia Legacy of Bombs and Chaos;” 


Waves of Immigration:

Sources: MigrationPolicy.Org: Vietnamese Immigrants in the U.S.; Escholarship.org - Vietnamese Refugee/ Immigration 






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