Burmese Cultural Event Reversing Negative Stereotypes

By John W. Davis

September 29, 2010 Updated Sep 29, 2010 at 11:17 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Integrating into American culture.

That was one of the topics at the Burmese Cultural Event held Wednesday night at the Allen County Public Library.

Imagine not knowing English or basic American customs.

That is the reality for a lot of Burmese refugees that live in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

However, Burmese leaders believe the integration process is a two-way street.

The event was hosted by the Burmese Advocacy Center.

The goal was to teach Fort Wayne residents about Burmese culture.

One of the speakers was Hau Len Thang.

Thang moved to the United States with his family 13 years ago, on July 4th, 1997.

The 25-year-old has spent seven years in the National Guard, including two tours of duty in Iraq and one in South Korea near the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

He said inter grating into American culture was hard when he was teenager, especially with the stigma that all Burmese are dirty and unsophisticated.

Thang said to cope he became friends with Vietnamese children who shared similar integration struggles.

However, Thang believes that Burmese refugees must take an active role to reverse the negative stereotypes that surround Burmese Americans.

"They need to realize that this is not Burma. They need to realize that there is rules and regulation that every citizen, every individual has to follow. So they gotta follow the rules, and educate themselves," said National Guard Soldier & IPFW ROTC Student Hau Len Thang.

"Arriving here is not the end. There is more to learn, there is more to improve, to a better life for yourself and for your generation to come," said Thang.

Palermo Galindo is the Hispanic & Immigrant Liaison for the City of Fort Wayne.

Galindo, an immigrant himself, agrees that education is the key.

"Learning the language. Integrating to the community at-large is the best way to become productive citizen(s)," said Galindo.

The motivation for Wednesday night's cultural event was the Ricker's Laundry incident that occurred back in March, 2010.

Ricker's put up a sign that said No Burmese Allowed after Burmese Customers were seen spitting on the floor.

Ricker's later apologized, and paid $2,500 dollars to fund a Burmese cultural education series.

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