Asian American Pacific Islander Month: ‘We Are Present’
Blong Thao, Walser Corporate
Throughout May, Walser Automotive Group is celebrating and recognizing its Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) employees. May is AAPI Heritage Month. In our final employee spotlight, we spoke with Blong Thao, a Fixed Operations Business Analyst. Thao reflects on the importance of family in Hmong culture and the value of visiting his family’s ancestral countries.
What do you do at Walser Automotive Group?
I am a Fixed Ops Business Analyst. I handle all CDK work, op codes, labor times, labor grids, and do reporting. I also do both service and parts. I cover all Minnesota locations as well as assist Kansas and Chicago if help is needed.
How did you find your way to Walser?
I used to be an Assistant Manager at Sears Automotive when I was younger. I started as a service advisor then became a lead and then into an assistant manager. Then I transitioned into the IT field, which I liked doing. I worked at Wells Fargo as an information security analyst for about five years. Then I transitioned over to Walser. I was able to blend IT mixed with automotive because I have both of those experiences. I’ve been doing that for two years.
How do you identify within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community? Can you describe what your heritage is?
I am Hmong. My parents were born in Laos and transitioned over to refugee camps in Thailand, and then came to the U.S. For Hmong people, we don’t actually have a homeland or country per se.
How has your heritage shaped the person you are today?
Our culture is really family-oriented. Being the youngest child of the family, there is a lot of responsibility. As the youngest in your family, you are responsible for your parents. It’s a pretty big and challenging thing. Typically, in Hmong culture, the parents will always be living with the youngest son, but since moving to America that has now changed to the youngest child.
Does your family have any traditions that are especially important to you?
We have a Hmong New Year that happens towards the end of November. That’s always a good celebration for us. It means new year, start fresh. Wipe away all the bad that happened before and begin a new year. That’s probably my most favorite tradition. You get to see everybody and meet a bunch of Hmong community people around the area.
What brings you joy about your heritage and culture?
I actually have been to Thailand and Laos. I got to see my relatives from where my parents were born and raised. I got to see all the third-world side of it, which is pretty saddening, but it helped me appreciate more of how my family to be here in America. If you never see the other side of things, you won’t be grateful for what has been accomplished for your family. For any Hmong person that was born and raised in the U.S, I highly encourage them to go experience that because it will change your life and give you a stronger appreciation for family.
This past year, there has been an exponential rise in hate-filled actions towards Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. What does showing up to support the AAPI community, both internally and externally, look like for you?
These incidents are affecting all of us, AAPI people. It’s tragic because we are being targeted for something that affects everybody. COVID doesn’t choose people, it affects everybody. To support the community, I would say begin to educate yourself. Learn about the cultures that are near you.
What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?
It means that AAPI people are able to bond together and express that we accomplish stuff. We are not just in the background. We are present.