An Open Letter to Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly and What’s Left of His Career

Dear Steve Ly:
I don’t know you but I’d like to help you. I heard that at the Kodiak Valley Ski Resort, there is a hot tub that can take you back in time. Maybe then you can go back a few weeks, do the right thing, and save your career. Instead, here we all are, watching you try to keep your head above water as you tread the ever-rising tide. Unfortunately, from what I’m seeing, you seem to be adding water instead of doing damage control.
If we could go back to last month, here’s what you should’ve said:
Dear Elk Grove Residents and BLM community,
I jumped to conclusions. I’m truly sorry. I realize that I have some self-reflection to do on some internal biases that I’m learning to see in myself. I need to correct this. What I said was hurtful and inexcusable. Thank you for making me aware of my mistake and I will strive to do better.
See how easy that was? A little humble pie goes a long way, but instead, you went the old Hmong patriarchal way of things and pulled in the 18 Clans. Yikes. I hope you realize that in these modern times, the antiquated 18 Clans organization only hurts your “progressive” messaging because they are anything but modern. They have their time and place within the Hmong Community, but this was not it.
And to be honest, if the Ly and Vue 18 Clan members of California had thought with their heads instead of their egos, they should have refused to “mediate” on your behalf. Come on, Steve, how old are we? Grown ups talk to each other. They don’t have their grandpas do it for them.
And if as you said that you didn’t ask the 18 Clan to speak to Linda Vue on your behalf, then perhaps you should ask them to make a public statement denouncing it — which admittedly, would make them look like liars and they’d lose face. There are “receipts” after all. Or better yet, perhaps you should sue them for slander. If you don’t then you look awfully guilty.
Labeling yourself as “progressive,” but then using the old patriarchal system to do your talking for you is contradicting. Truly progressive men would have 1) swallowed their pride and genuinely admit when they’re wrong instead of saying, “This conversation is going in the wrong direction,” and just delete their posts, and 2) treated women as equal colleagues and reached out to them directly to resolve any issues and misunderstandings.
Also, there’s this:
Let’s go through this line by line, shall we?
First, comparing the 18 Clan to the Native American Peace Circle is a false equivalency and insults Native American Peace Circles. 18 Clan’s traditional “restorative justice” generally means appeasing Hmong men and saving face. Even other Hmong men know this. You and I both know that traditional Hmong “peace circles” (as you put it) tend to end up in telling abused women to muaj lub siab ntev (have patience) and return to their abusive husbands, or how I’ve written about it here and here that it rarely results in justice for victims. The 18 Clan’s most popular role nowadays is showing up at funerals to give speeches to a room full of strangers.
As to implying that the clan system is behaving like a mafia, intimidation is a trait of mafias so if the shoe fits, perhaps one should wear it? But perhaps we should address the issue of some of your most vocal supporters instead. They’ve taken it upon themselves to berate and even menace people and publications on your behalf (remember, before you refute, there are police reports and screenshots of all of this so choose your words wisely). Whether officially or unofficially, ask yourself, is this really helping me?
Hey, it is their right to live under bridges and eat small children if they so please because that is the nature of trolls; however, your silence in condemning these behaviors is not becoming of a mayor. Yes, I saw the one press release but is that really enough when you know them personally and they’re not just some random internet person?

I’m all for the first amendment. I’m literally sitting here practicing it right now. Your allies have the right to say whatever they want. All I’m saying to you is it’s not making you look so good, especially when one of your most vocal supporters is still under investigation for human trafficking and modern slavery. Maybe she should have thought twice about jumping into the fray if she didn’t want her own unfinished business being dragged back into the light. That’s a very low “moral ground” to be coming for people.
And oh, before you or she cry slander, just know that we are in the era of receipts and there are screenshots of all her comments, including direct messages. Your best bet? Put about as much distance between you and her as possible. Are you playing the “line my pockets with rich friends” game or are you going to stick by your public words that you are for the people?
As to the term “clansmen,” it is correct. I think you’re thinking of “klansmen.” See the difference? Hmong people by any anthropological categorization are indeed clans people or tribal people. We are part of the indigenous highland hill tribes of Asia after all. There is nothing culturally wrong with referring to Hmong people as clans people or clansmen. The Scots are proud clans people. The Irish are proud clans people. Calling them clansmen would not be taken as incorrect or as an insult. They, like the Hmong, carry a long history of clan customs. At best, you’re projecting your American distaste for the word “Klan” by confusing it with “clan.” At worst, you’re gaslighting and doing what you do best — deflect.
I also read Jaclyn Moreno’s statement and I didn’t disagree with it. She’s right in that “patriarchy isn’t something that’s unique to the clan system…As a Hmong elected leader, (Ly) can contribute as an ally to women to help dismantle the patriarchy that exists within the system.”

If you are saying that she’s not understanding certain nuances, please enlighten us. Where is the fallacy in this statement? Perhaps it is difficult for you to see the nuances of patriarchy within the Hmong community because you directly benefit from it. It’s often hard to see or admit our own privileges after all.
“Right now, we have Hmong women that are doctors and lawyers and politicians” is tantamount to saying, “I’m not racist. I have black friends.” Just because there are successful Hmong women doesn’t negate that patriarchy is still a stronghold of Hmong society.
If you can’t trust yourself to make good public statements, perhaps you should consider hiring a Public Relations person who can write your press releases for you. Much like Tom Cruise after he fired his PR person and started jumping on Oprah’s couch, you too are in need of damage control. A good PR team is worth their weight in gold. Every move you’ve made during this entire fiasco has been jumping on Oprah’s couch. It’s not a good look. All of these actions, sadly for you, only confirms that you’re not truly progressive, but rather, just another tone-deaf Hmong man who thinks he is because he gives women permission to occupy space until they disagree with him.
So perhaps, in my own hindsight, it’s a good thing that you don’t have a PR team to manage your image. Everyone is seeing you for who you really are. Again, yikes. Whether it is your comments from the Sacramento Bee article, or the Elk Grove News, or the Elk Grove Citizen, or even your own press releases, one thing is consistent:
There is no accountability from you. You deflect blame to your team, to internet trolls, to anyone else as long as it doesn’t land back on you. Heck, Steve, may as well blame Santa Claus too. Damn you, Santa, for not giving Steve his perfect mayoral run!
This constant deflection speaks volumes about who you are, that perhaps you are more ego than maturity. That perhaps you are more insecure than confident. That perhaps you shouldn’t be in public office if you can’t accept criticism.
Just like Tyra Banks said to Tiffany RichardsonI was rooting for you. We were all rooting for you. You were a pioneer for us. I mean, come on, first Hmong mayor. That’s pretty cool, so it’s extra sad now how disappointing you’ve turned out to be. Save what’s left of your reputation, Steve. Check your ego, lick your wounds, learn from this and do better next time.
Author’s note: There is no known relation between Linda Vue, Steve Ly, and myself that I am aware of, however because the Hmong community is so small, I am sure we share an uncle of an uncle of an uncle somewhere in our family trees. And no, Steve, it won’t help to send that uncle to come “talk” to me either.
Copyright by Yia Vue © 2020. All right reserved.


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1 comment

D.J. Blutarsky said...

I admire the bravery of this author to speak out about a fellow Hmong. He/she only got one thing wrong though--this is not about Steve Ly's "career". No, he was voted into office to represent the City on a part-time basis and receives a modest monthly stipend for his service. His term lasts two years and then he must win our support again in order to be able to "serve" us for another two years. His "career" is a youth counselor at juvenile hall within the Sac County Office of Education.

My advice...better not quit your day job!

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