State Rep. Tram Nguyen of Andover and her family say they are battling hate speech in the wake of her public support of Black Lives Matter.
Nguyen, the first Vietnamese American elected to the Massachusetts Legislature, said a small but vocal group of local Vietnamese Americans launched a social media attack after she advocated for BLM in a video to constituents.
“I expressed my support for Black Lives Matter, and specifically talked about the importance of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to stand in solidarity with our Black neighbors and friends, for racial justice and economic justice,” she said.
The Facebook page of Bao Chau Kelley, with 5,000 followers, denounced Nguyen's stance and drew attention from thousands more social media users across the world. Kelley did not respond to requests for comment or this story.
The people posting comments critical of Nguyen say she is aligning with "American communists and domestic terrorists BLM'' who are hurting the United States, despite the fact that the U.S. provided her a place to escape the hardships of her native country.
Nguyen recorded a follow-up video, explaining “this group opposes my support of the Black Lives Matter movement and my values as a Democrat, which they equate to socialism and communism.”
“They are attempting to brand me, among other things, as a traitor to the Vietnamese American community, as stupid for standing in solidarity with BLM, and as a dishonor to my parents and family,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen, a Democrat, was a legal aid attorney for Greater Boston Legal Services before her election to the state Legislature in 2018. She said this political push-back — amid extreme, national racial tension — is incomparable to her past experiences.
“The frustrating thing about all of this is that it’s not just a difference of opinions,” she said. “It’s the language used. It’s personal attacks on me and my family — my father particularly.”
Nguyen’s sister, Tami Nguyen, 24, reiterated that criticisms are not unusual in the political ring, “but this is next level.”
“We have all (as a family) been aware of the criticism she would receive when she was first running for office. We signed up for that. She talked to us about it,” Tami Nguyen said. “But now the hatred for my sister has blown up across the world because of these Facebook posts.”
Translated from Vietnamese by Kelley, the initial post about Nguyen says: “It is a shame that her father was an officer of South Vietnam ... and was imprisoned by the (North) Vietnamese communists.”
It goes on to say: “They escaped Vietnam so that she can live in freedom and democracy and have a better future, yet this Massachusetts (representative) embraced the American communists and domestic terrorists BLM."
Tami Nguyen explained that her father was a second lieutenant police officer in Saigon from 1973 to 1975. He served as an undercover agent, posing as a student at a law school to expose communists and keep the area safe and secure for students.
The Viet Cong exposed him in April 1975, and held him prisoner for eight years before U.S. President Ronald Reagan worked to free soldiers and officers and allow them to emigrate to America, according to Tami Nguyen.
The state representative said of the social media criticism, “I can’t let this shutter my ability to represent and my ability to serve.”
“I'm proud of the accomplishments of Vietnamese Americans and I know our community has contributed much to the commonwealth and nation,” she said. “And at the same time, I know that there is work to be done to address anti-Blackness in parts of our community. We do not live in a world where being one thing prevents us from being another. None of us is one dimensional.”