Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics

Message from Eng Yang

photo courtesy of Kao Kalia Yang


My name is Eng Yang.  I want to pay respect to my brothers and sisters, friends, students, and critical thinkers across America and the world for the messages you have sent my family and me.  I want to thank you your belief in democracy and the compassion and understanding of heart that has opened you to stories of human rights and equality. I want to thank you for your care and concern because you recognized that the story of Yellow Rain and what happened to the Hmong in the mountains of Laos is unfinished. I have taken your words of support fully and created a book of our shared history; while I cannot write each of you, I will keep your words and cherish them. Thank you for reaching out to me to strengthen my heart for the Hmong lives that were lost and the Hmong lives that must continue.

          -- Eng Yang

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Jen wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Thank you

Dear Mr. Yang and Ms. Yang,

Thank you so much for continuing to share your story and for encouraging us all to learn more about Yellow Rain and what happened to the Hmong in the mountains of Laos. Before listening to the podcast, I am sorry to say that I had never learned about this history.

Though I know no words can begin to reach the depth of what happened, I am so sorry for the immense suffering and loss of your community. However, I am very grateful that you persist in telling your story.

Ms. Yang, I appreciated your sentiments in your message to Dean Cappello that you cannot afford to be cynical, and that you continue to work for greater understanding. If not for that, people like me might never hear this history.

Thank you both, very much.

Chris Lester wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

Thank you for speaking out

Mr. Yang,

I regret that I was unaware of the story of the Hmong people and the persecution they faced until I heard about it on Radiolab. This is another chapter of history that has been swept under the rug, another example of the terrible price of the Cold War between America and the Soviets -- a price that we too often have failed to acknowledge in the West because it did not cost us personally. Now I find that there is a whole chapter of this story that I had not even heard about. I don't know whether to be more embarrassed at my own ignorance or at our government for failing to honor the sacrifices of the Hmong people on our behalf.

I did not hear the original Radiolab broadcast, only the doctored version that aired later on the podcast, but even then I was angered by the way Robert treated you and your niece. I am a scientist myself, and so the idea of objective truth is important to me, but the way he behaved was shameful and discounted the very real, objective experiences of you and your people. It is deeply upsetting to me that he and the rest of the Radiolab team still have not apologized appropriately for their conduct.

In spite of the distorted and shameful way it was handled, I am glad that I listened to the episode and heard your story. It opened my eyes to a part of history of which I had been ignorant, and one with important lessons for us as a country. You helped me to share, in a small way, the story of your people. I will not forget it.

With respect,

Chris Lester

Jill Ashley-Grochowski wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

I honor you and your story.

Thank you, Mr. Yang, for sharing your knowledge with the world. I appreciate your willingness to openly discuss times and stories that must be painful to remember. Please know that you have been heard and believed.

Jill Ashley-Grochowski wrote 2 years 43 weeks ago

I honor you and your story.

Thank you, Mr. Yang, for sharing your knowledge with the world. I appreciate your willingness to openly discuss times and stories that must be painful to remember. Please know that you have been heard and believed.

Scott McDaniel wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Thank you

Please continue with your work to share your experience and that of the Hmong people. ELS

Doug Breitbart wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago


Dear Mr. Yang,

I would like to acknowledge you for the quest and commitment to the honoring of your people, your heritage, the lives of those lost, and the critical importance of publicizing what occurred, and persisting in seeking disclosure and acknowledgement of the truth underlying those events.

Unfortunately, Radiolab and its featured performers and producer, in the interests of expediency and entertainment, completely missed the essence and importance of your story, as the witness and sole documentarian of no less than a genocide, in their singular goal and mission to expose a misrepresentation of a dead US President to justify chemical weapons development, through a facile invocation of scientist-as-authority, and bee dung.

It is inconceivable that were you Eli Wiesel, and the genocide involved were the Holocaust, that the disrespect and dismissiveness of their behavior would have occurred; and, I completely support your daughter's hanging of a racist mantel around the necks of Mssrs. Krulwich, Abumrad, and Walters, irregardless of their myopic inability to recognize it themselves.

I hope that at minimum, notwithstanding the failure of Radiolab and NPR to acknowledge their profound error and failure of both judgement and journalistic integrity, that the broadcast of the story produces individuals interested in getting to the truth, actions, and actors responsible for what you observed, and the justice demanding to be served, in the face of such a horrific event.

W. Shipley wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

disappointed in RadioLab

I am a big fan of Radio Lab and the work that they do, but the way they handled their initial approach to you, as well as their response to the controversy, was extremely misguided and simply added insult to the injury you felt in having the legitimacy of the truth of your personal harrowing experiences questioned. It seemed they were intent on having you admit yourself as to potential inconsistencies in your account rather than having to bear the onus of questioning the integrity of a survivor of such an ordeal. Such questioning of a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp ("did you actually see the gas dropping in the gas chamber when the people went into the showers?") would generate a widespread outcry and we would all rightly react quite strongly against that kind of inappropriate questioning. But here the hosts and producers seemed entitled to take a very legalistic and skeptical approach and challenge the validity of your characterizations of what you saw, which to me is surprising when considering the fact that you were the only direct witness to any of the subject-matter of this entire story. I don't know if this is because the trauma here is unknown, or disregarded, in an obscurity exacerbated by an official policy that denied the U.S. was even involved in Laos. I do know that many Hmong suffered greatly after themselves sacrificing much in the service of the American government and intelligence agencies. So as an American I can say I'm ashamed that the story of your people is not more widely known and understood, and that your account was diminished in such a way. NPR, PRI and WNYC should do more to ensure the proper respect be accorded to individuals who have suffered so greatly as a result of their service to our nation. I hope you do write a definitive account of your experiences so that you don't need a degree from an institution of privilege to validate the legitimacy of what you experienced. Radiolab should be ashamed of their callous disregard in reducing you to a means of their production of this story and stamping it with an air of legitimacy, rather than treating you as a subject of a very unfortunate and tragic chapter of the United States' warmongering in southeast Asia, whose voice has gone unheard for far too long.

Ravi Chandra, M.D. wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Thank you

Thank you for your words and your example. I haven't heard the Radiolab piece yet, but it sounds like a really shoddy piece of work. It is precisely because of your experiences in Laos that those who have power to shape ideas and inform communities should be tremendously careful and diligent. Not only would that have honored your history but also helped to heal the real wounds that exist.

Suzy wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Thank you

Mr. Yang, thank you for sharing your history. I am sorry the producers altered your story in an effort to silence your experience and to re-frame the tragic history of that time, ultimately hiding under the guise of science to prove one theory while discrediting the Hmong history. I thank you your niece for sharing the other side of Radiolab story.

I wish you and your family peace.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago


Krulwichs' behavior was so ethnocentric it embarrassed me to be an American. His insensitivity, and assumption that the Hmong point of view would understand his, was inept journalism at best.

I have a whole new, and not flattering, view of RadioLab.

Eng, you saw what you saw. It is what it is.

Eileen Yoshina wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Thank you

Thank you for sharing your story. I talked with my children about what happened to the Hmong and also about what happened to your story when you went on Radiolab. We had a good conversation about how a degree and a title--and a Western name and white skin--can often get mistaken for authority. Thank you again--we'll continue to learn about the Hmong and about others who have suffered but prevailed.

Andrea wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Thank you

A deep thanks to both Eng Yang and Kao Kalia Yang for your bravery, integrity, pursuit of the truth, and willingness to remain in dialogue even when you have been treated so unfairly and insensitively. I admire you both, and your determination to let the truth be known has both educated and inspired meme.

I hope Radiolab does the right thing: issues the deep apology you both deserve, and lets the truth of what happened to the Hmong be known.

With much respect,

Andrea Lynch
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous wrote 2 years 44 weeks ago

Very sad

I am very upset at Radiolab's past and current behavior. To me, they have shown their true face.

Through compassion and understanding, may the suffering that came from the yellow rain be reduced.

Thank you for telling your story, even if Radiolab was not prepared to hear. Many others, however, are prepared to hear.

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