Friday, March 10, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: California State Senator Janet Nguyen's silencing

Maybe we should change this to Famous Silencing Friday? Yet another woman legislator--this time, a Republican state senator in California--was silenced mid-speech on the floor of her legislature in late February.

Senator Janet Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant to the U.S. who fled her country as a child, rose days after a tribute by the California senate to Tom Hayden, a Vietnam war activist who also served in the state legislature; Hayden died last year. But Nguyen rose to protest the tribute, first in her native language, then in English. Not until she spoke in English did her intent become clear to her colleagues. Here's how she began:
I and the children of the former South Vietnam soldiers will never forget the support of former Senator Tom Hayden for the Communist government of Vietnam and the oppression by the Communist Government of Vietnam for the people of Vietnam. 
After 40 years, the efforts by people like him have hurt the people of Vietnam and have worked to stop the Vietnamese refugees from coming to the United States, a free country. We will always continue to fight for freedom and human rights for the people of Vietnam.
Nguyen tried to continue speaking, but a male senator rose to object on a point of order procedural complaint, which was taken up by the presiding officer, who repeatedly called her out of order, drowning out her remarks. Finally, he had her removed by security officers, effectively ending her speech.

Because all that was caught on video (below), it quickly went viral. The #shepersisted hashtag that emerged after U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced in the Senate was revived, and at the state's Republican convention the following weekend, "I stand with Janet" stickers were distributed.

There's a theme here, for the dudes in power: Silencing women speakers, even when you fall back on procedure, is just going to backfire, and spread their words further. And while the state senate's president pro tempore said he took responsibility for making sure this didn't happen again, Nguyen reminded everyone that it wasn't just she but her constituents who were silenced. From the New York Times article: "My constituents are extremely upset,” said Ms. Nguyen, who represents a part of Orange County with a large Vietnamese population. “They’re upset that their voices were shut down.”

You can read the full text of her speech here; thanks to the controversy, it received far more circulation than it might have done, or did in the senate. Below is the video of Sen. Nguyen's start of her speech and her removal.


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