A group of Asian-American Pacific Islanders are planning to protest the Canadian post-punk band Viet Cong's appearance at Neumos at 6 pm on Friday, October 16, with the ultimate goal of persuading the venue to cancel the show.
On the "Shut Down Viet Cong @ Neumos" Facebook page, the organizers condemn "the tone deaf racism of Canadian band Viet Cong – a band of four young white men – using the name of a political regime that has tortured, raped, and killed millions of Vietnamese and Americans while causing deep psychological and emotional trauma still present in the lives of those affected by this violence decades later does not embody equity nor value diversity in Seattle, home to one of the largest Vietnamese-American communities in the U.S."
Neumos marketing and ticketing manager Jordan Olels has issued a response to the protesters.
Since originally booking this tour, the band has announced that they are changing the name. This Seattle show is one of the last shows that the band will play while using this name as they finish their tour.
We recognize the musicians performing under the name Viet Cong as artists. As artists they have clearly chosen a controversial name. We recognize all correspondence we have received in response to this as sincere and legitimate; we have forwarded all emails of concern and/or protest directly to the band's agent and manager. We hope the artist will speak directly to those of you who wrote to express your concerns.
Apropos of the controversy, Viet Cong's publicist relayed this message from the band's record company, Jagjaguwar Records: "Jagjaguwar fully supports whatever [Viet Cong members] Matt, Mike, Monty and Danny decide with regards to the changing of their band name."
Despite these gestures, activist Vy Nguyen plans to continue to put pressure on Neumos and Viet Cong. Asked what the next step would be for the protesters if the venue's management does not cancel the Viet Cong show, Nguyen said, "We will discuss our next steps with other organizations who have endorsed this protest [they include Asian Coalition for Equality and Coalition of Vietnamese Americans for Civic Engagement]. We support the arts and music, our goal isn’t for people to st!
op creating or to put anyone out of business, but we need to be heard. If people with power in our city fail to recognize their lack of cultural sensitivity and awareness, then we need to reconsider our future support of this business, but only as a last resort.
"Either way," Nguyen continued, "we want to engage with Neumos and others who care about having their business be an inclusive space for everyone—regardless of sexual orientation, gender, heritage, religious or racial background—to engage in dialogue together as members of the same community with different family histories as to WHY this reaction happened in the first place. This is a question that has yet to be asked by those with privilege or those who lack empathy and have been condescending and dismiss the deep pain and trauma that the band’s name brings by saying 'get over it' or 'freedom of speech' as if we don't understand or value the First Amendment. Considering the desperate measures Vietnamese refugees took to be free during and after the war, being talked down to adds insult to injury. But we hope it won’t come to discussing a boycott, we know Neumos will stand with our community in support of diversity!
, inclusion, and cultural sensitivity, not a band exploiting trauma of a refugee community and American veterans to get some press and sell records."
What would Nguyen consider to be the ideal outcome from this protest?
"Our ideal immediate outcome is for Neumos to stand in solidarity with us and help us hold the band accountable in their 'planned' name change. The band only recently released a statement with a vague, non-committal timeline despite being aware of this issue for a long time. This band has even said they receive hate mail at a lot of shows and already had a show canceled earlier this year because of pushback from local communities. They claim they were 'naïve' and 'never meant to trivialize atrocities or violence that occurred... We never intended for our name to be provocative or hurtful,' yet they are enjoying a ton of free publicity and profiting from this unnecessary controversy.
"Longer term, we hope for recognition, understanding, and compassion of the history that brought Vietnamese refugees to Seattle. We’ve become as much a part of this community as anyone else who is here. Seattle is a city that prides itself on creating safe spaces for minority communities like the gay community to thrive; don't your Vietnamese (or other immigrant or refugee) neighbors and war veterans deserve that same consideration and sense of safety? Usage of the term Viet Cong in even the proper context triggers some of the most awful memories, fear, and loss that keeps the pain of a lost homeland fresh, even decades later as we are still trying to heal. Exploitation of someone’s pain is not what Seattle is about. We are better than that as a community."
UPDATE: In response to Neumos' statement, Nguyen says, "It’s unfortunate that Neumos is giving us a generic response and telling us it’s not their problem to do anything about it. It’s a pretty standard response for those with power and privilege towards marginalized communities. It sends a signal to the Asian-Americans and other people of color that they only want our money but don’t respect us. We’ve reached out to the owner of Neumos and hope he is open to dialogue with the API community in his goal to build anti-racist inclusive spaces in Seattle."
As for the question of what the band's music sounds like, you're welcome to hear it for yourself.