When his neighbor Thao, a young Hmong teenager under pressure from his gang member cousin, tries to steal his Gran Torino, Kowalski sets out to reform the youth. He realizes that Thao is a really nice and polite young man, he just doesn't know what he wants to do with his life yet. So Walt decides to get to know him better and help him out, in his own special way of course. He has a peculiar way of communicating with other people. He uses racial slurs frequently, not always to be rude, but it often appears quite condescending. For example when Thao's friend introduces herself as Youa, Walt repeats: "ooh Yum Yum". Maybe he does this because he is insecure of his own language skills, as you earlier on could see when he fails trying to say the word "Hmong".
He is not familiar with the Hmong rules. He pats a Hmong child on his head trying to be nice, but instead he resided the child’s soul according to Hmong beliefs. And it's very rude to look someone in their eyes, which Walt did. I personally think that Walt wants to get to know the Lor family, especially Zue and Thao, but feels vulnerable because the love of his life died, and don't want to lose anyone close to him. I think that he really shows that Thao means a lot to him when Walt lets him drive his prized car.
|Walt trying to help Thao get his first job|
|Walt and the Hmong family in the background|