Vietnamese did not magically appear in the United States, the Vietnam War sparked the immigration of Vietnamese to America. Vietnamese did not virtually exist in the United States until 1975 when the war forced Vietnamese to evacuate (Povell). The war began after Vietminh defeated France and split into North and South Vietnam (O’Connel). In 1956 communist Ho Chi Minh ruled the North Vietnam, and Bao Dai ruled the South, who the United States supported and backed up (O’Connel). The Vietnam War consisted of the North and South Vietnam, fighting against eachother in order to stay two separate countries.
The North tried to overtake the South, and the United States sent in troops to assist South Vietnam (Isserman). However, in April 1975 South Vietnam collapsed and united Vietnam as one country (Isserman). The tragic result of the Vietnam War affected all Vietnamese. The effects contained of over four million Vietnamese killed, and over twenty-one million bomb craters (“The War’s Effect on the Vietnamese Land and People. “). Unbeknownst to most people, the end of the Vietnam War caused the first two waves of immigration (Povell).
In fact, from the beginning Americans stood unsure about Vietnamese immigration. “A poll in 1975 showed a mere 36% of Americans in favor of Vietnamese immigration,” (Povell). This means that 64% of Americans did not favor Vietnamese immigrating to the United States. Vietnamese Americans, often referred to as Boat People, received their name because most traveled by boat from Vietnam to America. Discrimination against Boat People in America began because of living as a burden to society, a lack of job opportunity, and the ability to adapt to the American culture.
Vietnamese endured a difficult journey. , As they arrived in America people thought of them as burdens to society. Americans thought of Boat People as burdens as because they had to set up refugee camps. The United Nations helped set up these refugee camps. However, poor living conditions transpired in these camps. (Vietnamese Americans. ?). These poorly funded camps resulted in inadequate living conditions. Refugees had to put good living conditions on hold until they found a sponsor. In order to not have a sponsor they had to have $4,000 per household member (Li).
However, Americans thought Vietnamese should not be refugees, but rather immigrants (Li). Needing support turned them into burdens according to U. S citizens. Also, Americans criticized Vietnamese for taking jobs and being a burden to society ( Li). As Boat People tried to blend into American culture, some people stepped in their way. “Anglo and African Americans talked of the ‘Asian Invasion’ on radio dials and some took drastic measures to reject the newest Americans,?(?The Asian American Experience-Building New Saigon. ?).
When they started to find well-paying or high class jobs people saw them as a burden to the job market and a threat to Americans. Therefore rejection occurred frequently. Most Vietnamese arrived in the United States only with the clothes on their back, so when it came to finding jobs they did not have luck on their side. Since most Vietnamese refugees arrived without material possessions or money, they could not afford houses, and found it almost impossible to qualify for home loans even if all family members had jobs (Li). They had few job options and the jobs offered provided extremely low pay.
Due to the scarcity of employment, some Vietnamese turned to illegal jobs (such as a prostitute) to provide for themselves (Vietnamese War Reference Library). If Vietnamese could find legal jobs, they would most likely not make enough to support their families. During the beginning of immigration refugees had a 32% unemployment rate compared to 5% of other Americans unemployed (Li). Vietnamese had a higher unemployment rate because they lacked American skill, education, and opportunity. This resulted in Vietnamese thriving for further education and understanding of American economics.
However, in the late 1970s, in Albuquerque, 8. 5% of people remained unemployed. This resulted in fewer jobs available for anyone, and left Vietnamese at a greater disadvantage because they lack English, and skill. Without basic English skills, finding a job, renting an apartment, or even buying food became very difficult. (“Vietnamese Americans. ”). This lead to English as a Second Language programs (ESL). ESL programs would provide the amount of English to find work, but not raise past the “poverty level” (Li). Vietnamese did receive education, but this only created opportunity to find low-paying jobs.
Even with programs like ESL, less than half of Vietnamese Americans (41%) speak English proficiently (Taylor). Boat People who lacked English could not find jobs and found difficulties doing everyday tasks. When Vietnamese began to understand their struggle in the job market, they would try to open restaurants, but Americans would not accept the new flavor of food (“The Asian American Experience-Building New Saigon”). No business in the restaurants forced them to close, and find work elsewhere. Then the Boat People turned to the fishing industry.
At first whites tolerated Vietnamese in the fishing industry because they posed no threat. However, when Vietnamese bought shrimp boats, they became a threat to white’s businesses, and whites began to dislike Vietnamese. (“Asian Americans”). Some Vietnamese would get extremely involved in the fishing industry, but learned better from violence used against them. Some people went as far as burning down the Vietnamese’s boats (“Asian Americans”). Outside of the fishing industry employers and coworkers would become frustrated with Vietnamese for working slowly (Li).
Vietnamese worked with quality in mind where Americans worked with speed in mind. This caused employers to be impatient with Vietnamese, and sometimes cost them their jobs. Even when Boat People acquired jobs, their median annual personal earnings placed them $35,000 lower than the earnings for other Americans. Overall, Vietnamese had a horribly hard acceptance into the job market, however, this would have facilitated had they not had trouble adapting to culture. As Vietnamese immigrated to the United States, they found trouble adapting to the culture.
This especially occurred in the medical and education world. The American medical treatment dissatisfied Vietnamese because it does not concentrate on healing (Li). Some people would try to combine western medical treatment with the Taoist concept of balance. Many Vietnamese believed that if they rubbed a coin on skin it would relieve a cold (Li). However, if a mother brought a child to the doctor they would mistake the coin bruises as child abuse, a major misconception of culture. In fact, the majority of Boat People would not enter the hospitals because of white rooms and nurses wearing white (Li).
In Vietnam, white represented the color of death. Furthermore, children found adapting to the school system difficult because of them placed by age group, not ability (Li). As well as American schools based off of critical thinking and Vietnamese schools off of pure memorization (Li). This became extremely difficult for Vietnamese students who did not speak English proficiently. Highly disadvantaged with their lack of English, Boat People had an extremely arduous time adapting to the ways of Americans without the ability to communicate (“Promoting Cultural Sensitivity: Vietnamese Guide”).
A misconception between cultures occurred when Vietnamese would show interest in a religion for respect, but no actual interest in converting (Li). The churches may become disappointed in the Vietnamese. Furthermore, traditions of parents embarrass children because the parents had not adapted to the American culture, but hung onto the Vietnam culture. Contrary to the belief that immigration moves like a painless journey, Vietnamese had one of the most tiresome and arduous immigration in American history. Beginning with a war on their home turf, they had to leave their country. The war caused dreadful effects and they lost all their hope.
When they stepped on to American soil, they had nothing but the clothes on their backs. Furthermore, their lack of material affected their ability to find jobs. More so they did not speak English, and had little to no education. Although now they had a shred of hope that life could achieve immense success. However, accused for living as a burden to society, discriminated against in the job market, and finding difficulty adapting to the new American culture caused that hope to be terminated. Vietnamese did not deserve the treatment they received, but they endured it with all they had and with the small hope of a new life.
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