Vietnamese Americans

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Vietnamese Americans
Người Mỹ gốc Việt (Tiếng Việt)
Viêtnamo-Américains (Français)
越裔美國人 (中文)
Flag of Vietnam.svg Flag of the United States.svg
Total population
(2,137,433)
(including those with partial ancestry)
0.6% of total U.S. population, 2010[1])
Regions with significant populations
Languages
Vietnamese, American English, French, Standard Mandarin
Religion
43% Buddhism, 30% Roman Catholicism
20% unaffiliated, 6% Protestantism (2012)[2][3]
Related ethnic groups
Vietnamese people, Overseas Vietnamese, Vietnamese Canadians, Vietnamese Australians, Asian Americans

Vietnamese Americans (Vietnamese: Người Mỹ gốc Việt) are Americans of Vietnamese descent.[4] They make up about half of all overseas Vietnamese (Người Việt Hải Ngoại), are the fourth-largest Asian American ethnic group behind Chinese American, Indian American and Filipino American have developed distinctive characteristics in the United States.

South Vietnamese immigration to the United States began after the Vietnam War ended in 1975. Early immigrants were refugee boat people, fleeing persecution or poverty. More than fifty percent of Vietnamese Americans reside in the states of California and Texas.[5]

Demographics[edit]

Map of the U.S., with states with more Vietnamese speakers in darker blue
Spread of the Vietnamese language in the United States

As a relatively-recent immigrant group, most Vietnamese Americans are either first- or second-generation Americans. As many as one million people five years of age and older speak Vietnamese at home, making it the seventh-most-spoken language in the U.S. As refugees, Vietnamese Americans have one of the highest naturalization rates in the country.[6] In the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS), 76 percent of foreign-born Vietnamese are naturalized U.S. citizens (compared to 67 percent of people from Southeast Asia and 46 percent of the total U.S. foreign-born population. Of those born outside the United States, 73.1 percent entered before 2000, 21.2 percent from 2000 and 2009 and 5.7 percent after 2010.[7]

In the 2012 ACS, 1,675,246 people identified as Vietnamese alone; 1,860,069 identified as Vietnamese and other ethnicities, the fourth-largest Asian-born after those from India, the Philippines and China.[7][8][9] California and Texas had the highest concentrations of Vietnamese Americans: 40 and 12 percent, respectively. Other states with concentrations of Vietnamese Americans were Washington, Florida (four percent each) and Virginia (three percent).[9] The largest number of Vietnamese outside Vietnam is in Orange County, California (184,153, or 6.1 percent of the county's population),[10] followed by Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties; the three counties accounted for 26 percent of the Vietnamese immigrant population in the United States.[9] Many Vietnamese American businesses exist in the Little Saigon of Westminster and Garden Grove, where Vietnamese Americans make up 40.2 and 27.7 percent of the population respectively. About 41 percent of the Vietnamese immigrant population lives in five major metropolitan areas: in descending order, Los Angeles, San Jose, Houston, San Francisco and Dallas-Fort Worth.[9] The Vietnamese immigration pattern has shifted to other states, including Ohio (Cleveland), Oklahoma (Oklahoma City and Tulsa in particular) and Oregon (Portland in particular).[citation needed]

Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1980 261,729 —    
1990 614,517 +134.8%
2000 1,122,528 +82.7%
2010 1,548,449 +37.9%

Vietnamese Americans are more likely to be Christians than the Vietnamese in Vietnam. Christians (mainly Roman Catholics) make up about six percent of Vietnam's population and about 23 percent of the Vietnamese American population.[12] Due to hostility between Communists and Catholics in Vietnam, many Catholics fled the country after the Communist takeover.

History[edit]

The history of Vietnamese Americans is fairly recent. Before 1975, most Vietnamese residing in the U.S. were the wives and children of American servicemen or academics. Records[13][14] indicate that a few Vietnamese (including Ho Chi Minh) arrived and performed menial work during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, six hundred fifty Vietnamese arrived as immigrants between 1950 and 1974; the figure excludes students, diplomats and military trainees. The April 30, 1975 fall of Saigon, which ended the Vietnam War, prompted the first large-scale wave of immigration; many with close ties to the Americans or the South Vietnamese government feared communist reprisals. Most of the first-wave immigrants were well-educated, financially comfortable and proficient in English.[15] According to 1975 State Department data, more than 30 percent of the heads of first-wave households were medical professionals or in technical management; 16.9 percent worked in transportation, and 11.7 percent had clerical or sales jobs in Vietnam. Just under five percent were fishermen or farmers.[16]

Two women walk past a large sign in Vietnamese and English at an army base
Vietnamese refugees at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, during the late 1970s

The evacuation of these immigrants was organized in three major ways. The week before Saigon fell, 15,000 people left on scheduled flights followed by an additional 80,000 also evacuated by air. The last group was carried on U.S. Navy ships.[17] During the spring of 1975 125,000 people left South Vietnam, followed by more than 5,000 in 1976-1977.[16] They arrived at reception camps in the Philippines and Guam before being transferred to temporary housing at U.S. military bases, including Camp Pendleton (California), Fort Chaffee (Arkansas), Eglin Air Force Base (Florida) and Fort Indiantown Gap (Pennsylvania). After preparations for resettlement, they were assigned to one of nine voluntary agencies (VOLAGs) which helped them find financial and personal support from sponsors in the U.S.[15][17]

South Vietnamese refugees were initially resented by Americans, since the memory of defeat was fresh; according to a 1975 poll, 36 percent of Americans favored Vietnamese immigration. However, the U.S. government expressed the Vietnamese. President Gerald Ford and Congress passed the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act in 1975, which allowed Vietnamese refugees to enter the United States under a special status and allocated $405 million in resettlement aid. To prevent the refugees from forming ethnic enclaves and minimize their impact on local communities, they were distributed throughout the country;[15] within a few years, many resettled in California and Texas.

Vietnamese man hands a child to waiting American crewmen, photographed from above
Crewmen of the USS Durham (LKA-114) take Vietnamese refugees from a small craft in 1975.

A second wave of Vietnamese refugees arrived from 1978 to the mid-1980s. Political and economic instability under the new communist government led to a migration unprecedented in Vietnam. South Vietnamese, particularly former military officers and government employees, were sent to "reeducation camps" for intensive political indoctrination. Famine was widespread, and businesses were seized and nationalized. Chinese-Vietnamese relations soured when China became Vietnam’s adversary during the brief Sino-Vietnamese War.[15] To escape, many South Vietnamese fled on small, unsafe, crowded fishing boats. Over 70 percent of the first-wave immigrants were from urban areas, but the "boat people" were generally lower on the socioeconomic ladder; most were peasant farmers or fishermen, small-town merchants or former military officials. Survivors were picked up by foreign ships and brought to asylum camps in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the Philippines, from which they entered countries agreeing to accept them.[15][16][17]

The plight of the boat people compelled the U.S. to act, and the Refugee Act of 1980 eased restrictions on the entry of Vietnamese refugees. From 1978 to 1982, 280,500 Vietnamese refugees were admitted to the U.S.[15] In 1979, the Orderly Departure Program (ODP) was established under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to allow emigration from Vietnam to the U.S. and other countries. Additional legislation permitted Amerasian children and former political prisoners and their families to enter the United States. Vietnamese immigration peaked in 1992, when many reeducation-camp inmates were released and sponsored by their families in the U.S. Between 1981 and 2000, the country accepted 531,310 Vietnamese political refugees and asylum-seekers.

By the early 1980s, a secondary resettlement was underway. Vietnamese refugees were initially scattered throughout the country, wherever they could find sponsorship. The majority (27,199) settled in California, followed by 9,130 in Texas and 3,500 to 7,000 each in Pennsylvania, Florida, Washington, Illinois, New York and Louisiana. Due to economic and social factors, many then moved to warmer states (such as California and Texas) with larger Vietnamese communities, better jobs and social safety nets.[15][16][17]

Initial challenges[edit]

Language barrier[edit]

After suffering war and psychological trauma, Vietnamese immigrants had to adapt to a very different culture. Language was the first barrier few adult Vietnamese refugees with limited English proficiency could overcome. English uses tonal inflection sparingly (primarily for questions); Vietnamese, a tonal language, uses variations in tone to differentiate between meanings of a sound. Ma can have one of six meanings, depending on tone: "ghost", "but", "horse", "rice plant", "mother" or "tomb".[15] Another difference between Vietnamese and English is the former's widespread use of status-related pronouns. "You" is the only second-person singular pronoun in English, but the Vietnamese second-person singular pronoun varies by gender (anh or chị), social status (ông or ) and relationship (bạn, cậu or mày).[16]

Family issues[edit]

Like other Asians, the Vietnamese emphasize parental status; however, American culture challenges this traditional value. Vietnamese American parents have expressed concern about decreasing authority over their children. Part of this concern is due to cultural differences; although corporal punishment is accepted in Vietnamese society as an effective way of educating children, in the U.S. the practice may be viewed as child abuse.[15] Older, newly-arrived Vietnamese Americans are polite in dealing with others and avoid expressing open disagreement; young Vietnamese-American straightforwardness of expression may be perceived as disrespectful by their elders.[16]

Mental health[edit]

Emotional health was considered an issue common to many Vietnamese refugees, with war-related loss and the stress of adapting to a different culture leading to mental-health problems among refugees.[15] The problems covered a broad spectrum, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, adjustment disorder, somatization, panic attacks, schizophrenia and generalized anxiety. About 40 percent of the children of resettled refugees experienced an increase in conduct and oppositional defiant disorders. A 2000 study by Chung et al. demonstrated a number of mental-health issues. The study examined the psychosocial adjustment of two groups of Vietnamese refugees who migrated to the U.S. as young children. Its participants were given the Suinn-Lew Asian Self-Identity Acculturation Scale, the Social Support Questionnaire and the Hopkins Symptoms Checklist. The three surveys accounted for cultural assimilation; how closely an individual related to their culture of origin relative to American culture, and individual placement on scales for generalized anxiety and depression respectively. Chung separated the groups into first- and second-wave refugees; first-wave Southeast Asian refugees (SEAR) were defined as arriving in the U.S. between 1971 and 1975, and second-wave SEAR arrived between 1980 and 1985. In wave two, six percent of those tested by Chung et al. were under age six when they arrived in the U.S.; in wave one, about 85 percent of the pediatric refugees were under six. The study indicated that the young refugees experienced significant short- and long-term emotional and mental distress throughout their lives.[18]

Crime[edit]

From the 1980s to the end of the 1990s the Vietnamese Americans dealt with gang violence, especially among the youth of the 1.5 generation and their children.[19] Since 2000 gang activity decreased significantly, but a few (such as Born to Kill) were still active in 2010.[20]

Poverty[edit]

In 1989, 34 percent of Vietnamese Americans lived under the poverty line—much higher than the American average at the time.[citation needed]

Political activism[edit]

Parade marchers with South Vietnamese flags: three horizontal red stripes on a gold background
Vietnamese Americans marching with the South Vietnamese flag during Tết

According to a 2008 Manhattan Institute study, Vietnamese Americans are among the most-assimilated immigrant groups in the United States.[21] Although their rates of cultural and economic assimilation were comparable to other groups (perhaps due to language differences between English and Vietnamese), their rates of civic assimilation were the highest of the large immigrant groups.[21] As political refugees, Vietnamese Americans viewed their stay in the United States as permanent and became involved in the political process at a higher rate than other groups.

"Socialization processes due to unique experiences during a critical imprinting experience among Vietnamese immigrants form an explanation that relies on duration of time spent in the United States. Immigrant cohorts, as instantiated in waves of immigration, are of course related to years spent in the destination country ..."[22] However, there are "substantive within-group differences among Vietnamese Americans and that the classical linear assimilation hypothesis does not adequately explain political incorporation. Although naturalization does appear to increase steadily over time, with earlier waves more likely to have acquired citizenship, the same pattern of associations does not appear for our analysis of registration and voting. Notably, it was the third wave of Vietnamese immigrants who were most likely to cast ballots in the last presidential election".[22]

The relationship between Vietnam and the United States has been the most important issue for most Vietnamese Americans.[16] As refugees from a communist country, many are strongly opposed to communism. In a 2000 Orange County Register poll, 71 percent of respondents ranked fighting communism as a "top priority" or "very important".[23] Vietnamese Americans stage protests against the Vietnamese government, its human rights policy and those whom they perceive to be sympathetic to it.[24] In 1999, opposition to a video-store owner in Westminster, California who displayed the flag of Vietnam and a photo of Ho Chi Minh peaked when 15,000 people held a nighttime vigil in front of the store;[25] this raised free speech issues. Although few Vietnamese Americans enrolled in the Democratic Party because it was seen as more sympathetic to communism than the Republican Party, Republican support has eroded in the second generation and among newer, poorer refugees.[26] However, the Republican Party still has strong support; in Orange County, Vietnamese Americans registered as Republicans outnumber registered Democrats (55 and 22 percent, respectively).[27] According to the 2008 National Asian American Survey, 22 percent identified with the Democratic Party and 29 percent with the Republican Party.[28] Exit polls during the 2004 presidential election indicated that 72 percent of Vietnamese American voters in eight eastern states polled voted for Republican incumbent George W. Bush, compared to the 28 percent voting for Democratic challenger John Kerry.[29] In a poll conducted before the 2008 presidential election, two-thirds of Vietnamese Americans who had decided said that they would vote for Republican candidate John McCain.[28] The party's vocal anti-communism is attractive to older and first-generation Vietnamese Americans who arrived during the Reagan administration. Although most Vietnamese overall are registered Republicans, most young Vietnamese lean toward the Democratic Party. An Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) poll found that Vietnamese Americans aged 18–29 favored Democrat Barack Obama by 60 percentage points during the 2008 presidential election.[30] According to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey, 47 percent of registered Vietnamese-American voters leaned Republican and 32 percent Democratic; among Vietnamese Americans overall (including non-registered voters), 36 percent leaned Democratic and 35 percent Republican.[31]

Vietnamese Americans have exercised political power in Orange County, Silicon Valley and other areas, and have attained public office at the local and statewide levels in California and Texas. Janet Nguyen is a member of the California State Senate; Andrew Do is part of the five-member Orange County Board of Supervisors; Bao Nguyen was mayor of Garden Grove, California, and Vietnamese Americans have also been the mayors of Rosemead and Westminster, California. Several serve (or have served) on the city councils of Westminster,[32] Garden Grove and San Jose, California,[33] and Hubert Vo is a member of the Texas state legislature.[34]

In 2008, Westminster became the first city with a majority Vietnamese-American city council.[35] In 2004, Van Tran was elected to the California state legislature. Viet Dinh was the Assistant Attorney General of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and the chief architect of the Patriot Act. In 2006, 15 Vietnamese Americans were running for elective office in California.[36] In August 2014, Fort Hood Col. Viet Xuan Luong became the first Vietnamese-American general in U.S. history.[37] Four Vietnamese Americans have run for a seat in the United States House of Representatives as their party's endorsed candidate.[38]

Some Vietnamese Americans have lobbied city and state governments to make the flag of South Vietnam (rather than the flag of Vietnam) the symbol of the Vietnamese in the United States, and objections were raised by the Vietnamese government.[39] The California and Ohio state governments enacted laws adopting the South Vietnamese flag in August 2006. In June 2002, 13 states, seven counties and 85 cities had adopted resolutions recognizing the South Vietnamese flag as the Vietnamese Heritage and Freedom Flag.[40][41][42]

During the months following Hurricane Katrina, the Vietnamese-American community in New Orleans (among the first to return to the city) rallied against a landfill used to dump debris near their community.[43] After months of legal wrangling, the landfill was closed.[44][45] In 2008, Katrina activist Anh "Joseph" Cao won Louisiana's 2nd congressional district seat in the House of Representatives; Cao was the first Vietnamese American elected to Congress.[46]

Socioeconomics[edit]

Income[edit]

Vietnamese Americans' income and social classes are diverse. In contrast to Vietnamese refugees who settled in France or Germany, and similar to their counterparts who arrived in Canada, the Czech Republic and Australia, refugees arriving in the United States often had a lower socioeconomic standing in their home country and more difficulty integrating due to greater linguistic and cultural barriers.

Vietnamese Americans have arrived in the U.S. primarily as refugees, with little or no money. While not as academically or financially accomplished collectively as their East Asian counterparts, census data indicates that Vietnamese Americans are an upwardly-mobile group; their economic status improved substantially between 1989 and 1999. In a 2012 study the median household income of Vietnamese immigrants was $55,736, higher than of the overall immigrant population ($46,983).[9]

Dual economy[edit]

In 1989, 34 percent of Vietnamese Americans lived under the poverty line. This was reduced to 16 percent in 1999, compared with just over 12 percent of the overall U.S. population. The Vietnamese-American poverty level has since risen to 16.6 percent.[47]

Although many Vietnamese Americans are middle class professionals who fled the increasing power of the Communist Party after the Vietnam War, others work in blue-collar jobs. They made efforts to be licensed in their former occupations or retrain in new fields, and rose to the middle or upper-middle class.[15] In Orange County's Little Saigon, there is a significant socioeconomic disparity between the established, successful Vietnamese Americans who arrived in the first wave and later, low-income refugees.

Employment[edit]

Most first-wave Vietnamese immigrants initially worked at low-paying jobs in small services or industries.[48] Finding work was more difficult for second-wave and subsequent immigrants, due to their limited educational background and job skills. They were employed in blue-collar jobs, such as electrical engineering and machine assembling.[16] In San Jose, California, the economic difference can be seen in the Vietnamese-American neighborhoods of Santa Clara County. In downtown San Jose, many Vietnamese work as restaurant cooks, repairmen and movers. The Evergreen and Berryessa sections of the city are middle- to upper-middle-class neighborhoods with large Vietnamese-American populations, many of whom work in Silicon Valley's computer, networking and aerospace industries.

Many Vietnamese Americans have established businesses in Little Saigons and Chinatowns throughout North America, and have initiated the development and redevelopment of older Chinatowns. Many Vietnamese Americans are small business owners. According to a 2002 Census Bureau survey of Vietnamese-owned firms, more than 50 percent of the businesses are personal services or repair and maintenance. The period from 1997 to 2002 saw substantial growth in the number of Vietnamese-owned business.[49] Throughout the country, many Vietnamese (especially first or second-generation immigrants) have opened supermarkets, restaurants, bánh mì bakeries, beauty salons, barber shops and auto-repair businesses. Restaurants owned by Vietnamese Americans tend to serve Vietnamese cuisine, Vietnamized Chinese cuisine or both, and have popularized phở and chả giò in the U.S. In 2002 34.2 percent of Vietnamese-owned businesses were in California, followed by Texas with 16.5 percent.[49]

Large building with pagoda-style arches
Phước Lộc Thọ (Asian Garden Mall), the first Vietnamese-American business center in Little Saigon, California

Young Vietnamese Americans are well educated, and often provide professional services. Since older Vietnamese Americans have difficulty interacting with the non-Vietnamese professional class, many Vietnamese Americans provide specialized professional services to fellow immigrants. Of these, a small number are owned by Vietnamese Americans of Hoa ethnicity. In the Gulf Coast region (Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama), Vietnamese Americans are involved with the fishing industry and account for 45 to 85 percent of the region's shrimp business. However, the dumping of imported shrimp from Vietnam has impacted their livelihood.[50] Many still work in Silicon Valley's computer and networking industry, despite layoffs after the closure of high-tech companies. Recent immigrants not yet proficient in English work in assembly, restaurants, shops and nail and hair salons. Eighty percent of California's nail technicians and 43 percent nationwide are Vietnamese Americans.[51] Nail-salon work is skilled manual labor which requires limited English-speaking ability. Some Vietnamese Americans see the work as a way to accumulate wealth quickly, and many send remittances to family members in Vietnam. Vietnamese entrepreneurs from Britain and Canada have adopted the U.S. model and opened nail salons in the United Kingdom, where few had existed. According to the U.S Census Bureau 2012 ACS, 32 percent of Vietnamese Americans have worked in the service sector.

Education[edit]

Dropout rate[edit]

The Vietnamese community has a relatively high dropout rate compared to the national average, with 28.8 percent of Vietnamese Americans dropping out of high school.[52]

English proficiency[edit]

In 2012, Vietnamese immigrants had a higher percentage of those who were Limited English Proficient (68 percent) than other Southeast Asian groups (47 percent) and the overall U.S. foreign-born population (50 percent). Seven percent of Vietnamese Americans said that they spoke English only at home, a lower percentage than other groups.[9]

View of education[edit]

The Vietnamese parents consider children's educational achievements a source of pride for the family, encouraging their children to excel in school and to enter professional fields as the ticket to a better life. Vietnam's traditional Confucianist society values education and learning, and many Vietnamese Americans have worked their way up from menial labor to have their second-generation children attend college and become successful. Compared to other Asian immigrant groups, Vietnamese Americans are optimistic about their children's future; forty-eight percent believe that their children’s standard of living will be better than theirs.[53] According to the 2012 ACS, 23.5 percent of Vietnamese immigrants aged 25 and over had a bachelor's or higher degree.[7]

Student associations[edit]

A number of colleges have a Vietnamese student association, and an annual conference is hosted by the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations for current or future members.[54]

Culture[edit]

Red-and-white arch, with greeting in Vietnamese
Tet Festival in Little Saigon, Orange County, California

While adapting to a new country, Vietnamese Americans have tried to preserve their traditional culture by teaching their children the Vietnamese language, wearing traditional dress (ao dai) for special occasions and showcasing their cuisine in restaurants throughout the country. Family loyalty is the most important Vietnamese cultural characteristic, and more than two generations traditionally lived under one roof. The Vietnamese view a family as including maternal and paternal grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. In adapting to American culture, most Vietnamese American families have adopted the nuclear pattern while trying to maintain close ties with their extended families.[16]

Vietnamese family culture is reflected in ancestor worship. On the anniversary of an ancestor's death (ngay gio), relatives gather for a festive meal and to share stories about the person's children, works or community.[15] In a typical Vietnamese family, parents see themselves with a vital role in their children's lives; according to a survey, 71 percent of Vietnamese-American parents said that being a good parent is one of the most important things in their lives.[53] Generations of Vietnamese were taught to help their families without question, and many Vietnamese Americans send American goods and money and sponsor relatives' trips or immigration to the U.S. In 2013 remittances sent to Vietnam via formal channels totaled $11 billion, a tenfold increase from the late 1990s.[9]

"Freedom Bird" parade float, ridden by women and children
Vietnamese community float at the Portland Rose Festival parade

Vietnamese Americans observe holidays based on their lunisolar calendar, with Tet the most important. Falling in late January or early February, Tet marks the lunar new year. Although the full holiday lasts for seven days, the first three days are celebrated with visits to relatives, teachers and friends. For Tet, the Vietnamese commemorate their ancestors with memorial feasts (including traditional foods such as square and round sticky-rice cakes: bánh chưng and bánh dày) and visits to their ancestors' graves.[15][16][17] For Vietnamese Americans, the celebration of Tet is simpler. In California, Texas and other states with substantial Vietnamese communities, Vietnamese Americans celebrate Tet by visiting their relatives and friends, watching community-sponsored dragon dances and visiting temples or churches.[16][17]

Trung Nguyen (Wandering Souls' Day), on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, and Trung Thu (Children's Day or the Mid-Autumn Festival, on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month) are also celebrated by many Vietnamese Americans. For Trung Nguyen food, money and clothes made of special paper are prepared to worship the wandering souls of ancestors. Along with Tet, Trung Thu is a favorite children's holiday; children holding colorful lanterns form a procession and follow a parade of lion dances and drums.[15][16][17]

Religion[edit]

Forty-three percent of Vietnamese Americans are Buddhist.[2] Many practice Mahayana Buddhism,[15][16] Taoism, Confucianism and animist practices (including ancestor veneration) influenced by Chinese folk religion.[55] Twenty-nine to forty percent of Vietnamese Americans are Roman Catholic, a legacy of Operation Passage to Freedom.[56] A smaller, but increasing, number are Protestants.[55]

There are 150 to 165 Vietnamese Buddhist temples in the United States, with most observing a mixture of Pure Land (Tịnh Độ Tông) and Zen (Thiền) doctrines and practices.[57][58] Most temples are small, consisting of a converted house with one or two resident monks or nuns.[57] Two of the most prominent figures in Vietnamese-American Buddhism are Thich Thien-An and Thich Nhat Hanh.[58]

Perception by U.S. society[edit]

In common with other ethnic-minority groups in the U.S., Vietnamese Americans have come into conflict with the broader U.S. population. Hostility has been directed toward them; Gulf Coast fishermen have complained about unfair competition from their Vietnamese-American counterparts, and the Ku Klux Klan attempted to intimidate Vietnamese-American shrimp fishermen.[59] The Vietnamese Fishermen's Association, with the aid of the Southern Poverty Law Center, won a 1981 antitrust suit against the Klan.[60]

The valedictorian delinquent[edit]

Studies[61] indicate a "valedictorian delinquent" perception of Vietnamese-American youth. Vietnamese-American communities have dense, organized social ties whcih encourage and socially control children.

These communities are often in economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods on the margins of American society. Vietnamese children who maintain close connections to their communities are often driven to succeed, but those who are outsiders in their society often fall into delinquency.[62] Studies indicate that Vietnamese-American juvenile delinquency may have increased in the 21st century as ethnic community ties have weakened.[63]

Ethnic subgroups[edit]

Although census data counts those who identify as ethnically Vietnamese, the way Vietnamese ethnic groups view themselves may affect that reporting.

Hoa[edit]

The Hoa people are ethnic Chinese who migrated to Vietnam. In 2013, they made up 11.5 percent of the Vietnamese-American population.[64] Some Hoa Vietnamese Americans also speak a dialect of Cantonese, generally code-switching between Cantonese and Vietnamese when conversing with Hoa immigrants from Vietnam and able to speak to ethnic Vietnamese. Teochew, a variety of Southern Min which had virtually no speakers in the U.S. before the 1980s, is spoken by another group of Hoa immigrants. A small number of Vietnamese Americans may also speak Mandarin as a third (or fourth) language in business and other interaction.

Eurasians and Amerasians[edit]

Some Vietnamese Americans are Eurasians: people of European and Asian descent. These Eurasians are descendants of ethnic Vietnamese and French settlers and soldiers (and sometimes Hoa) during the French colonial period (1883–1945) or the First Indochina War (1946–1954).

Amerasians are descendants of an ethnic Vietnamese (or Hoa) parent and an American parent, most frequently white, black or Hispanic. The first substantial generation of Amerasian Vietnamese Americans was born to American personnel (primarily military men) during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1975). Many Amerasians were disclaimed by their American parent; in Vietnam, these fatherless children of foreign men were called con lai ("mixed race") or the pejorative bụi đời ("dust of life").[65] Since 1982, Amerasians and their families have come to the United States under the Orderly Departure Program. Not many could be reunited with their fathers, and usually arrived with their mothers. In some cases, they were part of false families created to escape from Vietnam.[17] Many of these first-generation Amerasians and their mothers experienced significant social and institutional discrimination in Vietnam (where they were denied the right to education, the discrimination worsening after the 1973 American withdrawal) and by the U.S. government, which discouraged American military personnel from marrying Vietnamese nationals and frequently refused claims of U.S. citizenship lodged by Amerasians born in Vietnam whose mothers were not married to their American fathers.[66][67][68] The discrimination was greater for children of black or Hispanic servicemen than for children of white fathers.[69] Subsequent generations of Amerasians (children born in the United States) and Vietnamese-born Amerasians whose American paternity was documented by their parents' marriage or subsequent legitimization have had an arguably more favorable outlook.[70]

The 1988 American Homecoming Act helped over 25,000 Amerasians in Southeast Asia to emigrate to the United States. Although they received permanent-resident status, many have been unable to obtain citizenship and express a lack of belonging or acceptance in the U.S. because of differences in culture, language and citizenship status.[71][72]

Ethnic Khmer and Cham[edit]

Over a million Khmer and a large population of Cham are native to Vietnam, and some Vietnamese-American refugees are ethnic Khmer (Khmer Krom) or Cham.

Notable Vietnamese Americans[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Chan, Sucheng, ed. . The Vietnamese American 1.5 Generation: Stories of War, Revolution, Flight, and New Beginnings (2006) 323pp
  • Tran, Tuyen Ngoc, “Behind the Smoke and Mirrors: The Vietnamese in California, 1975–1994” (PhD dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 2007). Dissertation Abstracts International, 2008, Vol. 69 Issue 3, p1130-1130,
  • Min Zhou and Carl L. Bankston, Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States (1998) New York: Russell Sage Foundation
  • Chung, R. C., Bemak, F., & Wong, S. “Vietnamese refugees’ level of distress, social support, and acculturation: Implications for mental health counseling. Journal of Mental Health & Counseling. 2000; 22: 150–161.

References[edit]

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