This multimedia website including images, text, movies, audio, music, and programming languages allows me, a female immigrant from the first Vietnamese American generation who has been living in the U.S for more than fifteen years, to consider ways to express the diverse identities of young Vietnamese Americans in Seattle. The young Vietnamese American population includes the “1.5” and second generations, Vietnamese of mixed heritage, Vietnamese Adoptees and queer Vietnamese youth. This dynamic website shows multi-layers of young Vietnamese American identities in the social cultural context of immigrant history. It expresses the traditional and modern aspects of broad types of characteristics between old and young generations. It focuses on the difficult development of identities for young Vietnamese Americans in the process of assimilation, the consequences of racial discrimination as well as internal conflicts that Vietnamese Americans face under difficult social and economic conditions, and the contradictory cultural beliefs between young and older generations after resettlement in the U.S.
This unique site allows me to represent the emergence of different identities of Vietnamese American youth in Seattle. It offers an opportunity for young Vietnamese Americans to recognize their roots and identities regardless of where they were born or what their level of understanding of Vietnamese language and culture might be. This website includes many different perspectives on life, such as contemporary and traditional lifestyles, mixed heritages, adoptees, and self-identified queers. Digital technology offers opportunities to bring young Vietnamese Americans together in the global communication context of the World Wide Web. Vietnamese youth need help to articulate their roots and dynamic identities in contemporary American society. This project will, I hope, introduce young Americans to Vietnamese history and culture.
* “1.5” generation refers to young Vietnamese Americans who came to the U.S. under the age of 18.
Vietnamese traditional dance at Xuan Festival 2007
Cardin Nguyen and Trish Thuy Trang Nguyen are young popular Vietnamese-Americans artists. They write their own lyrics. With “The Chase,” they become more popular in many Vietnamese-American and Asian-American communities.
In Saigon, USA, Bao Nguyen identifies himself as an American, although he still keeps his Vietnamese name. He argues that his birth name, Bao, is an American name because it is unnecessary to have an English name to be recognized as an American.
SELF-IDENTIFIED AS A VIETNAMESE-CHINESE AMERICAN
In contrast of Bao Nguyen, in Saigon, USA, ViLy’s problem is trying to figure out who she is. She slowly recognizes herself as a Vietnamese Chinese American artist. In this context, she is uncomfortable to identify herself as an American.
BEAUTY PAGEANTS - TOP FIVE FINALIST INTERVIEW 2006
Linda Vi Tram Nguyen, a 19 year-old second generation Vietnamese American in Seattle expects to see a positive change in the Vietnamese community. In responding to the top five finalists interview for a beauty pageant Miss Vietnam global 2006, stated, “I believe that if the Vietnamese community becomes one and competes with other ethnic communities, ten years from now, we will succeed in all areas from education and academics to business.” Ms. Nguyen lays out possibilities for building a strong relationship among Vietnamese Americans in unity and hopes for a bright future of Vietnamese communities to bridge the gap between generations. In this context, mixed race and homosexual individuals would be treated equally in the contemporary mainstream Vietnamese American culture.
The goal of the Vietnamese Pageant is to honor young Vietnamese American women to recognize Vietnamese traditional culture, customs, language, and to provide a scholarship opportunity. Not only is this event establishes unity amongst the Vietnamese community, but also increase awareness of the Vietnamese ethnic identities.
In Saigon, USA, Bao Nguyen, a young Vietnamese American voices that the elder generation criticizes the young generation in becoming “Americanized” in a negative way because language barriers cause a big gap between them.
In Saigon, USA, Vu Nguyen and his brother, Viet Nguyen, show a mixed emotion to their love to their grandmother. Because of language and cultural barriers, they feel disconnected to her. This narrative illustrates a feeling of loss in traditional belonging.
In Daughter from Danang, Heidi, a Vietnamese Amerasian and an adoptee, searched for her biological mother in Danang, Vietnam after twenty-two year of living in the U.S.
PERSONAL POLITICAL CONFLICTS
In Daughter from Danang, misunderstandings caused by language and cultural conflicts occurred the first time the Vietnamese mother and daughter reunited. Heidi felt that she did not belong to either her biological mother or her Vietnamese relatives. When thinking of her biological mother, she states: “I do not know that woman.” Once, while crying she said, “No, get away from me.” On the other hand, Heidi feels that she has a strong connection with her adopted American grandmother. At the end of the movie, she confirms that “I have closed the door on them, but I did not lock the door.” Heidi and her Vietnamese relatives are caught in a heart-wrenching conflict of culture and language.
In Daughter from Danang, Margaret Drain reports the voice of President Gerald Ford declared a special funding of two millions dollars for two thousand Vietnamese orphans en route to the U.S. Reuters’ “Vietnam Baby-lift adoptees welcomed home 30 years on,” reveals that on April 2, 1975, a humanitarian program known as “Operation Baby-lift,” started to help these children by relocating the 57 orphans who were rushed onto a cargo plane of the Atlanta-based World Airways en route to the United States. In total, operation Baby-lift included an additional 2,547 children, more than 91 percent under the age of 8, who were taken out of South Vietnam. This included 1,945 who arrived in the U.S. and 602 who went to other countries.
BABY-LIFT & ADOPTION ISSUES
Tammy Nguyen Lee’s “Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam,” discusses a dualistic outcome concerning America’s most humanitarian operation and belittled by those believed that as a mass capture of unfortunate children in a war zone country. These orphans struggled to recognize their identities as Vietnamese, Vietnamese Americans or Americans when they grew up.
In Saigon, USA,ViLi, a Vietnamese Chinese descendant left Vietnam in 1979. The second wave of refugees involved ethnic Chinese Vietnamese who were expelled by the Vietnamese government because of internal conflicts. Paul James Rutlege’s “The Vietnamese Experience in America,” reports that estimated at approximately 127,000 Chinese Vietnamese, many of whom had difficulty obtaining adequate documentation to leave Vietnam and finally make their way to the U.S.
CAMP PENDLETON IN CALIFORNIA
In Saigon, USA, Camp Pendleton, California is one of the first historical refugee camps of the Vietnamese Americans in the U.S. The first wave included well-educated individuals from urban areas who left during the fall of South Vietnam. Those who left in the period after 1978, were poorer and from rural areas. Many sought to escape from the terror of deplorable conditions, where they were “re-educated” in communist ideology and forced into hard labor. According to an online article entitled, “Vietnamese Americans – Lessons in American History,” an estimated 500,000 refugees died at sea; many women were detained by pirates who molested them. These and other refugees were the “boat people” who ended up in camps of Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. They later immigrated to the U.S. at four relocation centers such as Camp Pendleton in California, Fort Chaffee in Arkansas, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, and Indian town Gap in Pennsylvania. Once in these camps, most refugees chose to resettle under the sponsorship of a non-profit association. In 1975, the state of Washington took 1,000 refugees from Camp Pendleton and since 1990, under the Humanitarian Operation Program, has taken an additional seventy former political prisoners.
Vietnamese Americans are concerned with political issues in Vietnam. On June 23rd, 2007 hundreds of protestors with South Vietnamese flags in Little Saigon, California to “welcome” Nguyen Minh Triet, the first Vietnamese president to visit the U.S. since the end of Vietnam War in 1975. Hostile demonstrations of Hundreds of Vietnamese Americans in Washington DC and Little Saigon, California raised their voices for human rights and democracy in Vietnam.
PHAN VAN KHAI
On Jun. 19th, 2005, KIRO7 news reports on Vietnamese Americans protesting against Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai. Local demonstrators carrying South Vietnamese flags lined the street in front of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. They were protesting during his visit in Seattle and demanding human rights for Vietnam.
In Saigon, USA. Vi Li, a Vietnamese Chinese American Artist shares the struggles of her parents as limited English speaking refugees. Her parents’ story is a common example for Vietnamese Americans who faced challenges when living in the U.S. Unlike other immigrants, the Vietnamese came to America with a lot of disadvantages. For instance, they looked different; they were small and “yellow”. The former spoke a different language, ate weird foods, dressed in different styles and most of them were not used to the cold weather since they came from a tropical climate.
In Saigon, USA, a Vietnamese American, Vu Nguyen is a journalist at the Spokesman Review in Spokane, Washington. He is portrayed as a typical young American, strumming on his electric guitar and sporting a variety of hairdos, including glowing orange spikes.
The first generation of the Vietnamese people living in this strange land definitely faced severe cultural differences. But how would the young generation fare living in the United States?