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Interview and Report/ Social Analysis

Traditionally, representatives of ethnic minorities have to cope with numerous challenges and problems in order to overcome the existing social biases and find the balance between their native culture and the culture of the dominant ethnic group of the society they live in. In such a situation, the risk of discrimination and the problem of inability to get integrated into the society increases substantially. Instead, they tend to focus on their community only and remain in the isolation of the rest of the society. Probably the most serious problems they faced and are still facing in education that actually reflects all other problems representatives of different ethnic groups suffer from in the US. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the experience of Vietnamese Americans, who need to close a huge gap between their native culture and the traditional American culture to become a part of the American society. The cultural difference between Vietnamese American culture and the traditional American culture are very significant and they affect consistently the life of Vietnamese Americans and their integration in the American society. The major problems arise in the field of education, which prevent new generations of Vietnamese Americans to the integration to the American society. However, the modern education contributes to new problems, which new generations of Vietnamese Americans face – the problem of the conflict between their traditional culture and the American culture. This problem can lead to the formation of the double identity, which combine the elements of the traditional Vietnamese and American culture. In such a situation, it is extremely important to research major problems Vietnamese Americans, as well as many other representatives of ethnic minorities, in order to find out the main directions in the integration of representatives of ethnic minorities should target at.
First of all, the position of ethnic minorities was historically inferior compared to the dominant ethnic group of white Americans. In this respect, Vietnamese Americans were in a particularly disadvantaged position because of the historical military conflict between the US and Vietnam, to a significant extent, defined the attitude of ordinary Americans to people of Vietnamese origin. In such a situation, Vietnamese Americans, especially the first generations, which arrived to the US at the beginning of Vietnamese immigration to the US, have to overcome existing biases and prejudices and, along with the traditional difficulties, such as the lack of the language competence, to overcome the problem of negative attitude of the dominant ethnic group. However, the struggle of Vietnamese Americans for the improvement of their position in the US was facilitated due to the strong civil right movement and the supremacy of civil rights.
In this respect, it is important to underline that one of the major problems Vietnamese Americans faced was the lack of the language competence. For instance, in 1990 Vietnamese children lived in families where the heads of the households basically had poor English proficiency (Zhou and Bankston, 2000). In addition, Vietnamese Americans, as they arrived to the US, confronted a totally new culture, which was absolutely different from their own, while the local population often had an extremely biased and prejudiced attitude to Vietnamese Americans because of the negative experience of the war in Vietnam.
No wonder, Vietnamese Americans were less likely to have a college education or a professional education than white Americans (Montero, 1979). In this respect, it should be said that there are numerous factors that influence the position of Vietnamese Americans in the US. In fact, one of the most important factors that prevented Vietnamese Americans from receiving higher education was their socio-economic position. As a rule, Vietnamese Americans represented lower strata of the American society and they lived in poverty stricken neighborhoods which deprived children from low-income families from possibilities to improve their life consistently. In fact, many Vietnamese Americans were simply deprived of real opportunities to receive good education because of their poverty. Moreover, their poor social status also contributed to the negative attitude to Vietnamese Americans from the part of other students and lower self esteem of children representing this ethnic group (Zhou and Bankston, 2000) compared to white and black Americans.
It proves beyond a doubt that the lack of the language proficiency was a considerable problem for Vietnamese Americans, especially in the field of education. It is important to underlie the multiple nature of this problem. To put it more precisely, the lack of the language competence decreases economic opportunities for children of Vietnamese Americans immigrants. Obviously, without the language proficiency, Vietnamese Americans have lower opportunities to get a better job and their revenues, therefore, are lower than they could have potentially been. As a result, Vietnamese Americans cannot provide their children with opportunities to receive better education, while higher education can be simply unattainable for students because it naturally needs substantial financial expanses from the part of the family. In addition, the lack of the language competence decreases substantially academic opportunities of Vietnamese American children. What is meant here is the fact that the low language competence of Vietnamese Americans was a substantial obstacle for Vietnamese Americans children in their academic activities. The major problem is the problem of the adequate comprehension of the learning material by students with a low language competence since they need to interpret and understand the learning material, while the lack of the language competence deprives them of this opportunity. Hence, such students need more time and efforts to perceive the learning material adequately. On the other hand, it is very important to convey students’ ideas and thoughts clearly, especially in such subjects as history or literature, for instance. Consequently, the lack of the language competence makes the learning process consistently difficult for Vietnamese American students as well as other minority students, who have problems with their language competence.
Furthermore, there is a problem of the huge cultural gap between the Vietnamese culture and the traditional American culture. In this respect, it is possible to refer to religion. In fact, religious views of Vietnamese and Americans differ consistently, but Vietnamese Americans, as they arrived to the US, often faced the problem of exercising their religious rites and worshipping in the new country, which was predominantly Christian and the position of Protestants were and still are particularly strong. In such a situation, Vietnamese Americans were in a disadvantaged position since they had to build up their religious life and facilities in the new country, where their religious beliefs and traditions were strange and unusual for the local population.
However, the impact of religious life of Vietnamese Americans people on their social life was and still is very significant since religion can be an effective tool that helps overcome difficulties which traditionally accompany the first years immigrants spend in a new country. In other words, religion can be viewed as a tool which can provide Vietnamese Americans with an essential psychological aid to avoid depression in the US caused by the striking difference between the traditional Vietnamese and American culture. At the same time, the maintenance of religious traditions contributes to the maintenance of Vietnamese cultural norms and traditions at large. Therefore, the possibility to exercise religious rites and worshipping are of a paramount importance for the maintenance of the culture of Vietnamese Americans, as well as other ethnic groups.
Also, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the difference between the Vietnamese and American culture contributed to the formation of the huge cultural gap and affected consistently the life of younger generation of Vietnamese Americans. To put it more precisely, the younger generation of Vietnamese Americans confronts two different cultural environment in which they have to live. On the one hand, there is the traditional Vietnamese culture and they should obey to its norms and traditions in their families and community. On the other hand, at school and outside their community, Vietnamese American younger generations are in a different cultural environment. As a result, they have to develop two different models of behavior appropriate for different cultural environments. Consequently, it is possible to speak about the formation of the dubious identity of the younger generation of Vietnamese Americans.
Finally, according to Gold (1992), Vietnamese Americans faced a very serious problem of racism that was really disturbing. For instance, in 1992, University of Miami pre-med Vietnamese American student Luyen Phan Nguyen, 19, was chased and beaten to death outside a Coral Springs, Florida, college party by the mob of about 15 young white men who used their fists, feet and beer bottles. Actually, he was slaughtered only because he had protested an insulting reference to his Vietnamese origin earlier at the party. What is even more shocking is the fact that the party crowd ignored the murder (Gold, 1992). At the same time, it is obvious that the major strategies, which really aim at the improvement of the position of Vietnamese Americans, should be focused on the improvement of their socio-economic position.
Thus, in conclusion, it is possible to estimate that Vietnamese Americans confronted serious difficulties as they had just arrived to the US and they had to overcome the existing biases and prejudices to take a better position in the American society. Nowadays, some of them are solved but there are still a lot of difficulties they have to overcome and basically they are related to the low economic position of their families and to their cultural background and contradictions between traditional Vietnamese and American cultures that provoke bicultural conflicts within Vietnamese Americans families. Today, it is extremely important to avoid bicultural conflicts and facilitate the integration of Vietnamese Americans, as well as representatives of other ethnic minorities, into the American society because the failure of these people to get integrated leads to their isolation.

References:
Gold, S.J. (1992). Refugee communities: A comparative field study. Newbury Park,CA: Sage.
Montero, D. (1979). Vietnamese Americans: Patterns of resettlement and socioeconomic adaptation in the United States. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.
Saito, L.T. (1999). Socio-cultural factors in the educational achievement of Vietnamese American students. Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Irvine, Department of Education.
Zhou, M., & Bankston, C.L. (1998). Growing up American: How Vietnamese children adapt to life in the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Zhou, M. and Bankston, C. L. III. “Straddling Two Social Worlds: The Experience of Vietnamese Refugee Children In The United States”, Urban Diversity Series, No.111, Feb. 2000. Available online <http://iume.tc.columbia.edu/eric_archive/mono/UDS111.pdf>


Appendices:
Interview
Q: When did you immigrate to the US?
A: I moved to the US in the late 1980s, it was a very difficult period in my life for I have to escape from Vietnam and find a new pace to live in.
Q: What were the major difficulties you faced in the US?
A: Basically, the main problem was the striking difference between our culture and the local culture. It is totally different. Moreover, many people were hostile and viewed me and my family as enemies of all Americans, I believe it was because of the war in Vietnam. Another problem was the lack of our temples where I could worship my god. Americans had little ideas of Vietnamese religion and we had to build our temples on our own. In fact, I felt as if I had moved to a different planet. However, soon I felt consistent financial constraints because I had spent practically all my saving but I still could not find a job. All I had was a half-time job which did not bring me either satisfaction or income to afford my family.
Q: Why couldn’t you get a better job?
A: My problem was my poor English. When I had just arrived to the US, I could hardly speak English. So, I couldn’t find a well-paid job.
Q: And now, have your position changed consistently?
A: Well, yes, I would say so. Today, I have a normal job, income, but I should say that my children still have certain difficulties. For instance, their behavior seems to be a bit strange for me because their manner of behavior and communication changes consistently when some of their American friends come to them, for instance. But the main problem is that I can hardly afford higher education for my children and this disturbs me a lot.

 

 
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