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
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
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
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>
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.