Monday, March 24, 2008

The Asian American Experience

Please take a moment to read Old NFO's post on a reunion held for a particular group of Vietnamese refugees rescued by a Navy P3 Orion aircraft in 1975.
Years ago, I lived in Kemah,TX a very small shrimping village just south of Houston. During my stay there, I lived in an apartment complex just blocks away from Galveston Bay. At that time, many rescued Vietnamese familes were moving into town. I can remember watching the plight of many of these "boat people" on television. Some of those trying to escape from their homeland didn't survive, others were plucked from their makeshift boats/rafts, one by one. Quite a drama to watch. I'm not sure how or why such a large group of these people were placed in Kemah. Their introduction into the community was not gradual, it was sudden. One family took over the local 7-11 store, another bought the laundry mat, and many others took up fishing for shrimp. A family of eight moved into the two bedroom apartment next to mine. I can remember this influx of people into the community causing a controversy among the local residents. There was a rumor passed around that these people had received grant money to start a business. This was upsetting to many who were struggling to survive the economic recession.(1980) Add to that, the hard working Vietnamese shrimpers who instead of working just six hours a day like their counterparts; brought their entire family out with them and worked their boats day and night, eventually depleting the stock. The situation became volatile, and the day that I moved away, the newspaper headlines were reporting that the KKK had burned a cross in the front yard of an immigrants home. There were other reports of racism against the Vietnamese all across Houston. I did some research online and located a site that explains in much more detail the the Asian American Experience in Houston. I had no idea at the time, what a huge issue this had become.
Twenty eight years later it is all different. From the report:
"Houston's growing Vietnamese population, the second largest in the United States, has remained highly independent, maintaining many businesses throughout the city. The community benefits from high rates of achievement in education, establishment of varied professional services, various Vietnamese-language media, and events throughout the year to preserve language and culture."

You've come a long way America.


  1. FF, you hit two key points that many people miss- the Viet work ethic- The ones I know still work 60-80 hours a week, even though they have it made, the other, they did not get grants, they pooled the family money (sometimes as much as $50,000 collected from all the relatives) and that was what they used to get a start. Remember, in the 70's things were much cheaper! $50k went a LONG way toward securing a mortgage on just about anything business related. They also turned a profit almost immediately (again the work ethic). And yes, it did cause problems because the lazy Americans didn't like the fact the VN were making more than they were overnight and taking business away.

    A funny side not- An Loc (who was one I did meet), was a former ARVN Captain, he got out along with some of his family and started a lawn care business in San Jose, CA. 10 years later he bought new trucks for his crews and his business went down- The reason, people thought since he had new trucks, he would charge too much. He gave the new trucks to his employees, went out and bought more old beat up trucks, and his business went back up. Today he is a millionaire, has relocated over 30 of his family members, and is successful beyond his wildest dreams. One daughter is a Stanford Grad, one son is an MD in San Francisco, and the other is a scientist working at Livermore.

  2. I remember the "boat people" coming to the Texas Gulf and the responses of the people. It was an odd time, but I am glad for their success stories.

  3. It shames me to think of all of the Americans who take everything we have and how we've lived for granted. Our work ethic sucks too. I'm humbled and grateful for the shining example they set.