Editorial: For Vietnamese Americans, focus should be less on the past, more on the present

Last week, someone from the mainstream community called us to check up on a Vietnamese individual who claimed to be a spokesperson for the Vietnamese community. The individual was urgently lobbying local government officials to embrace the flag of South Vietnam (the yellow flag), and not the current red flag, which many Vietnamese immigrants consider offensive because it is associated with communism.

Yes, this situation is nothing new to your ears. This is an ongoing story. Vietnamese people are passionate about their heritage, and rightly so. Their efforts have caused many states, cities, and localities to accept the flag of South Vietnam.

However, some people have also made the case that supporting the flag of South Vietnam equates to supporting the whole Vietnamese American community. This is untrue and misleading. For one, it assumes that Vietnamese people aren’t unique individuals — that they all think alike. Also, it could lead government officials to think that once they embrace the flag, their work for the Vietnamese community is done.

Let us respectfully suggest that the Vietnamese communities in Washington state steer some of that great passion toward other issues — more local issues in the here and now.

A great goal of all immigrant communities here in the United States is to carve out a comfortable existence that future generations can thrive in, while retaining an Asian identity. One of the best ways to do this is to be engaged in what is going on right now. We always talk about how important it is to become engaged and involved in local politics, and it probably sounds like a broken record by now. But there’s a reason why we stress this. New immigrant communities aren’t adding their voices to the fray.

One item for Vietnamese Americans to think about is the annexation of White Center, which has become increasingly urban. In April, the Seattle City Council said yes to a resolution that lays out a path toward the potential annexation of White Center in November 2011. So far, voters in the southern part of the North Highline area already voted to join Burien, and they did on April 1. Will the rest of White Center join them?

According to the 2000 census, there are 5,517 Asians/Pacific Islanders in White Center, or 26.3 percent of the total population. Of those, 2,176 are Vietnamese, or 10.4 percent of the population, making it, by far, the largest Asian ethnic group in White Center. Many Vietnamese in White Center are business owners who will face tax implications due to annexation.

According to Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin, “Right now, you’ve got this boundary line where King County police are divided, economic development is divided, human services are divided. There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t really work because of the boundary line and folks south of that line are not getting the services they need.”

There are many reasons to sway Seattle or Burien on annexation. We won’t list them here. We just want Vietnamese voters to be more aware of what’s happening, and to take a productive stance on a local issue that will significantly affect their lives and homes.

Some of you might be thinking, but I don’t live in White Center. Well, these days nonprofits run by immigrants are hurting. You don’t have to give money if money is tight. Give your time by volunteering.

Additionally, we need to see more Vietnamese parents at their children’s schools, attending parent–teacher conferences or extracurricular events. Yes, it may be awkward and uncomfortable, but showing up means a lot to your child. ♦

One Response to “Editorial: For Vietnamese Americans, focus should be less on the past, more on the present”

  1. john says:

    Good post. Speaking locally of White Center I can say that I wish I saw more participation in local issues and events from our large and strong South East Asian community.

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