Thursday, January 24, 2008

Little Saigon

While I was growing up, my family drove almost every weekend to Little Saigon in Orange County, the largest community of Vietnamese people outside of Vietnam. We visited family, ate Vietnamese food (well, they gave me a bowl of rice and soy sauce for a while because I was a picky eater), and bought Asian groceries at Ranch 99. Although I grew up in a predominately white suburb, I guess I can thank Little Saigon for connecting me to my roots.

So I can see why these Vietnamese communities are important, especially since many Vietnamese-Americans are refugees from a horrible war. And I can see why the people in San Jose wanted to name a predominately Vietnamese business district Little Saigon.

However I am a little confused as to why San Jose people are so upset about the new name, the Saigon Business District. So upset that they are trying to recall City Councilwoman Madison Nguyen, the first Vietnamese-American woman to be elected into office and who came up with this name as a compromise. There is still Saigon in the name, not Ho Chi Minh. Yet, 2,000 people protested infront of City Hall, calling her a communist, in cahoots with the Vietnamese government, a race traitor, and a bad role model for Vietnamese children. Never mind that she has been seen as an effective city council person, working on tough issues like gangs.

Now I do not know the exact details of the situation or if Madison dealt with this in the best way possible, but trying to initiate a recall is completely overboard and the personal attacks are out of line. Out of all people, refugees who escaped should be the last people loosely insulting people with the term communist. In addition to being completely unfounded, I am sure it particularly hurtful. As someone who was also called a race traitor, I do admire Madison for having to deal with it on such a larger and more public level.

There has been a lot of talk about race in politics lately. And something that I have learned from my personal experience and stories like this is that as much prejudice as minorities may face from non-minorities, minorities also face a lot of discrimination and judgment from their own communities. I am so over people asking if he is black enough, if she is feminine enough, or even if he is Christian enough. In the same way that politicians should not represent one interest group, they should not just represent their ethnicity/gender/religion.

And this is why I will never run for public office.

1 comment:

dreamer-of-time said...

Who was the dispute with over calling the area "Little Saigon" and why was "Saigon Business District" an acceptable compromise?

It's just hard to understand the issue without knowing those things.