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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

a little history for ya

According to the American government or whoever makes these rules, it's the month we're suppose to celebrate the history of the people of African decent in America. Well, I celebrate my living existence everyday. In fact I'm jamming right now to Erykah Badu. Hey!

Any who, since we're suppose to be talking about the history of people of African decent in America, and I'm currently located in Vietnam lets discuss an issue that is about to be extinct in Vietnam. . . the con lai.

To be continued in a few. . .

Okay, so for those that don't know "con lai" in Vietnamese means "mixed". Not to be confused with còn lại which means "remnants" or as my government friend told me "left behind." If you look up the phrase "con lai", Google translates it into "cross breed". Well we're not talking about dogs, we're talking about the children of American soldiers and the Vietnamese women they slept with. Before I relocated to Vietnam, I had a few friends profess that "there are soo many Black people in Vietnam! War babies!" Oh really? Did you fly over to Vietnam and perform a census?? I don't understand where people get their information. From my personal experience living in Saigon for almost 2 years, I will tell you I HAVE NOT seen a lot of African Americans, and I definitely have not seen or met a lot of people who look to be mixed with Vietnamese and African ancestry. However, they do exist.

There is one lady whom I see every time I visit my favorite vegetarian restaurant, Hoa Dang. You can only see her if you sit in the back of the restaurant, straight ahead from the door. This is because she only works in the kitchen, and on occasion she will come out and stand by the mini bar and bathrooms. Her skin is brown, a bit darker than most Vietnamese who let their skin tan. It's her hair that gives it away. Most of the time I don't notice if a Vietnamese person looks mixed with African features, because if I do see someone like this I assume they are Cambodian. This worker at Hoa Dang has African hair. There's no doubt about it. I can also tell, she has no idea how to take of it. Does she even know where it came from?

A friend of mine who works for the US government talked about a program back in the 90's, that granted American citizenship to Vietnamese who "looked" mixed. There wasn't much paper work involved because most Vietnamese who were alive or born during the time of the war burned any evidence that they were part of or supported anything anti-Communist and/or the American army. And according to Wikipedia, "Having a child with a member of a belligerent foreign military, throughout history and across cultures, is often considered a grave betrayal of social values". 

I can only imagine the shame the worker's mother may have felt for having the baby of an American soldier. She may have been outcasted. I doubt she kept in contact with the father. Once the baby was born, (some time between 1950 - 1970's) was she educated on her heritage? I doubt it. Could you imagine being born into a homogeneous  society, everyone but you looks the same, same skin tone, same hair. You don't really notice you're different until everyone stares at you, or makes fun of you. You wonder why you look different but no one bothered to explain, or give you a correct answer. To make matters worse, these Afro Amer-asian con lai children have spent their entire life in a society that doesn't accept them as beautiful or worthy. Now as grown middle aged adults, these Afro Amer-asian con lai have been fully immersed into Vietnamese culture. I wonder if they feel complete. Or,  do they feel like a part of them is missing, incomplete or unresolved? 

1 comment:

  1. Just to add onto your blog, here is a link to the article I showed you once before on Vietnamese war babies.

    http://veryvietnam.com/2011-09-03/vietnam-american-war-babies-grown-up-down-on-luck/

    original article linked in the source area

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