VIETNAMESE COMMUNITY OF OREGON P.O. BOX 55416 Portland, OR 97238-5416 http://www.vnco.org
April 7, 2016
Dear Commissioner Faye Stewart:
We, Vietnamese Community of Oregon (VNCO) and Asian American Network of Oregon (APANO), write this letter on behalf of the 29,000 Vietnamese Americans in Oregon who are offended by recent comments you made regarding the Vietnamese refugee and immigrant population. We believe your comments, whether taken out of context or not, negatively portrayed Vietnamese Americans based on stereotypes and assumptions that are unfounded and inaccurate. There are just no excuses for your ignorant, hurtful and racist comments. We demand a sincere and formal apology immediately.
Perhaps your life experience with refugees and immigrants, especially Vietnamese Americans, is limited. Therefore, we want to take this opportunity to share you so you can begin to develop a better understanding about refugees and immigrants: who we are, why we are here, and our contributions to Oregon and America.
The story of Vietnamese Americans is similar to the story of many refugees and immigrants who came before us (your ancestors included unless you are Native American), and the millions of refugees/immigrants who will follow for generations to come. It does not matter when or where our journey began, our stories are all similar: We left so much behind, risking everything we knew and had, escaping persecution or oppression, to seek new opportunities. We left to build a better future for our future generations.
After the fall of Saigon in 1975, nearly a million Vietnamese escaped Vietnam and came to the US. We worked hard to make a new life for our families and our children. The first generation gave tremendous energy and attention to the next, often making sacrifices so they could be better off than their elders. Today in the US, the Vietnamese American population totals to more than 1.6 million people. The Asian American population accounts for almost 5% of the population in the state of Oregon.
It has not been easy. We have faced and overcome many challenges and barriers: racism, exclusion, discrimination, second-class treatment, etc. Yet we were not discouraged nor did we give up. While we are still facing significant opportunity gaps due to institutional disparities, particularly in the realm of education, health, and economy, many of us have found success and have risen to the top of our fields in science, education, medicine, government, and more.
At one time we were only referred to as refugees, immigrants, or boat people, but we are more than that. We are citizens, leaders, workers, providers, family members, and students. And more importantly, we are your neighbors. We vote and we pay taxes. We have the same dream of bettering our standard of living and prosperity, and to reach that we fight for equal opportunity. We are mobilizing our communities and getting Vietnamese Americans to turn out to vote in record numbers during this year’s elections. The growing political and economic power of the Vietnamese American community and the broader Asian and Pacific Islander community can no longer be underestimated or overlooked.
In addition to our political influence, our contributions to the US are also not to be dismissed or ignored. A recent PEW report shows that 19% of adult Vietnamese Americans hold a Bachelor’s Degree and 7% hold an Advanced Degree. Recent census data show that Vietnamese Americans have helped make the US more competitive in science and technology. For example, there are over 280 Vietnamese American inventors with three or more US patents. A conservative estimate of the number of Vietnamese American physicians practicing in the US is about 2500, an average 3.5 doctors for every 1000 Vietnamese Americans.
We have also made significant contributions to the economic wellbeing of the state of Oregon, and the US: Asian Americans, including Vietnamese Americans, contribute hundreds of billions to the economy and pay hundreds of billions in taxes annually. According to a recent Nielsen report, the buying power of Asian Americans will increase from around $718 billion to over $1 trillion in the next five years, due to quickly growing population (50 percent since 2000) and high household incomes. In Oregon, we are the second largest Asian American community.
As if that wasn’t enough, here are a few notable achievements of Vietnamese Americans, including: Dr. Eugene Trinh, an astronaut who flew on a space shuttle mission; General Viet Luong who came to America as a 10 year-old refugee child and recently made history by becoming the first Vietnam-born general in US military history; Dr. Nguyet Anh Duong, who left Vietnam before the fall of Saigon as a teenager, now the scientist responsible for the creation of the Thermobarric weapon that ended the Afghanistan War; and Dr. Vinh Xuan Nguyen, a well-known Vietnamese American aerospace scientist.
But the most important contribution that no one can deny is that Vietnamese Americans, like all US residents and immigrants, have made our country stronger and more prosperous. Our work creates a brighter future for our communities, families, children, and the country.
To put it shortly, the comments you made were based on stereotypes about our community, and were inaccurate. They were ignorant, hurtful, racist, and have damaging outcomes. We expect better from our elected officials, and will hold you accountable for the harm that you have caused. We demand you take responsibility for your misguided statements, and provide a sincere and formal apology addressed to our community, sent to VNCO, APANO, and local media immediately.
President, Vietnamese Community of Oregon (VNCO)
From: Bill Laurie <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Michael Do <email@example.com>
Sent: Thursday, April 7, 2016 6:58 PM
Subject: Comments on Vietnamese Community
I am a U. S. born Viet Nam veteran, a lifelong (most of the time) Republican, and an NRA member, and am forced to present this.uncomfortable question: “Are you really that stupid?”
I heard all this nonsense 41 years ago when the initial tide of refugees came to U.S. shores. They were, if you would bother to inform yourself, abandoned by the United States, and left with no means to defend themselves. I was there from ’71 through ’75 and personally saw the invidious tragic effect of the aid cutbacks. I was so disgusted with the U.S. that I would not have returned here had my parents not been living. When the exodus continued many smart-ass ignorant supposed-to-be Americans predicted disaster, said the Viet Namese were lazy, ignorant, cowards, dishonest, etc. It was all nonsense, all rabid fulminations of ignorant people. Do this little exercise: assemble all the demographic data you find and you will see that ethnic Viet Namese are among our very, very best citizens. They have a lower crime rate, more education attainment, lower divorce rate and excel in all other measures of societal and family well-being. They are, flatly speaking, better citizens than most.
When I did return from Viet Nam I stayed in contact with the Viet Namese community, and saw and experienced the same diligent, persistent, admirable work ethic I’d seen in Viet Nam. People with engineering degrees having to clean toilets until they learned English. High ranking former officers who worked two jobs at minimum wage, while their wives worked one minimum wage job so their children could attend school. All three children from one family are now professionals, two medical practitioners, one a computer science enginner. Know what? Most native born Americans do not h ave the discipline, the work ethnic, these people have. None of them ate dog or cat meat. None of them tried to cook on their apartment floor. They did one thing: they worked very, very hard, an effort many contemporary lazy Americans are unwilling or incapable of undertaking.
You made your statements on the bases of “what you heard,” not what you knew. A would-be-Senator does not base his or her policy positions on rumor, on hearsay. Your statements reflects a profound ignorance of important aspects of our country, and of the people who make up our electorate. You weren’t even aware the Viet Namse community, and -I guarantee you- a significant number of native borne Viet Nam veterans, would take issue with your profoundly moronic statements.. You exhibit neither the knowledge nor political acumen to aspire to a U.S. Senate seat.
It’s embarrassing to have people plagued with ignorance, run for national office.
Mr. Stewart,You are a public ranking official who knows for sure how to respond appropriately to the complaint of the heads of organizations.If I were you, I would send a formal letter with full header to express your thoughts then we would make it public among our community.Regards.Michael Do (Do Van Phuc)
President | Vietnamese Community of Oregon (VNCO)===================================================================
From Oregon, Mr. Julien Bui’s Response
From: Julien Bui <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Julien Bui <email@example.com>
Sent: Sunday, April 10, 2016 11:11 PM
Subject: Faye Stewart
MY TURN NOW, MR. SUPER HUMBUG
By Joseph-Julien Nguyen
I doubt that Faye Stewart, a current US Senate GOP candidate and Lane County Commissioner, has ever adequately grown up. Because, if he has, he would not excrete from his smelly mouth, in the March 10 forum at George Fox University, such asinine calumny against Vietnamese refugees living in Oregon and around the nation. There, he arbitrarily labeled them as (1) dog and cat stealers and eaters, and (2) ignorant immigrants who couldn’t know how to heat their homes, etc. In fact, asked to voice his opinion about prospective Syrian refugees, in the context of national security concerns, I guess, he skipped the Syrian refugee issue, in order to play safe, and began insulting, instead, the poor Vietnamese immigrants, with no reason, no justification. No slightest provocation whatsoever by those peaceful Vietnamese who never heard or knew about an obscure and arch-fool moron named Faye Stewart II from a tree-cutter family in Cottage Grove, Oregon. Why was he that stupid? The answer seems to be very simple. He is:
- The bad: Stewart has a bad and foul mouth, big enough to eject the above abracadabra about Vietnamese refugees –one of the most admirable and successful ethnic minority groups in Portland or elsewhere– and thus, against the truth, for sure. He did so, simply to attract the attention of, and collect the votes from, some humdrum gangs of brainless racists, xenophobes, cynics –camouflaged behind cunning masks such as Supremacists, or Supremos, or Ultranationalists, or Chauvinists, or Klansmen, you name it. As a candidate, he adopted the dirt-cheap tactic à la Trump, yes, our dear Trump, that foul-mouthed, scandal-addict and anti-immigrant GOP controversial candidate.
On the opposite side, Stewart also reminds me of the worst dumbasses, Joe Biden, Jerry Brown, George McGovern and Co, who in 1975, have said “no” to the Vietnamese refugees. Did those bad boys, then, and Faye Stewart, now, have the smallest idea about the reason why Vietnamese refugees had to flee their beloved country and come here? Of course, they came here not to “harvest people’s dogs and cats, their pets” for food, nor to “start a fire in the middle of their living room in an apartment complex” to heat their home, as accused by Stewart The Bad. They came here, betrayed and abandoned by two sordid so-called “allies” Nixon and Kissinger, and other politicos, equally brazen, equally contemptible, equally dastard from right to left. They came here, with nothing but a past heavily loaded with tears, grief, despair, uncertainty, and at the same time a ferocious determination to rebuild their life. Then, after four decades, through hard work and quick adaptation to a new culture and lifestyle, they all became US citizens and paid back their adoptive fatherland by a fresh generation of MDs, PhDs, university professors, school teachers, military officers and generals, pilots, scientists, astronauts, engineers… The list is long. All that, thanks to the generosity, compassion, kindness of the American people. Their success must have made Stewart and Co blush for shame and enviousness.
- The Ugly: Eating dogs, or cats, is, culturally speaking, common practice in some Asian countries while eating horses is also part of European culture. In the huge American melting pot, you must not criticize any culture, even if you don’t like it. However, I don’t think Vietnamese refugees in America have ever eaten dogs and cats, or worse, stolen and eaten people’s dogs and cats. Therefore, Stewart’s absurd statements were just rhetorical garbage and archaic silly stereotype one may read only in 3¢ garage-sale fiction books.
I dare Stewart and his accomplices, like Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy (who, after his 3/10 speech, praised him as “a straightforward, fair and kind person”), to show to the public an official document or proof about the (criminal) case of a Vietnamese refugee stealing dogs and cats for food. If not, Stewart, this lumbering bozo, would be an odious liar and slanderer.
- The Idiot: Any idiot of the village, like Faye Stewart, who wants to run for national office, must be aware that Oregon is the land of Democrats, and most of Vietnamese are GOP grassroots. So, what use to infuriate them? What candidate does not need minority votes? Will Stewart expect to see, in July, the rednecks and chauvinists fly to his rescue? I wonder.
Recently, he sent, via ipad, to the Vietnamese Americans’ leaders a presumed “apology” which was viewed so arrogant, so haughty, that, instead of appeasing them, it only enraged them more. In that mail, indeed, he said he felt sorry for any harm he had caused to the Vietnamese Communities. That’s not enough, for all that he needs to do is retracting, as soon as possible, his dead wrong statements.
When would Stewart be willing and ready to open his eyes and face the pure truth, the sole truth, the naked truth about the Vietnamese?
Republican, SE Portland
Captain of the (now defunct) Republic of South Vietnamese Army