A Perspective from a Black, Vietnamese American Woman From Alabama
Updated: Jun 18, 2020
As a Blasian (Black and Vietnamese) growing up in the deep South (Alabama) on an Air Force Base in the 70s and 80s, I didn’t personally see a lot of racism. Maybe it was because my mom shielded me from most of it or perhaps it was just the culture of Air Force brats.
Sure, certain things stuck out in my memory but nothing that scarred me for life. Like the one time that my mom came to my public elementary school for an assembly program and some of the kids kept staring and whispering about how Wanda has a “Chinese” mom. Or the time in the 5th grade these two boys were sitting behind me with a rubber ball and a Matchbox car. They kept dropping the ball on the car and singing to me "We Dropped the Bomb on You", which was to the tune of the popular song by The Gap Band. They were referring to the United States detonating atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I was so mad!! In both of these instances, the kids that were picking on me were Black and I had a hard time understanding why since I also had dark skin. Before I go further, I was never a confused child, I always knew that I was Black AND Vietnamese. Even though my mom was the one that mainly raised me and she raised me in her customs, traditions, and eating the foods that she grew up eating, I have never thought I was only Vietnamese. She could only raise me how she had been raised and she was new to this country too.
Throughout life, my friends have been very diverse and I credit that to growing up a Brat so it wasn’t until High school that I started learning about what Black people in America had been through. Crazy, right!? I read every book I could find that were written by Black authors. I learned as much as I could about the Black Panther Party and even tried to start a local chapter of the New Black Panther Party in my hometown. I had become radical and militant. I was ready to start the revolution!! How could people not still be mad about this? What I found was people in Montgomery, Alabama were not ready for it. I was confused. Wasn’t this THE birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement? Wasn’t this where the Montgomery Bus Boycott happened? It was as if all the Black people here that I had spoken to had just fallen into a comfortable, complacent life and they were happy with just that. I only found one other person that wanted to join the chapter and we needed five to be official, so I gave up. If people didn’t want to fight for themselves, what was little old me going to do? I’m glad activist like Malala Yousafzai, Yara Shahidi, and Greta Thunberg haven’t given up as easily though.
With all the protests going on worldwide after the tragic death of George Floyd, Montgomery has remained peaceful. But when some people think of Black Lives Matter, they often think of anger feeding forceful protests, rioting and looting. Anger is a reasonable response to racial injustice. Lord knows there have been many lifetimes full of racial injustice in the United States. The protests will go away, as they always do. But this is a chance for our country to begin addressing all of the policies and procedures, laws and rules, formal and informal, that have created huge inequities in income, health, wealth, housing, incarceration rates, education and employment, that are the terrible legacy of our nation’s original sin of slavery based on race, which has expanded to include all people of color. One can only grieve for George Floyd, but we also need to grieve for the policies that allowed this to happen, and try our damnedest to change those policies. Racism is a cancer in our nation that must not be allowed to fester and grow any longer, particularly in those entrusted with authority in our nation.
Bob Dylan said it best:
“How many deaths will it take till we know,
That too many people have died?”
If you like stories like this, subscribe to Chopsticks Alley.
Wanda is an advocate for Racism, Domestic Violence, Environmental Issues and much more.
As a secretary for a professional organization aimed to be the voice for education professionals in her state, she is responsible for many aspects of data that is collected to help lobby for raises, healthcare, and better resources for these members. She also does some event planning.
When she isn't working, you'll find Wanda appreciating nature and simply enjoying life.