I read with some interest Itabari Njeri’s article on intercultural etiquette and find it to be an additional validation of the depth of the problem it proposes to address.
I live in Garden Grove, and from first-hand, everyday experience, I can safely state that the real “myth” here is the so-called “dominance” of “Anglo-conformity.” Generalization can be a wicked weapon to turn on any group of people; be that as it may, my experience has been that the Vietnamese people in my neighborhood have made no efforts at any sort of “Anglo-conformity"--rather, they seem intent upon keeping their own culture intact. I reel beneath the tide of anti-Asian bigotry that permeates Orange County, yet it is not solely a one-way street.
My first steady girlfriend in California was a fine young lady, who happened to be from Vietnam. I didn’t think of her as a Vietnamese woman; to me, she was simply an attractive woman. Obviously, I was aware of our cultural differences, but neither of us appeared to have much difficulty about them. The reaction when we went out together, however, was incredulous. White people and Vietnamese people alike served us heavy doses of icy stares, poor service and derogatory comments. With this sort of high-voltage intercultural friction present, it really is no wonder that the Vietnamese people that I encounter daily do not wish to become Anglo-ized.
I believe that not only do we not peacefully coexist, we exist in bitter isolation. Obviously, our intercultural problems are not confined to the Vietnamese and the “Anglos,” but the biggest mistake that we are making is assuming that we are at the threshold of a mutually respecting, knowledge-gaining understanding of the diverse cultures that constitute this great nation. Fierce bigotry and jaded cynicism are the major components of a colossal Hydra that is growing larger every moment in this country.
GREGORY J. SELLGREN