Vietnamese Amerasians are those who were born to an American soldier and a Vietnamese mother during the time of the Vietnam War in the 1960s and early 1970s. Outcasts in Vietnam, most are now in America living in poverty. Few have ever seen their fathers.
There are about 22,000 of them in America, at least 4,000 of which are black. Maybe 2,000 more still live in Vietnam but there is no way of knowing.
In Vietnam they were called “half-bloods” and “children of the dust”. They had no fathers in a land where fatherhood is strong. They were mixed in a land where almost everyone is pure Vietnamese. To the Vietnamese they looked like black and white Americans, they looked like the enemy of a long war in a country broken by that war.
They were outcasts. They were unwanted. Sometimes their mothers were outcasts, seen as loose women. Sometimes even their own mothers threw them out to live on the streets. Other children called them names, beat them up or were not allowed to play with them. Most only went to school for a few years. Some cannot even read.
When Saigon fell in 1975, about 2,000 of them were flown to America and were adopted. Of the rest many were hidden or made to look more Vietnamese. Any proof of their American fathers, like pictures and letters, were destroyed for the most part to save them from being killed by the army.
In 1988 America passed the Vietnamese Amerasian Homecoming Act. If you went to the Amerasian Transit Center in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), an American official would look at you and if you looked white enough or black enough he would send you on to a camp in the Philippines where you would learn a bit of English and something about America (not necessarily what you needed to know) and then be sent on to America where you would get some help for six months and then be left to sink or swim.
Most sank. Good work was hard to find: their English was bad, they had little education and no car. So most live in poverty.
Full-blooded Vietnamese who live in America want little to do with them – they do not seem Vietnamese to them. Even to Asian Americans they often look too white or too black. And, because they are foreigners in America, black and white Americans do not see them as one of their own either.
So they are caught in the middle with no place they can truly call home. “Children of the dust” turned out to be a cruel truth.
For those who are black, sometimes called Afro-Amerasians, it is the worst. They got the least education in Vietnam, experienced the most racism and learned all the Vietnamese stereotypes about blacks, so much so that self-hatred and self-doubt is common.