I would differentiate between refugees and those displaced by American foreign wars as “militarized refugees,” a term coined by Yen Le Espiritu, a Vietnamese American scholar of ethnic studies. The distinction is needed because it reminds us of why there are so many Vietnamese refugees living in the U.S. It’s also a reminder of the ongoing militarism within American foreign policy. If any refugee group that can credibly speak against American militarism, it would be the Vietnamese Americans.

The Vietnamese American community, particularly the one that came to the U.S. as militarized refugees, is afflicted with the “refugee mentality,” a psychological state that was developed from the profound lived experiences of violence and scarcity during the American war in Vietnam. The most serious manifestation of this mentality, as you have pointed out, is the capitulation to the authorities. If you’re not an “illegal” immigrant and you’re a law-abiding citizen, you have nothing to fear. If you keep your mouth shut, we (police, the government, the authorities) will leave you alone. And it’s really an implied threat and a way for the Vietnamese American community to police itself.

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PhD candidate of politics and philosophy at ECNU.Shanghai | Of Rivers and Mountains @ jiangshan.substack.com

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