SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2015       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Barney Duong

Clash of Classes

photoThe Vietnam War, the war between the North and South Vietnamese, began on November 1st, 1955 and ended on April 30th of 1975.  North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union of China, and other communist allies; while South Vietnam was supported by United States, and other anti-communist allies.  After many years of fighting, South Vietnamese were unable to continue and had to surrender to the communist, North Vietnam.  After the fall of Saigon, many of the South Vietnamese passes the Vietnam borders by foot and boats trying to reach other countries such as: The United States, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Philippines.  South Vietnam was called the Pearl of the Far East, there were considered as a civilized and high class nation, yet now it has become a poor and starvation country.

I was born in 1983, in a communist dictatorship country, Vietnam, a country that was affected by the aftermath of the war. I grew up in a poor village of Southern Vietnam and was in a lower class family.  As for my family and I, we were blessed enough own some lands, which were used for farming purposes.  Being raised in a lower class region, I was still happy and content with life because I had a lot of friends in school.  My fondest memories would have to be with my then close friend named Lam, my next-door neighbor.  We used to hang out on the rice field, chasing chickens, fishing, and flying kites together all day long.  Lam proclaimed that: ďI firmly believed that nothing could separate our friendship.Ē 

In 1990, my family sold some of our lands we to the business entrepreneurs, we became one of the wealthier families in our community.  We had experienced the shifting of going from lower class to the upper class groups.  Our daily lives had taken us on a 360 degrees change then.  Nevertheless, I was not happy.  Lam, my friend, was reluctant to spend time with me.  His thoughts of me had changed; he felt inferiority as he compared himself to me. Just like that, Lam and many of my friends suddenly withdrew themselves from my life.  They no longer want to be my friends; they turned on me and became bitter and envious.  What they didnít realize was that I was still that little boy that enjoys life; I hadnít changed at all. Their actions truly hurt my feeling, and felt as if I was abandoned.

         Around the late 1994, North America was a promised land that many Vietnamese and other ethnic groups dreamed of making their home land.  My family was fortunate enough to be able to make it into this dreamland through the Humanitarian Operation program.  We left everything behind us to start a brand new life in America.  Once again, we encountered another class shifting; this time it was going from an upper class to a lower class.  Learning to speak English was difficult since it is a completly different culture and language.  I often got teased by my Caucasian classmates when I mispronounced words and spoke broken English at that time. Topping off all that rough time, I met Mike, my fifth gradeís bully.  He came from an upper class family, and thought that he had white supremacy power.  He and a few other classmates mocked everybody from the lower class; and I was their favorite target.  They often laughed and hit my head as they passed by me. In my culture, the personís head is a sacred place where we honor our parents. I was fed up with their bad repetitive actions, I lost my temper and without any hesitation, I sent Mike flying with few kicks. The other kids who were picked on by Mike took the opportunity and each added in their portion of kicks and punches. Mike definitely learned a valuable lesson that day.

Was it because of the class barriers between rich and poor that distinguished who we are?  There are big gaps between different classes in this society.  People come across so judgmentally because of all these differences.  Growing up in this world, I have learned that big fishes eat smaller fishes.  The bigger fishes are used to describe the upper classes and smaller fishes are the lower classes.  Big fish always seem to be the winner, but together we could be the victorious.

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