Earlier in this blog, I wrote about Huong, Molly’s Chinese maid. In December, 1974, Chuck, the protagonist, persuades Molly to allow him and Tuyet to use her apartment for several days. As Chuck is preparing for Tuyet’s arrival, Huong suddenly appears and offers to fix their evening meal. When Tuyet arrives, she has her own personal maid, Mai, with her. The two Vietnamese women demand that Huong leave and that Mai take over the cooking duties. When Chuck later asks Tuyet to explain, she responds:
“. . . Huong is Chinese.”
“How do you know?” Chuck said.
“She looks Chinese.” Tuyet wrinkled her nose. “The way she dresses. Her accent. Her name . . .”
The episode is based on my experience with the Vietnamese. They were prejudiced against the Chinese and accused them of faults regularly cited in any prejudice, that they smell bad, they’re dirty, ignorant, dishonest.
The irony was that these same Vietnamese looked own on Americans because of their bias against African-Americans. The difference was the source of the bias. The Vietnamese and Chinese have been at odds for more than a millennium. They have been at war repeatedly, and each looks down on the other as primitive and uncultured. The dislike is particularly striking on the Vietnamese side since their culture, language, music, and art is so deeply influenced by the Chinese. Even the name of their country, Vietnam, is Chinese. It is derived from the Chinese words yuëh nan, meaning “the troublemakers in the south.”
In short, the prejudice is illogical and not based on fact. In that respect, it is like all other prejudice.