Operation Babylift (Vietnam Adoptions 1975)

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Adoptee Connection

Page 3

By Tuan-Rishard F. Schneider

While in college in Madison, Wisconsin, I became more aware of racism. It wasn’t till I was shopping, socially drinking, or playing soccer, when I started to hear the rudest racial comments. Coming from a bigger city, things like “chink”, “gook” or whatever was never really heard. Only when I got to college at a private catholic college playing soccer did I freak out hearing that. While playing in a game in Green Bay, Wisconsin, against the state team, did I hear from the stands “Take that chink out! He’s going to hurt someone! Yes my style was aggressive, to single me out wasn’t that bad if they were to mention my number on my jersey…but they didn’t. They singled me out due to my ethnicity and used a very derogative word to cut me down. Very immature and “red neck” I thought. I didn’t let it bother me the first year playing soccer. But after the second year and third year, it got to me, and I played even nastier. I even started to yell back at the fans, and when the captains of my team told me to blow it off, I got even angrier. As I even asked the coach to say something to the referees, who were not only blind but also deaf. Being the only Asian in the conference I had no one to talk to about this. No one could relate, help defend me or support me when I needed it the most. Being away from home in another state, my parents couldn’t always be there, but by phone only. As the years passed, I noticed more diversity within the conference, and could talk to the other players from other teams. As we are still friends now and still shake our heads about the things we heard.

As the drive back from the games made me hate the state of Wisconsin even more, and a grudge against white people, I found myself getting into bar fights. It started one weekend, to another one, and then finally till I was so bad, that people wouldn’t want to go out with me wondering if I was going to cause trouble. Alcohol and anger really don’t mix I have learned. As my years in Madison became longer and an introduction to another Vietnamese guy, Vu, I started to feel a little more accepted. Talking with him, I noticed he had somewhat an identity situation too. His parents taught him Vietnamese as he spoke it only at home, but while growing up, he too wanted to just fit in. His English was perfect and his likeness between us helped me feel comfortable meeting his parents and hang out with him. I met another Vietnamese student who was like Vu, I connected the two, and the three of us were always together on the weekends. Minh Nguyen, Vu Nguyen, and me, Tuan Nguyen. Funny how that looks; we all had the same last name and hung out together. They were my support group in teaching me some of the culture I missed by taking me into their homes and eating with their families, taking me to the Tet celebration and basically making me feel comfortable with them. For once, I felt as if I was getting my “roots” back. It wasn’t much, but a start. Even though I wasn’t completely a part of their family I felt just as close to them as my parents for the time I spent in Madison, WI. I still felt a little uncomfortable when I couldn’t completely understand the conversations, knowing they were about me, but it was a factor I had to learn. When I told my new buddies whom I considered cousins about my trip to Colorado, they asked me if it was going to be like the Baltimore reunion. I wasn’t sure, but I did know that I was excited and looking forward to it.

While in Colorado, I noticed a few things: a division between adoptees, which lead to acceptance of others. It’s expected that way when people are all thrown together for the first time under our circumstances that there will be some sort of division. The reunion started and finished with hugs and joyful smiles, and ended in questions. The first night as we were set up in dormitory rooms with 5 people per room, most of us being college graduates, my room decided to throw a party, inviting everyone including parents. The next few days were learning days about some of our missing pasts and how we were prepared and finally brought to America and other countries. The one conference I attended that moved me the most emotionally was that of the fathers of the adoptees. Many people recognize and feel for the mothers who released or placed their children up for adoption. Many of us Vietnamese adoptees are children of American or other foreign fathers who fought in the war, otherwise known as “GI Babies”. Many young men had fallen in love with the beautiful women of Viet Nam, and may have gone back into the jungles to fight and die or were injured and returned back to America, or whatever country that helped the South Vietnamese army. Returning home injured wasn’t easy for the fathers who may have lost their friends in combat, but also leaving a loved one behind was even harder. A loved one whom may have had one of us.

The last day of our reunion we formed an organization, which is called VAN, the Vietnamese Adoptee Network. As the days came to an end, we again said our farewells and open new doors to new people, but we weren’t sure about is when we would have another great gathering as we just did the last two reunions. The people who organized them in past years now gave the future reunions and gatherings to us to organize.

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