April 30: The Fall By-The-Numbers

April 30, 2010

Every year on April 30, I comb through any and all news articles featuring the words “Fall of Saigon.” The top images are familiar scenes -- black and white photographs of Vietnamese chaotically scrambling for the last departing helicopters, of the broken gates that once surrounded South Vietnam’s Presidential Palace. I read through the accounts of Vietnamese, now Americans, relaying a pain and anger that still lingers over three decades later. The stories may vary geographically, spanning San Jose to Georgia, but the heartbreak has its common traits: a memory of fruitless violence, a recollection of torn families, a vow never to forget, a condemnation of whomever thought the war was a good idea in the first place.

Today, dubbed “Black April” by the Vietnamese American community, I mark the 35th anniversary of a somber memory with a slightly different approach -- a by-the-numbers portrait of what has been recorded about post-Fall Vietnamese America. Pulled from the 2000 Census and the 2008 American Community Survey among other non-Wikipedia sources, the data is a mixture of the resilience, challenges, and complexities associated with being Vietnamese American -- highlighting that the byproducts of the war persist in everyday life.

  • 35: The number of years since the Fall of Saigon 
  • 1.73 million: The estimated number of Vietnamese living in the United States as of 2008 
  • 135,548: The estimated number of Vietnamese Americans living in Orange County as of 2000, the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam 
  • 78: The number of US cities that between 2003 & 2005 passed resolutions recognizing the yellow flag of South Vietnam as the “Vietnamese Heritage and Freedom Flag” 
  • $6.8 billion: The estimated annual amount of money sent back to Vietnam in the form of remittances 
  • $55,667: Median household income for Vietnamese Americans as of 2008 
  • $70,069: Median household income for “single-race Asians” as of 2008
  • 24: Percentage of Vietnamese Americans who hold a Bachelor’s degree 
  • 62: Percentage of Vietnamese Americans who are considered “Limited English Proficient” by the US Census 
  • 40: Percentage of nail salon licenses held by Vietnamese Americans
  • 1: Number of Vietnamese Americans serving in the US Congress 
  • 2 out of 3: Number of Vietnamese Americans who voted for George W. Bush in 2004 and John McCain in 2008