‘Blue Collar and Buddha’

Blue Collar and Buddha is a documentary about Rockford, Indiana where many South-East Asians settled in. The documentary is split into two perspectives: the South-East Asians life and their daily struggles in a country vastly different from theirs and the predominantly white population of Rockford and their reactions to the new residents. The thing that stood out to me was the contrast of how Asian immigrants are doing their best to adapt and often work a lot to get by financially and how Americans perceived the Asian population as coasting by on government benefits. It was very angering seeing some of the opinions from the Americans in Rockford and how vitriolic they were to refugees and how little empathy or understanding they showed to them.

It was interesting seeing the lives of the Asian refugees and how they felt about their new homes. Especially the aspects of religion, as the documentary demonstrated a lot of Americans didn’t understand Buddhism and for the refugees, it must have been difficult maintaining their religious events in a place that largely celebrates another religion. One thing I noted was the one girl who said that she in some ways believed in two cultures and how it changed depending on how she felt and I thought that was something that many younger immigrants can relate to and something that we have explored in some of our previous readings. Showing how many refugees struggled and had to work hard to maintain their homes was integral to showing how misinformed the white population of the town was. It was upsetting seeing how many of these refugees did not come by choice and how much their lives have changed as a result of this migration.

Seeing the many interviews of people that lived in the town was insightful in how misinformed and hateful people were to the South-Eastern Asian refugees. Even the interviews that weren’t negative towards the Asian refugees still demonstrated some form of misunderstanding of these people and that was frustrating to watch. It was surprising seeing how many arguments that were made during these segments are still used today against other immigrant groups. There were some interviews where people showed a positive reaction to the Asian refugees and they were mostly people that worked with them or were heads of the community helping them adapt to the town. However, there were many people who often blamed the refugees for taking away work from citizens and for taking government money but as we see that is not true. It shows how xenophobic the town was and America in general.

Overall the documentary provided a nuanced look at the many lives of South-Eastern Asian refugees and the difficulties they had to face including the ones from the predominantly white community.

2 thoughts on “‘Blue Collar and Buddha’

  1. I agree with you. It was interesting to see the religion of the Laos population and people’s reaction to the new religion that was being introduced to the United States. I felt as if Buddhism was a new religion that most at the time, had not only heard of but could not fully understand.

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