The movie Blue Collar and Buddha details the prejudices against Laotian refugees expressed by the citizens of the small town called Rockford, Illinois, and the way in which said refugees handle the discrimination and stigmatization of their presence within the United States as a whole. The documentary is most definitely older because of the inappropriate language the white people used to describe the African American and Laotian populations within their town. For the majority of the scenes, the Americans drank in a bar while they discussed their disgust toward Laotians. The general consensus was that white people believed Laotian and “Indo-Chinese” individuals received enormous sums of money from the government through welfare and existed within a better socioeconomic status than native born citizens such as themselves.
The white people seemed incredibly resentful and harbored anger that could not be expressed intelligently because of their lack of poise and education on the subject. The owner of the bar in particular could not maturely explain her feelings regarding the refugees, therefore, she resorted to distasteful racial slurs. She mentioned that African American and Laotian individuals were able to purchase homes and expensive cars, when she herself who worked tirelessly barely made a living. The majority of Rockford citizens claimed that the refugees did not deserve what they received, and viewed them as immigrants rather than refugees. Refugees are people who are forced to flee their country because of extenuating factors such as religious persecution, economic crisis, or political conflicts, and do not have a choice in the matter. They seek asylum in America because of sheer necessity rather than desire. Immigrants on the other hand have time to make a decision and plan their trip to the United States of their own volition; according to the documentary, refugees have on average between two hours and two days to make a decision to leave their country and come to America because of the immediate danger surrounding them. The white Americans do not seem to understand the extent to which the Laotian immigrants experienced hardships in their nation state, therefore, they cannot sympathize with their struggles. At the same time, some of the resentment of course stems from racism rather than a lack of economic functionality.
Another group of individuals who strongly detest the Laotian presence in the United States is ironically Vietnam War Veterans. On the one hand, the men feel guilt for losing the war and simultaneously ruining the lives of Laotian, Cambodian, and Vietnamese citizens. On the other hand, they are rather angry they must put up with their noticeable presence within American, and even have to compete with them for job opportunities. Some of the men have the audacity to say that Laotian refugees are favored in terms of job opportunities, when in reality, they are very heavily discriminated against specifically because of their ethnicity and nationality. Personally, I believe that, because Vietnam Veterans were not received well upon arrival after losing the war, some of the men take their aggression out on the Laotian refugees who cannot properly speak English; they become extremely frustrated with their lack of language skills, as demonstrated by the one story a Vietnam veteran told in the documentary. He said that one man came into his place of work and demanded that he receive his money, and was acting erratically; the Vietnam Vet had to subdue the Laotian. Following this encounter, the veteran went and got intoxicated; the man was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The Laotian refugees also discussed their association with various religions, including both Christianity and Buddhism. Many of the refugees were Buddhist upon arrival, but integrated aspects of Christianity because of their gratitude towards those who helped them come into America; they became Christians as a symbol of respect. The Laotian immigrants made it quite clear they did not care what religion someone was; forcing a specific cultural practice onto another person was not their intention.
At the same time, the refugees were of course offended and distraught by the instances during which white Americans shot into Buddhist temples with the possibility of killing people. To make the matter worse, the police did not thoroughly investigate the crimes, with one officer even chalking the horrific act to the “work of kids”. Culture is extremely important to Laotian refugees, as seen through their description of the Buddhist New Year celebration, therefore, attacks against their heritage were disappointing for me to learn about. They most definitely did not intend to steal American jobs, nor flaunt their wealth derived from the impoverished American welfare system; they only came to America in hopes of building an acceptable life, which is impossible without even the smallest amount of support from American citizens. Many white people who worked in factories did see Laotian refugees as equal because of their demonstrated work ethic, with one woman calling Laotian immigrants “first-class Americans” who she would let into her home. If the majority of Rockford felt this way towards the refugees, their adjustment and daily lives would be much easier.