“Blue Collar and Buddha” is a documentary that takes place in Rockford, Illinois. The Documentary begins in a bar in Rockford, the people in the bar are upset about Laotian refugees coming into their communities. The documentary also interviews three Rockville residents that are Vietnam veterans who are also not thrilled about the Laotian refugees living in their community. Both the bar patrons and the veterans expressed that they felt as if the Laotian immigrants were taking away their jobs and that they had an easy life in the United States, they also said that they were “living off welfare’ and now working hard. I thought it was sort of funny how the White Rockville citizens said the Laotian refugees were not working hard enough or at all but then go on to say they are also taking all the jobs.
The documentary also interviewed people who worked in factories with the Laotian refugees. The other workers and bosses explained that the Laotians were very hard workers who often worked harder than their White counterparts and were more willing to take jobs like the ones shown. The White people who work with them and have relationships with them understand that they are hard workers and good people, and they don’t have problems with them. However, the people who don’t know the Laotians often describe them as distant, cold people.
One of the Buddhist temples was hit by a bomb. Investigators said the case was too difficult to solve, however they did not bother to get a Laotian translator, which would have helped tremendously. The fact that investigators did not make the effort to find a translator proved they did not feel it was important enough to take the time to do so. The investigators explained it was likely Nazis or a hate group of some sort, meanwhile many of the citizens in the town were talking about wanting to “spit in the faces” of the Laotian refugees.
One part of the documentary I found to be powerful was when one of the interviewee’s described that the experience of a refugee is very different from the experience of an average immigrant. He explains that refugees have to pack up and move without planning, there is no time to prepare for this major adjustment in their lives. I found this to be an especially powerful testament to how hard the refugees had worked for what they had and also how hard they worked at learning English. Many of the citizens of Rockville describe the Laotians as closed off but many of them have adopted Christianity as part of their religion and have made great efforts to learn English.
I also found it interesting how the documentary posed the perspective of the American town residents and the businesses which were hiring Laotian refugees. The Americans were disgruntled because they believed the Laotians were taking up jobs that could have been for them during the recession. However, the businesses expressed that the Laotian refugees were the reason they did not close. Particularly in the case of the furniture industry, Laotian refugees are who revived the industry after major decline from the American population retreating to other more favorable industries. The truth is, Laotians were not taking any jobs from any Americans, They were filling jobs that Americans were not interested in to begin with.
Nice job. And–how does this relate to today?
We still see a lot of the same sentiment today. Oftentimes politicians will use the argument that immigrants are taking jobs, Trump said “They’re taking our manufacturing jobs. They’re taking our money.” However, this does not hold up, because immigrants are often taking on jobs that American- born workers would not do. This tactic creates fear in the bases of the politicians and brings out voters. It also perpetuates dangerous misinformation that is harmful to immigrant groups.