Interview with Bang Dang

Dublin Core

Title

Interview with Bang Dang

Date

2019-01-08

Format

audio

Identifier

2019oh001_btba_007

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Betsy Brody

Interviewee

Bang Dang

OHMS Object Text

5.4 Interview with Bang Dang, January 8, 2019 2019oh001_btba_007 00:58:50 ohbtba Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans btba001 Vietnamese in North Texas Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans Bang Dang Betsy Brody mp3 oh-audio-dig-dang_b_20190108(1).mp3 1:|22(14)|51(8)|87(8)|134(7)|170(4)|195(13)|236(14)|270(11)|317(11)|350(2)|390(2)|440(7)|474(11)|514(1)|556(2)|576(3)|617(3)|656(10)|685(3)|731(2)|780(2)|813(9)|849(10)|884(8)|913(9)|978(10)|1008(1)|1036(2)|1074(16)|1104(17)|1139(10)|1161(6)|1192(10)|1218(13)|1260(1)|1298(4)|1321(9)|1348(11)|1385(5)|1412(2)|1455(8)|1491(7)|1518(1)|1539(16)|1568(5)|1604(5)|1635(8)|1664(13)|1699(10)|1735(9)|1772(8)|1798(9)|1833(5)|1854(13)|1881(11)|1903(7)|1933(11) 0 https://betsybrody.aviaryplatform.com/embed/media/114000 Aviary audio 1 Interview Introduction &quot ; Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans&quot ; 21 Early childhood in Saigon Let’s—to start out, just tell me a little bit about your background and about yourself and what you remember of your life in Vietnam. Mr. Dang describes his family's Chinese-Vietnamese heritage and how his parents met at a Catholic school in Saigon. Atheism ; Buddhism ; Catholic school ; Religion ; Vietnamese countryside ; Vietnamese-Chinese Sai Gon (Vietnam)--History. 10.8231, 106.6297 17 Saigon, Vietnam https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ho_Chi_Minh_City Wikipedia entry for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) 167 Leaving Vietnam by boat So, during—do you remember much of what was going on in your family during the war? boat ; escape ; famiy ; Hong Kong ; money ; refugees ; United States ; Vietnam War 306 Boat crashes on Hainan Island A side note is we—our boat crashed and landed near a little island in China called Hainan, and that was—so our boat was—you know, water was coming into the boat, and at night the tides rise. A lot of the people didn’t know how to swim, so we didn’t know what to do. I remember these two soldiers at the time came to the boat, and they said, you know, we couldn’t get on land. They would have to send the message to their supervisors, which would take days, right, at the time. But luckily my dad, being Chinese, he was from that province. Boats ; China ; Chinese language ; crash ; gold ; Hainan Island Boat people ; Refugees--Vietnam 18.7594480, 109.46530220 17 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hainan Wikipedia entry for Hainan Island 492 Leaving Hainan Island and traveling to Hong Kong DANG: Yeah. So in Hong Kong, I believe—I’m trying to remember chronologically— then we were put in these refugee camps at first. So if you have family, then they do the paperwork, and then they come—they can take you out of the camps and you go live with them. So, of course, my uncle came. And then I believe my aunts and uncles on a separate boat—so my grandmom had two boats. It was, you know, my immediate family with my two uncles from my mom’s— BRODY: On your mom’s side. DANG: And then the other boat was, you know, all my other uncles and aunts and my grandparents. And I believe somehow we got separated, of course, and I believe that my grandmom and grandad and my aunts and uncles came later. Hong Kong ; refugee camps Refugees--Vietnam 114.109497, 22.396428 17 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong Wikipedia page for Hong Kong 651 Temporary stay in Hong Kong, sponsorship and arrival in Texas DANG: Well, it’s funny because starting kindergarten wasn’t a problem, because, you know, we were pretty well-off when we were in Saigon, so I went to a preschool there that taught English. So I could read, like, Dr. Seuss stuff by the time— Dallas ; English ; English language ; housing ; kindergarten ; preschool ; refugee camps ; sponsors ; sponsorship Refugees--Vietnam 32.7767, 96.7970 17 764 Early years in Dallas, adults' employment, and language challenges DANG: So, I think a lot of my aunts worked at this place called Handbag, and—I mean, that was literally the name, and it was off of—as I remember, it stuck around for a long time—it was off of basically [US Highway] 75 and Forest [Lane], right before you turn—right before you can exit in the [Interstate] 635. So where all the medical buildings are right now? There was a place called Handbag. BRODY: Handbag. And what did they do? DANG: So they— BRODY: They were sewing. DANG: You know, sewing, and it was like an assembly line, making handbags. And then my uncles, they worked at, like, 7-Eleven. You know, convenience stores. So my dad did that. BRODY: Was everyone as good at English as you were? DANG: No. No, I think my parents were probably—my dad especially was probably the best at it, but even he was—you know, it was pretty rough English, you know? And then my—at the time my grandparents were still relatively young. They worked at Presby [Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas??], you know, like, doing laundry or pushing cart, you know, the stretchers and stuff. Yeah, that was about it. I think it was convenience stores, Handbag, and Presby. And then, of course, by the time you get—you know, you meet whatever other Chinese or Vietnamese really quickly because there weren’t many at the time, and then wherever they worked, right, that’s where you’re going to work. assembly lines ; convenience stores ; Dallas ; employment ; English ; Handbag ; hospitals ; jobs ; language learning ; seamstresses 862 Residential patterns and formation of of Vietnamese community in Dallas in the 1980s At the very beginning we all—everyone just lived separately. It was odd. Like, I don’t know how that happened, like, if they placed people. And obviously, they were usually the lower-income housing. But then as people started working—you know, for instance, my parents had me, and then I have another aunt who had a husband and two children at the time—they had to move out, right, at some point so that they get more space. And then that’s the same thing because it’s such a small community, whoever moved found the place, like an apartment complex that was, you know, affordable, and that’s who—you know, that’s where you would move, so pretty soon— BRODY: (speaking at same time) Right, the next move. DANG: Yeah. And then pretty soon everyone’s—it’s kind of a herd mentality, you know? So then everyone moved. And then those communities really started to form. housing ; Vietnamese community -96.6388833, 32.912624 17 1035 American customs And so she met some Americans that lived here all their—Texans who lived here all their lives, so sometimes we would hang out with them. And I just would remember that—you know, my parents mentioning certain things. Like, for instance, they said that, like, Americans seem to have this ability to really relax and let loose and have fun, you know? BRODY: And that felt different to them? DANG: You know, like they have a good laugh, and they have a good smile. Like, they seem to really enjoy life, you know? They’re not always serious all the time. I think that’s changed since then. American customs ; culture shock ; shoes Immigrants--Cultural assimilation 1191 Attending elementary at L.L.Hotchkiss Elementary School in Dallas I don’t ever—you know, I mean, to be completely honest, I mean, I had never met an African American person till I came here, but it didn’t shock me or anything, you know? Like, I wasn’t—you know, it wasn’t weird, I just hung out with whoever. You know, like, I remember my birthday parties. We had little birthday—we would get a little cake and I was allowed to invite eight people, and I would mostly invite kids from my apartment. It was mostly Hispanic children and African American children, and that was about it, you know? birthday parties ; L.L. Hotchkiss Elementary ; school ; teasing 1407 Home ownership and the American Dream DANG: In Richardson. And then from there, we were still in the apartments that fed into Liberty [Junior High School], and then that’s when my parents saved up enough money and they bought a house in Garland. And so I finished eighth grade at Liberty and then started high school, which was ninth through twelfth at North Garland [High School]. BRODY: Got it. So that was a big accomplishment for your parents— DANG: Yeah, huge accomplishment. BRODY: —to accomplish that goal of owning a house. DANG: Yeah. It was truly for them, I mean, literally the American dream. That’s for them, to own a house. BRODY: Do they ever talk about that moment, that feeling? DANG: I’m sure they were very proud, and I think my mom just wanted a house, you know, that they owned, and it was bigger and you didn’t share walls with—you know, that kind of stuff. But I think, you know, that generation, for me, they were never—it was never outwardly celebratory, you know? It was always kept inside. BRODY: Quiet accomplishment, I guess. DANG: Yeah, that kind of stuff. So you didn’t notice it. Like, there wasn’t a party or anything, but yeah, I’m sure they were happy. BRODY: Absolutely. Well, just looking at it from the outside, having come as a refugee, you know— DANG: Absolutely. And it was such a big purchase—right?—for them. You know, for anyone, but for them especially at the time. So it was—you know, it was exciting, stressful, that kind of stuff. apartments ; busing ; Garland ; home ownership ; middle school ; Richardson American Dream ; Home ownership 1558 Growing up in Dallas and forming childhood friendships I think one reason I acclimated really well was because, you know, one, I was an only child growing up, and my mom kept me pretty secluded because, you know, she was one of those that worried a lot. I had friends when I was in Saigon but very limited, you know. They would have to come over and I wasn’t allowed to go out on my own. Obviously I was young. But also because I came so young. You know, like, I know friends who came when they were in junior high or even high school, and I think they had a harder time adjusting because, you know, by then you’ve left some good friends, you don’t speak the language as well, you’re having—you’re probably too busy trying to catch up in school and, you know—and then, you know, as you get older there’s more of the cliques and all that kind of—so I didn’t have to deal with that. I was in kindergarten, you know? Kids just—I don’t even know how kids get along. You know, how they decide who to play with or who not to. They just played with everyone. So I was lucky in that sense. But by the time—you know, I made friends pretty easily. acclimation ; friendships ; Garland 1687 Reflections on discrimination, racism, diversity, and social class DANG: I just think I understand people better. I really do, and it’s a great—it really was—it’s a huge advantage because, you know, I can talk to anybody, and I just—I just, within five minutes, I kind of understand where people are coming from a little better, you know? Like if I was to use the extreme, what if I went to this very exclusive private school, say, right, and I never worked, and I went to a private college and then I just went straight to finance or something, you know, where it’s just—you know, you don’t see—but I got the total opposite. You know, like when I went to UT [University of Texas] architecture school, it was tiny, but it also had the highest SAT average in all of— at the time, in ’93. And it seemed like when I went there—because North Garland wasn’t that great of a school. I would’ve preferred to go to Berkner [High School], but you know—you probably know, you go to Richardson, you get the same house and it’s like $10,000 more, you know, because of the schools. And so when I got to UT, for instance, in the architecture program, it was mostly Caucasian, a lot of them were from Houston and really good private schools, and I remember they had all been to Europe. You know what I mean? And then like, a couple of friends, their parents were in the oil business, but they had a house in Malaysia, they had a house—and so they had been everywhere. And when they talked about current events, like, their high school, they were writing about very serious current events, and my high school we were just—you know, we were doing the—you know, like reading To Kill A Mockingbird, that kind of stuff, just normal. But BRODY: A different level. DANG: —way ahead, yeah. But I still—I adapted well, so I was all over the place. Like, I remember my first-grade teacher, she saw how well I drew and colored. So she collected it all, and then she sent it off to this program—and I think it still exists—called the Young Artists Program. It was a private art school that you went to after school on weekends or in the summer, but it was in the YMCA at Highland Park and you had to pay a lot of money. But she talked the director there into letting me go free. So when I went there I met—I remember going to arts class and there was a kid named Jed. And I went there all the way up to junior high. BRODY: Oh, really? DANG: Yeah. So my dad and my mom would take me there after school or on the weekend, their summer camp. And he would always have, like, a limo driver drop him off. So I went from—and we were still—you know, I started in first grade. So I was still living in the apartments that have been torn down, you know? So I was hanging out with, you know, just kids. BRODY: The kids, yeah. DANG: Yeah, kids that lived in apartments and low-income apartments, and then here I am in Highland Park taking art class with—you know, I just remember the things they talked about, you know? Like, we went to a movie like, two times a year, and that was a huge deal. And I remember this kid saying, “Well, my mom’s off to Europe for two weeks with her friends, so my dad said that every night he’s going to take me to a different movie.” And then he would come in and tell us about all the movies that he saw, you know? BRODY: Wow. DANG: Yeah, and then like one kid went to Disney[land] and somehow his parents hooked it up where he got to meet Michael Jackson. Like, it was just ridiculous, right? art ; discrimination ; racism ; social class ; stereotypes ; teasing ; YMCA ; Young Artists Program 2141 Impact of refugee experience on worldview and career as an architect You know, I think that—I think depending on what you want to focus on, I think a lot of refugees, you know, they risk their lives to come here. And they come here because they usually want—usually, the primary reason is always a better life for their kids. That’s always their main goal, and I think that—and I think—so my mom has fourteen brothers and sisters, and my dad has three brothers and three sisters. So I have a lot of cousins. And I was the first to go to college, because I was the oldest. But it’s kind of funny if you compare the—if you purely look at—and it’s a bad way to look at it, but for the sake of discussion—if you look at purely academics, what type of degrees you have and where you went to school and how you’re doing in your career, it’s me and the older cousins that have done the best, especially the ones that came over that were not born here. So it can’t be an accident, I think. I think it’s because—you know, I think when you’re a refugee, you understand how hard it is to even get here, you know? BRODY: And you’ve lived it. DANG: Yeah, and you’ve lived it. So sometimes, as hard as, like, running a business is, the stress and liability and all that, I mean it doesn’t compare to getting on a little boat. BRODY: And knowing that you already did that and survived. DANG: Yeah, and trying to survive that and having your boat crash. You know what I mean? So I just think that it’s a shame that maybe people don’t look at that side of it, right? architecture ; flexibility ; worldview 2334 Impressions of the Vietnamese community in North Texas DANG: It’s a really tight community. It’s still the same kind of herd mentality. Like, you’ll see—you know, like people joke about Koreans having donut shops or dry cleaners, Vietnamese doing nails. It’s just because they trust that the success of their own people in a certain field will mean success for them, you know? So that’s why they do that. It’s very tight-knit, everyone knows everybody. I think they’re really good entrepreneurs. You know, like if you think about the Korean community, for instance, it’s rare to see—you know, in my parents’ type of work, which is non-white collar, it’s rare to see a Korean person, because they either do white-collar work or they open their own shop, whatever it happens to be. You rarely see them at Handbag or—you know. entrepreneurs ; generational differences ; herd mentality ; Koreans ; Vietnamese ; Vietnamese community 2527 What it means to be American and what it means to be Vietnamese DANG: I think, you know, the house was a symbol, right? But I think it’s a symbol for, “Hey, look, I can do whatever I want in my backyard now,” you know? And the apartments you don’t really have a yard or you can’t just put whatever you want, you know? So I think it’s the freedom to choose things and to do what you want, and I think that’s ultimately for me, it’s the same, you know? To be able to open my own business. American Dream ; assimlation ; freedom ; home ownership 3016 Differences in family attitudes toward visiting Vietnam BRODY: Have you been back to Vietnam? DANG: No, I haven’t ; nor China. I’d love to go to both and see. I’d love to. Yeah, everyone who’s been back tell[s] me it’s great. I think a lot of people I know that have been back, though, didn’t come on a boat, so it’s a little traumatic. Like, my mom won’t ever go back because it just reminds her of—you know, and then there were things where, you know, when we left and when my grandparents left they just confiscated their houses and just—you know what I mean? Like it’s hard for them to go see that. So I think they don’t have as much interest. But then my aunts—my mom, you know, who had a big family, her siblings that were younger that her didn’t come until, gosh, what year? I was in junior high, so maybe mideighties or something? So they came on a plane. China ; loss of property ; return to Vietnam ; trauma 3179 Thoughts about identity and immigrant acclimation DANG: I think I’m Vietnamese Chinese American. Yeah. I think as I get older I see a lot of things I do that’s very similar to how my parents did it, and then I see some thing[s], those are very opposite, you know? BRODY: Right, right. I mean, the question of identity is really what—you know, what we’re trying to get at. DANG: Okay. BRODY: There was thinking about—you know, just in our conversation we’ve kind of learned a lot about the things that were important to you that kind of shaped your worldview, so, again, I was curious of how you thought of yourself. DANG: Yeah, and I think—you know, in the American sense I really believe in individuals. Like I just think—you know, with this country, and I know there’s people behind the scenes that we don’t give credit to, but for the most part when times are tough or even when they’re not, there’s always individuals that make huge, huge impacts. But when it comes to friends and family and people at my office, there’s this—I always think of this sort of group dynamic, you know? I never forget that I’m just a tiny little speck in the universe, you know? But then when you think about in specifically your career and what you want to do, I do believe that individuals can do immense things. identity ; individualism ; worldview Asian Americans--Ethnic identity ; Individualism 3307 Differences between Asian Americans and Asians DANG: I think the interesting for me now is looking back. Like I feel like, you know, like lately, especially in an academic setting, there’s a lot of students, exchange students, from mainland China, which, you know, my parents always raised us really as Chinese. So a lot of things people find difficult is they always think—see, with the Asians, if you’re Korean, it doesn’t matter if you’re born in Paris, you still call yourself Korean. BRODY: You’re Korean, yes. DANG: Same with the Chinese, same with the Vietnamese, you know? So they raised us as Chinese, but when I see now actual, you know, Chinese people born in mainland here, it’s really odd. Like, they seem really foreign to me because I have nothing in common with them. They have certain things that are really odd to me, you know? And my parents have visited China a few times and my dad’s very proud, and even he had a hard time. Like, for instance, at the subways, there’s no line ever, or anywhere. There’s no line. You just go. So he found that very rude, you know? Because he’s so used to having an orderly line and who’s in front of you goes first. So I find the same thing. Like, I’ve had students who were from mainland, and when I went to UT there were a couple of—and it was really difficult to interact with them sometimes because their culture is so different. BRODY: Even though you personally identify—right. (laughs) DANG: Was raised somewhat Chinese, right? Yeah, it’s just really weird, you know? BRODY: I understand that. (laughs) DANG: Yeah, so I think that’s interesting. But it’s fun to look at it that way now because I’m trying to process it and, you know, think how was I when I got here? How different did I appear to other people in my actions and all that? But it’s interesting. It’s fun to see it that way because I feel like—seeing them makes me feel more American even, you know? Because, like, I wouldn’t do that that way, you know? BRODY: Right. That’s—it really brings to light some of the differences between culture and values and norms that you’ve grown accustomed to that aren’t necessarily cultural. DANG: Right. BRODY: That’s another interesting point that you’ve raised there. DANG: And then sometimes they come here and it’s only temporary. They know that in their head, so maybe they don’t acclimate as well? BRODY: Yeah, that’s a good point too. DANG: We came here ; this is our home. Period. We’re not moving again. But they’re coming here just for college or for business a few years and then they go home, you know? They just want a degree from here or they want to say, “I worked on Wall Street for five years,” you know? So maybe they’re not as interested in acclimating, you know? BRODY: Right, the mindset. DANG: Right. So it’s totally—it’s very interesting to watch. BRODY: Do you have children? DANG: No. BRODY: No. So, sort of, that’s the next stuff, right? Thinking about what values are the values that are the ones you would want to transmit from your own parents to your children. American identity ; Asian Americans ; Asians Asian Americans--Ethnic identity BRODY: This is Betsy Brody. Today is January 8, 2019. I&#039 ; m interviewing, for the first time, Mr. Bang Dang. This interview is taking place in my office in Richardson, Texas. This interview is sponsored by the Baylor University Institute for Oral History, and is part of the Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans project. All right, thank you so much for joining me. DANG: You&#039 ; re welcome. Thanks for having me. BRODY: Let&#039 ; s--to start out, just tell me a little bit about your background and about yourself and what you remember of your life in Vietnam. |00:00:35| DANG: Okay. If I tell you too much, just let me know if you already know, (both laugh) but I was born in Saigon in 1974. My family is actually Chinese. A lot of people don&#039 ; t know that back in the seventies, Saigon was mostly Cantonese speaking, and mostly ©Baylor University 2 Chinese folks had immigrated there. So I grew up learning Cantonese and a little bit of Vietnamese because my dad&#039 ; s side of the family lived in the countryside, which is-- BRODY: In Vietnam still. DANG: --in Vietnam. Well, they&#039 ; re here now, but at the time. So they spoke mostly Vietnamese because the countryside was mostly Vietnamese and Vietnamese-speaking people. And then my mom&#039 ; s side of the family, a huge family, was always in Saigon. And my mom was actually raised by nuns in a sort of missionary Catholic school. |00:01:34| BRODY: Okay. Did you grow up Catholic, then? DANG: No, because my dad wasn&#039 ; t--my dad was basically atheist, you know? Closest thing would be Buddhist, but really atheist. And so that&#039 ; s how my parents met, because my dad lived in the country, but for better secondary school experience my grandmother sent him to Saigon to go to the same Catholic school that my mom had grown up in. That&#039 ; s how they met. And so that&#039 ; s where I was born. BRODY: Okay, great. And then you lived in the city. DANG: Yeah, lived in the city. We lived in a little high-rise condo, you know, tiny little thing, and it was mostly just my parents and me at the time because all the family lived separately. But we would visit my mom&#039 ; s side of the family quite a bit because they were in Saigon. And if I remember correctly, I think my mom&#039 ; s side of the family ran a sort of ©Baylor University 3 plumbing business, you know, with pipes and--plumbing parts business, and so yeah, that&#039 ; s how I grew up. BRODY: And did you go to the countryside very much? DANG: Yeah. I would go, if I remember, I&#039 ; d say at least five, six times a year. BRODY: Wow. DANG: And then that was always fun. We&#039 ; d stay, you know, a couple of weeks. |00:02:48| BRODY: So, during--do you remember much of what was going on in your family during the war? DANG: No. I believe by the time I was born that was pretty much over. BRODY: It was over, okay. DANG: Yeah, that was over, so I didn&#039 ; t have to deal much with that. |00:03:01| BRODY: So when you came to the United States, what were the circumstances of your migration here? DANG: So we came on a boat ; we were refugees. We actually landed in Hong Kong when I was about four, and my grandmom on my dad&#039 ; s side had planned it all, so she had sent one of my uncles--my dad was the oldest ; he was maybe the second oldest-- ©Baylor University 4 because he didn&#039 ; t have family. Then so she had sent him to Hong Kong knowing that there&#039 ; s a fair chance we may land there. BRODY: How much earlier had she sent him? DANG: I want to say five, six years. BRODY: Okay, so she was pretty forward-thinking, then. DANG: Right, so that he would be settled and then she kept sending him money to save for us when we got there. BRODY: From the plumbing business? DANG: Well, this was my dad&#039 ; s side. BRODY: (speaking at same time) Oh, your dad&#039 ; s side, and the farm--yeah, okay. |00:03:48| DANG: I&#039 ; m sorry, yeah, it&#039 ; s confusing. So she was in all kinds of different--I always say she&#039 ; s kind of like the--like, if she was here she would be like, Warren Buffet, you know? (Brody laughs) She was really--she was seriously the--is still the smartest family member we have and just very--you know, not averse to risk-taking, and she just always found ways to run different businesses and take care of everyone. BRODY: And she was thinking far ahead if she sent him to Hong Kong. DANG: Right, right. She sent him to Hong Kong and she had set up all the boats for us to--you know, for us to go. ©Baylor University 5 BRODY: How many of you were going on the boats? DANG: Well, my dad has three brothers and three sisters, and then my grandparents. And then she also took two of my uncles from my mom&#039 ; s side, and then, of course, us four. So, you know, whatever that added up to be. |00:04:40| BRODY: Right. And so you went on the boats directly to Hong Kong? DANG: Yeah. Well, we really--you know, these weren&#039 ; t really--one, it was illegal, right? And then two, it wasn&#039 ; t--these sailors were not the best, so that&#039 ; s just from stories we had heard, that that&#039 ; s kind of where people landed. Sometimes you landed in Malaysia or sometimes you got captured by pirates and you never make it, or sometimes-- |00:05:06| BRODY: What was it like for you as a small child on that boat? Do you remember much? DANG: I just remember it being really crowded. I remember just always seeing ocean, right? Just endless ocean. And I think we were on there for about a month and a half, total. A side note is we--our boat crashed and landed near a little island in China called Hainan, and that was--so our boat was--you know, water was coming into the boat, and at night the tides rise. A lot of the people didn&#039 ; t know how to swim, so we didn&#039 ; t know what to do. I remember these two soldiers at the time came to the boat, and they said, you know, we couldn&#039 ; t get on land. They would have to send the message to their supervisors, ©Baylor University 6 which would take days, right, at the time. But luckily my dad, being Chinese, he was from that province. BRODY: Oh! DANG: So he spoke their language, you know? BRODY: That&#039 ; s convenient. That worked out. DANG: Yeah. BRODY: So was he able to interpret, then? DANG: Yeah. He was able to talk to them. And so we followed them on land, and when we--when a lot of refugees from Vietnam get on these boats they bring, like, gold and jewelry, watches, because they don&#039 ; t know if the cash would do anything wherever they landed. So they made a trade with us, that they would take that, and then they would feed us, and then they would fix our boat. |00:06:36| BRODY: Wow, so at this point, you&#039 ; re on land, on this little island. DANG: Yeah. We&#039 ; re on land. They put us in a big warehouse. BRODY: Do you remember your feelings at that time? DANG: Yeah, I remember. I remember, you know, we always got really simple rice soup every day. I remember the locals being really nice, because our warehouse had these little ©Baylor University 7 clear story that the window--you know, the glass was gone and they would throw potatoes through at night for us, you know? Just--they would cook-- BRODY: Just to help. DANG: --the potatoes and then threw them in there for us. And I remember everyone were on bikes. So that little island, I don&#039 ; t know if you know, is a sort of tourist--it&#039 ; s like Vegas now. BRODY: Now. |00:07:19| DANG: Yeah. But back then it was all fishermen and--you know. So I remember, like-- I remember events like, you know, one time they had two chairs in the warehouse and the whole village would get in line for a haircut, you know? I remember things like that, you know? Or these trucks would come in and unload, you know, like foods and dry goods, and then based on how many were in your family, you got tickets to go-- BRODY: To go take everything. DANG: Yeah. So we watched that, and I mean, obviously we didn&#039 ; t participate. We were just getting what we were getting. So I remember--and just I remember when we left on the boat that the whole village was on the banks, and they waved goodbye to us-- BRODY: Waving goodbye. DANG: Yeah, just really nice people, you know? ©Baylor University 8 BRODY: And you&#039 ; d stayed for a month and been welcomed there. DANG: Yeah. BRODY: So did you know the end--the timing of how long you&#039 ; d be there when you got there? Or was it just sort of-- |00:08:19| DANG: I didn&#039 ; t know, but I&#039 ; m sure they told us maybe-- BRODY: (speaking at same time) They had a sense of the month or so, um-hm. DANG: --you know, three weeks or whatever it took to fix the boat. And then from there we got to Hong Kong, and I remember that with the Coast Guard, you know, really loud saying, you know, get your boats to here and dock here, and don&#039 ; t jump in the water. There&#039 ; s sharks. BRODY: (speaking at same time) So it was a--right, there was a procedure. DANG: Yeah. And then I don&#039 ; t remember a lot of the paperwork and all that, you know? I just don&#039 ; t remember that. BRODY: Well, you were a kid. DANG: Yeah. I don&#039 ; t remember that. I just remember the big events like coming to land or something like that. BRODY: Did your parents seem calm? Were they worried? ©Baylor University 9 DANG: I think at some point you&#039 ; ve been out to sea so long and, you know, you always know it&#039 ; s a risk to do this. I think they were just--they were just happy to be on land, you know? BRODY: Finally, right, being there. Then, so from Hong Kong, how did you end up in Texas? |00:09:16| DANG: Yeah. So in Hong Kong, I believe--I&#039 ; m trying to remember chronologically-- then we were put in these refugee camps at first. So if you have family, then they do the paperwork, and then they come--they can take you out of the camps and you go live with them. So, of course, my uncle came. And then I believe my aunts and uncles on a separate boat--so my grandmom had two boats. It was, you know, my immediate family with my two uncles from my mom&#039 ; s-- BRODY: On your mom&#039 ; s side. DANG: And then the other boat was, you know, all my other uncles and aunts and my grandparents. And I believe somehow we got separated, of course, and I believe that my grandmom and grandad and my aunts and uncles came later. BRODY: Okay. Came here. DANG: Came to Hong Kong later. BRODY: To Hong Kong later, okay. |00:10:14| ©Baylor University 10 DANG: Yeah. And then--but somehow they got to go to the US before we did. And then I think at that time--California, by that time, had taken a lot of refugees. So I think they were starting to encourage--when you get to the point where you have to decide, they were encouraging, you know, other states. BRODY: Other states, sure. DANG: And Texas was a big one. So I think my grandmom and grandad and uncles and aunts went to Texas, Dallas. And so obviously, naturally, then, that&#039 ; s-- BRODY: You would follow. DANG: --since we came after them, that&#039 ; s where we ended up. BRODY: So did you make that decision in Hong Kong, in the camp there? DANG: Yes, um-hm. BRODY: Okay, so you&#039 ; d decide where you-- |00:10:58| DANG: Well, we came out and lived for a year, actually, and my parents got a job and-- you know? BRODY: And then you just decide, make decisions. DANG: I went to preschool and stuff like that. BRODY: Oh, did you? ©Baylor University 11 DANG: Yeah. And so--because it takes time. Because my grandparents had to settle here first, get everything, you know, settled, and then they had to sponsor us, so they-- BRODY: They sponsored--so they were your sponsors, not an outside voluntary agency. DANG: Exactly. That&#039 ; s right, that&#039 ; s right. Yeah. So that took a while. |00:11:23| BRODY: So that answers that. So when you initially got to Texas, did you just move in with your grandparents then? DANG: Yeah, (laughs) there was a lot of people in one small place. BRODY: Yeah. Do you remember how many? What was that like? DANG: It was everyone. So three uncles, three aunts, my grandparents, my mom, my dad, and me. BRODY: Where was that house? DANG: Shady Brook? BRODY: Okay, in Dallas. DANG: So yeah. It&#039 ; s kind of near--it&#039 ; s kind of off of Walnut Hill at the time--I mean, all these places are gone now--and on the west side--yeah, on the west side. |00:12:05| ©Baylor University 12 BRODY: Over there. So at this point you were--so, preschool, or maybe kindergarten- aged? DANG: I hadn&#039 ; t started kindergarten because my birthday was late, you know? So I was going to start the year after that. BRODY: The year after. And how was your language at this point? You&#039 ; ve been around the block, (laughs) language-wise. DANG: Well, it&#039 ; s funny because starting kindergarten wasn&#039 ; t a problem, because, you know, we were pretty well-off when we were in Saigon, so I went to a preschool there that taught English. So I could read, like, Dr. Seuss stuff by the time-- BRODY: By the time you got here. DANG: Yeah. So it wasn&#039 ; t really that big of a deal. |00:12:39| BRODY: So that&#039 ; s--I mean, that was fortunate for you, as that makes the transition easier. So you&#039 ; re all living there off Walnut Hill, and what were your parents--what were the adults--in your recollection, what were they doing in terms of work or getting-- DANG: Yeah. So, I think a lot of my aunts worked at this place called Handbag, and--I mean, that was literally the name, and it was off of--as I remember, it stuck around for a long time--it was off of basically [US Highway] 75 and Forest [Lane], right before you turn--right before you can exit in the [Interstate] 635. So where all the medical buildings are right now? There was a place called Handbag. ©Baylor University 13 BRODY: Handbag. And what did they do? DANG: So they-- BRODY: They were sewing. DANG: You know, sewing, and it was like an assembly line, making handbags. And then my uncles, they worked at, like, 7-Eleven. You know, convenience stores. So my dad did that. BRODY: Was everyone as good at English as you were? DANG: No. No, I think my parents were probably--my dad especially was probably the best at it, but even he was--you know, it was pretty rough English, you know? And then my--at the time my grandparents were still relatively young. They worked at Presby [Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas??], you know, like, doing laundry or pushing cart, you know, the stretchers and stuff. Yeah, that was about it. I think it was convenience stores, Handbag, and Presby. And then, of course, by the time you get--you know, you meet whatever other Chinese or Vietnamese really quickly because there weren&#039 ; t many at the time, and then wherever they worked, right, that&#039 ; s where you&#039 ; re going to work. BRODY: Right, word of mouth. DANG: Yeah. (laughs) BRODY: Right. So that was what I was going to ask you. I mean, you may not know because you were young, but, you know, some people, their experience was that they ©Baylor University 14 were matched up with jobs through the agencies and the like, but it sounds like your family story is more word of mouth and-- DANG: Right. Right, right. |00:14:38| BRODY: And speaking of the community, it sounds like, you know, obviously it was relatively small-- DANG: Yeah, very small. BRODY: --at the time that you came. What do you remember about that community? Are there--you know, were there get-togethers? DANG: At the very beginning we all--everyone just lived separately. It was odd. Like, I don&#039 ; t know how that happened, like, if they placed people. And obviously, they were usually the lower-income housing. But then as people started working--you know, for instance, my parents had me, and then I have another aunt who had a husband and two children at the time--they had to move out, right, at some point so that they get more space. And then that&#039 ; s the same thing because it&#039 ; s such a small community, whoever moved found the place, like an apartment complex that was, you know, affordable, and that&#039 ; s who--you know, that&#039 ; s where you would move, so pretty soon-- BRODY: (speaking at same time) Right, the next move. DANG: Yeah. And then pretty soon everyone&#039 ; s--it&#039 ; s kind of a herd mentality, you know? So then everyone moved. And then those communities really started to form. ©Baylor University 15 Because at first, I think when everyone got here, for one reason or another, everyone was really spread out. But then pretty soon in different--you know, there&#039 ; d be like three apartment complexes between Garland and Richardson where everyone was--you know, everyone knew each other. BRODY: Right and probably is comforting, especially for those who didn&#039 ; t know English as well and to be able to get some advice. DANG: Right. And then as soon as, you know, if they have a big family, they started sponsoring their siblings and they moved there, you know, and then pretty soon you have this little community. |00:16:17| BRODY: Did you enjoy being part of that community? Was there-- DANG: Yeah. I mean, obviously I went to school and I had other friends, you know? But, yeah, I did, because I think that--that was a really, you know, good time for my parents because they were--you know, they were young and they were working. No one had much money, but, you know, it was a totally different world, right? So like, going downtown or going to NorthPark Mall [NorthPark Center] back in the day was a big deal, you know? And that&#039 ; s how it worked, right? Like, if your tooth ached, whoever had gone to the dentist first, that&#039 ; s who you asked, and you would go to that dentist, right? (Brody laughs) So that&#039 ; s kind of how, you know-- BRODY: Was a network, yeah. ©Baylor University 16 DANG: Yeah. If you never bought a car, then the person [who] had bought a car would go with you, you know, to show you how you do the title and everything, and that&#039 ; s just kind of how it worked. |00:17:10| BRODY: Built-in advice and learning. Yeah, people remember, you know, being surprised by some customs or sort of how things are done. It sounds like the community kind of helped with that. Do you remember any American customs that surprised you, or Texan customs that surprised you? DANG: I&#039 ; m sure it surprised my parents, but I was so young, you know? Like my--you know, something very stereotypical, but they were surprised when my friends came over that they didn&#039 ; t take their shoes off, you know? That they would just trek through the place. BRODY: Yeah. Did your family continue to maintain the custom of taking shoes off? DANG: Now--yeah, they have a separate pair they wear in the house, but, yeah, so all my friends had to take their shoes off. (both laugh) What else? Customs? No, I would just--I remember hearing my parents, you know, like, the few times they would meet my friends&#039 ; parents or see them or--you know, my mom worked at a little restaurant at NorthPark that was called The Magic Pan. BRODY: Oh yeah. (laughs) ©Baylor University 17 DANG: I don&#039 ; t know ____??____. (laughs) And so she met some Americans that lived here all their--Texans who lived here all their lives, so sometimes we would hang out with them. And I just would remember that--you know, my parents mentioning certain things. Like, for instance, they said that, like, Americans seem to have this ability to really relax and let loose and have fun, you know? BRODY: And that felt different to them? DANG: You know, like they have a good laugh, and they have a good smile. Like, they seem to really enjoy life, you know? They&#039 ; re not always serious all the time. I think that&#039 ; s changed since then. (both laugh) BRODY: Little bit. |00:19:04| DANG: Yeah. And--what else, customs. Oh, like--this is a weird one, that they thought was weird. Like, the Chinese--like, they&#039 ; re always fighting over the bill, you know, usually. BRODY: Yes, yes. DANG: You know, when y&#039 ; all go out. But they were like, it&#039 ; s odd, these people can be really good friends, but it&#039 ; s just a custom, you know everyone pays for their own meal. There&#039 ; s no reason to say, &quot ; Oh, I&#039 ; m going to get you this time. You get me--&quot ; It&#039 ; s just not as often, right? BRODY: (speaking at same time) Right. It&#039 ; s not part of the-- ©Baylor University 18 DANG: I mean, we do that sometimes, but not as often as they do. Like, you&#039 ; re always fighting for the bill back in the day. So little things like that. BRODY: Little things like that that you noticed. DANG: Yeah. I don&#039 ; t remember anything that really shocked them. |00:19:50| BRODY: Right. In your own experience of going to school--you know, so English, you were reading and you could speak, and so that part of the transition was fine, but what school did you go to? DANG: L. L. Hotchkiss [Elementary School]. BRODY: Okay. And you started there in kindergarten? DANG: Yeah, kindergarten. BRODY: And do you remember, were there a lot of other Vietnamese in your class, or not at all? DANG: No, zero. BRODY: So where you were living there really--at that point-- DANG: Yeah. So mostly I had white and black and some Mexican friends. That was it. No Asians. BRODY: So tell me what you remember about kindergarten and that experience. ©Baylor University 19 |00:20:28| DANG: And quickly about that, because a lot of my parents&#039 ; friends were slightly younger than them, so they didn&#039 ; t have kids. BRODY: (speaking at same time) They didn&#039 ; t have kids yet. DANG: Some of them were not even married. BRODY: Okay, so you were the pioneer. (laughs) DANG: So they either had--yeah. They either had kids that were in junior high or high school, or no kids. So it was fine because, you know, as kids you don&#039 ; t know, right? Now, my name was made fun of a lot, obviously. BRODY: Oh, was it? (laughs) DANG: That was about it. But as kids we just all played together, you know? BRODY: Right. And so you were really not aware of differences or-- DANG: No. I wasn&#039 ; t really aware. I don&#039 ; t ever--you know, I mean, to be completely honest, I mean, I had never met an African American person till I came here, but it didn&#039 ; t shock me or anything, you know? Like, I wasn&#039 ; t--you know, it wasn&#039 ; t weird, I just hung out with whoever. You know, like, I remember my birthday parties. We had little birthday--we would get a little cake and I was allowed to invite eight people, and I would mostly invite kids from my apartment. It was mostly Hispanic children and African American children, and that was about it, you know? ©Baylor University 20 BRODY: How about school, schoolwork itself? Was it--you just didn&#039 ; t know anything different, it sounds like. DANG: Yeah, it was--you know, it was easy at the time. (Brody laughs) |00:21:42| BRODY: And would--for your parents, being--you know, having gone to school in Vietnam and then now being parents in a whole different school system and culture, were there any challenges there that you remember? DANG: I think they were just in survival mode, you know? So I was actually left alone a lot because they had to--you know, I would wear a little necklace with my key, and I was pretty much left alone. And then sometime[s] my aunts and uncles would come and bring us food or something, you know, knowing that my parents weren&#039 ; t there. Yeah. So I was pretty self-sufficient. I would, you know, do my own homework and just--and I would be--I could--you know, by first grade I could cook ramen noodles or something, you know? BRODY: (laughs) That&#039 ; s pretty amazing(??). DANG: But they usually left me food, obviously. You know, leftovers or something. And I was allowed to go out and play because I had my key, and, you know, yeah. I think they were in total survival mode. You know, my mom worked at different places like a sandwich shop. She didn&#039 ; t know how to drive yet and we couldn&#039 ; t afford two cars, so she would have to walk to work, you know, so it had to be places that were close. And then if my dad was home from work and the timing worked out, he would drive her. So ©Baylor University 21 eventually they worked it out where my dad worked a night/graveyard shift at 7-Eleven so that, you know, there would be someone home during the day, but he slept obviously, and so I pretty much tended to myself a lot of times. BRODY: Did you have siblings? DANG: I do, but-- BRODY: Not at that time? DANG: Not at the time, and they planned it that way. They wanted to get a house and all that before they had another kid. |00:23:25| BRODY: Makes sense. So going forward, you know, in your schooling, where did you go next, in terms of middle school and-- DANG: Oh, middle school. Okay, so we lived in--you know, when we were in L. L. Hotchkiss, and that&#039 ; s another reason most of my friends that I hung out with were not Caucasian because the way it worked was that apartment bused to L. L. Hotchkiss, but then all the Caucasian kids mostly lived in single-family houses, so it was harder to, like, schedule people to drive over for birthday parties or sleepovers or anything like that. So when I was in third grade--before third grade, we moved to this apartment on Plano Road, because that was another sort of herd mentality, right? Like, these--a lot of people moved so we moved with them, and that was starting Forest Ridge Elementary [School]. That fed into-- ©Baylor University 22 BRODY: In Richardson? DANG: In Richardson. And then from there, we were still in the apartments that fed into Liberty [Junior High School], and then that&#039 ; s when my parents saved up enough money and they bought a house in Garland. And so I finished eighth grade at Liberty and then started high school, which was ninth through twelfth at North Garland [High School]. |00:24:51| BRODY: Got it. So that was a big accomplishment for your parents-- DANG: Yeah, huge accomplishment. BRODY: --to accomplish that goal of owning a house. DANG: Yeah. It was truly for them, I mean, literally the American dream. That&#039 ; s for them, to own a house. BRODY: Do they ever talk about that moment, that feeling? DANG: I&#039 ; m sure they were very proud, and I think my mom just wanted a house, you know, that they owned, and it was bigger and you didn&#039 ; t share walls with--you know, that kind of stuff. But I think, you know, that generation, for me, they were never--it was never outwardly celebratory, you know? It was always kept inside. BRODY: Quiet accomplishment, I guess. DANG: Yeah, that kind of stuff. So you didn&#039 ; t notice it. Like, there wasn&#039 ; t a party or anything, but yeah, I&#039 ; m sure they were happy. ©Baylor University 23 BRODY: Absolutely. Well, just looking at it from the outside, having come as a refugee, you know-- DANG: Absolutely. And it was such a big purchase--right?--for them. You know, for anyone, but for them especially at the time. So it was--you know, it was exciting, stressful, that kind of stuff. |00:25:57| BRODY: So Garland, of course, has a very large Vietnamese population. At the point that you guys moved to Garland, was that already pretty established? DANG: No. It still wasn&#039 ; t, and I think it was--that must&#039 ; ve been &#039 ; 88. So when I was there--by the time I graduated, absolutely. Now, absolutely. But even then, I always kind of got in at the beginning, you know? So there were a few, but not really. |00:26:27| BRODY: I mean, what is that like for you, then? I mean, it&#039 ; s a whole different experience when you come and you are, you know, everybody&#039 ; s one friend who&#039 ; s come as a refugee from Vietnam. What are your recollections of your own, you know, feelings around going through childhood and adolescence in this part of Dallas and Texas, being different? DANG: Sure. And I think one reason I acclimated really well was because, you know, one, I was an only child growing up, and my mom kept me pretty secluded because, you know, she was one of those that worried a lot. I had friends when I was in Saigon but ©Baylor University 24 very limited, you know. They would have to come over and I wasn&#039 ; t allowed to go out on my own. Obviously I was young. But also because I came so young. You know, like, I know friends who came when they were in junior high or even high school, and I think they had a harder time adjusting because, you know, by then you&#039 ; ve left some good friends, you don&#039 ; t speak the language as well, you&#039 ; re having--you&#039 ; re probably too busy trying to catch up in school and, you know--and then, you know, as you get older there&#039 ; s more of the cliques and all that kind of--so I didn&#039 ; t have to deal with that. I was in kindergarten, you know? Kids just--I don&#039 ; t even know how kids get along. You know, how they decide who to play with or who not to. They just played with everyone. So I was lucky in that sense. But by the time--you know, I made friends pretty easily. |00:28:05| BRODY: So it was just a nonissue. And what about discrimination or racism or anything like that? Was that something you were aware of, or-- DANG: I think it was more of the silly kid stuff. Like, my name and--I remember when I--you know, when I was younger, like, first through third grade, people would always want to have a fight with me because they thought I knew martial arts. (Brody laughs) You know, it was this total stereotype, but I can honestly say I--besides, like, just the teasing once in a while or, you know, you walk across the street and you meet someone who&#039 ; s just blatantly racist or something, I don&#039 ; t--I&#039 ; ve told someone this--I&#039 ; ve never felt like I didn&#039 ; t get something because of my race since I&#039 ; ve been here. And maybe I&#039 ; m blind to it, I&#039 ; m lucky. I just never--you know, whether it was a scholarship or a job position, I just never--that has never happened. ©Baylor University 25 BRODY: That&#039 ; s great. DANG: In fact, I think because my name is so odd, people remember, you know? And-- yeah, I just never--honestly never felt that. |00:29:10| BRODY: That is good news. You mentioned earlier that back in Vietnam your family was pretty well off, and then upon coming here, you know, again, being in survival mode-- DANG: Just starting over. BRODY: --and having--starting over. Was that sort of shift in social class or circumstance, was that something that was discussed in your family, or do you recall any challenges that were posed by that particular shift? DANG: Yeah, I think--you know, my mom never worked a day in her life until she came here. BRODY: Really. DANG: You know, she never had to. And so that was tough on her, but they were so sort of--my parents are so determined. You know, they suffer well, right? (Brody laughs) But I know that must&#039 ; ve been hard because she&#039 ; s never worked her entire life, and my dad worked but it was kind of like--you know, he worked in, like, helping build ships, but it wasn&#039 ; t like a hard, stressful--like, he didn&#039 ; t work because he needed the money to make a living. I mean, my grandmom had it taken care of. So I think that was a huge change for ©Baylor University 26 them. And then--but once again, like, I didn&#039 ; t know any better, because, you know, I lived in the apartments where all the other kids&#039 ; parents were probably at work too, and they were left alone a lot. So it wasn&#039 ; t like I experienced this amazing life and remembered all of that, and then we had to move to a tiny little place, you know? BRODY: Right, you just--it was what you knew. DANG: Yeah. I remember we lived well in Saigon, but I was so young, you know? It wasn&#039 ; t like I was already spoiled or anything, so I didn&#039 ; t really--you know, I didn&#039 ; t know, you know? BRODY: Yeah. And for them it was just they were surviving and happy to be here. DANG: Yeah. I just remember not having them both together a lot, because they had to take turns being at the--working at different times so someone would watch over me. So I remember that. I remember missing that, like, why are we not all hanging out, you know? |00:31:16| BRODY: Yeah, that&#039 ; s--but how it had to be until-- DANG: Yeah, right. BRODY: --later. Your friends growing up in the apartment were--it was a diverse group. How has that childhood that you had and that experience of being in a pretty multiracial and multicultural environment in your formative years here in Texas, how has that shaped your ideas about what it means to be an American? ©Baylor University 27 DANG: I think--I just think I understand people better. I really do, and it&#039 ; s a great--it really was--it&#039 ; s a huge advantage because, you know, I can talk to anybody, and I just--I just, within five minutes, I kind of understand where people are coming from a little better, you know? Like if I was to use the extreme, what if I went to this very exclusive private school, say, right, and I never worked, and I went to a private college and then I just went straight to finance or something, you know, where it&#039 ; s just--you know, you don&#039 ; t see--but I got the total opposite. You know, like when I went to UT [University of Texas] architecture school, it was tiny, but it also had the highest SAT average in all of-- at the time, in &#039 ; 93. And it seemed like when I went there--because North Garland wasn&#039 ; t that great of a school. I would&#039 ; ve preferred to go to Berkner [High School], but you know--you probably know, you go to Richardson, you get the same house and it&#039 ; s like $10,000 more, you know, because of the schools. And so when I got to UT, for instance, in the architecture program, it was mostly Caucasian, a lot of them were from Houston and really good private schools, and I remember they had all been to Europe. You know what I mean? And then like, a couple of friends, their parents were in the oil business, but they had a house in Malaysia, they had a house--and so they had been everywhere. And when they talked about current events, like, their high school, they were writing about very serious current events, and my high school we were just--you know, we were doing the--you know, like reading To Kill A Mockingbird, that kind of stuff, just normal. But they were obviously-- |00:33:44| BRODY: A different level. ©Baylor University 28 DANG: --way ahead, yeah. But I still--I adapted well, so I was all over the place. Like, I remember my first-grade teacher, she saw how well I drew and colored. So she collected it all, and then she sent it off to this program--and I think it still exists--called the Young Artists Program. It was a private art school that you went to after school on weekends or in the summer, but it was in the YMCA at Highland Park and you had to pay a lot of money. But she talked the director there into letting me go free. So when I went there I met--I remember going to arts class and there was a kid named Jed. And I went there all the way up to junior high. BRODY: Oh, really? DANG: Yeah. So my dad and my mom would take me there after school or on the weekend, their summer camp. And he would always have, like, a limo driver drop him off. So I went from--and we were still--you know, I started in first grade. So I was still living in the apartments that have been torn down, you know? So I was hanging out with, you know, just kids. BRODY: The kids, yeah. |00:35:00| DANG: Yeah, kids that lived in apartments and low-income apartments, and then here I am in Highland Park taking art class with--you know, I just remember the things they talked about, you know? Like, we went to a movie like, two times a year, and that was a huge deal. And I remember this kid saying, &quot ; Well, my mom&#039 ; s off to Europe for two weeks with her friends, so my dad said that every night he&#039 ; s going to take me to a ©Baylor University 29 different movie.&quot ; And then he would come in and tell us about all the movies that he saw, you know? BRODY: Wow. DANG: Yeah, and then like one kid went to Disney[land] and somehow his parents hooked it up where he got to meet Michael Jackson. Like, it was just ridiculous, right? BRODY: Right. DANG: And so I&#039 ; ve always been in those situations, and I--so, from a very young age, I interacted with people from all ranges of life, and I think that&#039 ; s huge for me-- BRODY: You&#039 ; re flexible. DANG: --right now, huge. Like, in my business I deal with people from all parts of life. |00:36:01| BRODY: What do you do now? Are you working as an architect? DANG: Yeah. So me and my business partner, we own an architecture firm. BRODY: What kind of buildings do you design? DANG: We mostly do residential multifamily, but we do some commercial. We&#039 ; re starting to get some commercial. So, you know, we work for just a couple who wants an addition to, you know, to a person who owns a golf course. You know? So-- BRODY: So that flexibility goes-- ©Baylor University 30 DANG: Yeah, knowing how people work and how they see the world. You know, and then of course we&#039 ; re on job sites, you know, looking over work from contractors and subcontractors. So you meet people, and I just think growing up like that really-- BRODY: Was an asset. DANG: --was immense. |00:36:47| BRODY: And in particular the refugee experience, how has that informed your worldview? Just having come that particular way? DANG: Especially these days, right? Dang. You know, I think that--I think depending on what you want to focus on, I think a lot of refugees, you know, they risk their lives to come here. And they come here because they usually want--usually, the primary reason is always a better life for their kids. That&#039 ; s always their main goal, and I think that--and I think--so my mom has fourteen brothers and sisters, and my dad has three brothers and three sisters. So I have a lot of cousins. And I was the first to go to college, because I was the oldest. But it&#039 ; s kind of funny if you compare the--if you purely look at--and it&#039 ; s a bad way to look at it, but for the sake of discussion--if you look at purely academics, what type of degrees you have and where you went to school and how you&#039 ; re doing in your career, it&#039 ; s me and the older cousins that have done the best, especially the ones that came over that were not born here. So it can&#039 ; t be an accident, I think. I think it&#039 ; s because--you know, I think when you&#039 ; re a refugee, you understand how hard it is to even get here, you know? ©Baylor University 31 BRODY: And you&#039 ; ve lived it. DANG: Yeah, and you&#039 ; ve lived it. So sometimes, as hard as, like, running a business is, the stress and liability and all that, I mean it doesn&#039 ; t compare to getting on a little boat. BRODY: And knowing that you already did that and survived. DANG: Yeah, and trying to survive that and having your boat crash. You know what I mean? So I just think that it&#039 ; s a shame that maybe people don&#039 ; t look at that side of it, right? |00:38:53| BRODY: Right, right. Well, that makes me think about just some generational differences within the community. Are you still involved and active in the Vietnamese community in Dallas? DANG: I&#039 ; m not as much, actually. I&#039 ; m pretty active in the architectural community, and I&#039 ; m very active within UT--Arlington because I taught there for five years. BRODAY: Oh, did you? DANG: So, you know, I&#039 ; m pretty--so that kind of takes a lot of my time. |00:39:24| BRODY: Right. Just looking then from the outside, what are your perceptions of the Vietnamese community in Dallas or North Texas right now? I mean, it&#039 ; s now been, you ©Baylor University 32 know, forty-something years since the first people came. What kind of a community is it, from your perspective? DANG: It&#039 ; s a really tight community. It&#039 ; s still the same kind of herd mentality. Like, you&#039 ; ll see--you know, like people joke about Koreans having donut shops or dry cleaners, Vietnamese doing nails. It&#039 ; s just because they trust that the success of their own people in a certain field will mean success for them, you know? So that&#039 ; s why they do that. It&#039 ; s very tight-knit, everyone knows everybody. I think they&#039 ; re really good entrepreneurs. You know, like if you think about the Korean community, for instance, it&#039 ; s rare to see--you know, in my parents&#039 ; type of work, which is non-white collar, it&#039 ; s rare to see a Korean person, because they either do white-collar work or they open their own shop, whatever it happens to be. You rarely see them at Handbag or--you know. BRODY: Whereas the Vietnamese community--maybe, do you think that has something to do with language when they got here, or-- |00:40:50| DANG: I think--if I had to guess, I think the Korean community is the most tight-knit. Like if you open a barbershop, the Koreans will go to you, because it&#039 ; s a Korean barbershop, you know? BRODY: Right. DANG: Like, even at Chinese restaurants, you rarely see Koreans. But you&#039 ; ll see Chinese at Korean restaurants. They support each other&#039 ; s business. They buy insurance from each other, you know, and I think that&#039 ; s why they&#039 ; re able to start their own business more. ©Baylor University 33 BRODY: Right, right, whereas the Vietnamese community, you think, is maybe different? DANG: They&#039 ; ll just go where the prices are good, just like anyone else, I think, you know? BRODY: Yeah, okay, I see what you mean. DANG: So whereas Koreans are very--you know, like you go into any Korean bakery, it&#039 ; s mostly Koreans. BRODY: That&#039 ; s an interesting observation, yeah. DANG: Like, yeah--like, you go to an Indian restaurant and you&#039 ; ll see Chinese and every--but you don&#039 ; t hardly see Koreans. |00:41:43| BRODY: Yeah. I know that--I don&#039 ; t know if you&#039 ; re involved in any of the churches or the-- DANG: No, I think I kind of took my dad&#039 ; s side where I&#039 ; m kind of atheist. (laughs) BRODY: (laughs) I hear you. DANG: And my mom is very lightweight Catholic, you know? She&#039 ; ll go a couple of times a year. BRODY: Right. So it&#039 ; s not--that was not a factor at all-- ©Baylor University 34 DANG: No, that has not been much of a factor. |00:42:02| BRODY: --in the integration process. So, just trying to think about, you know, some of the things that we&#039 ; ve discussed today. You know, in your own experience it seems that your parents as well as yourself really assimilated very smoothly into life here, and when you think, though--when you think back and look back at your life and your family&#039 ; s experience, you know, you talked about the American dream. What does it mean, to you, to say, you know, your family has lived the American dream or that you have? What does that mean to you? DANG: I think, you know, the house was a symbol, right? But I think it&#039 ; s a symbol for, &quot ; Hey, look, I can do whatever I want in my backyard now,&quot ; you know? And the apartments you don&#039 ; t really have a yard or you can&#039 ; t just put whatever you want, you know? So I think it&#039 ; s the freedom to choose things and to do what you want, and I think that&#039 ; s ultimately for me, it&#039 ; s the same, you know? To be able to open my own business. BRODY: Right. To have that kind of freedom. |00:43:12| DANG: Yeah. The freedom to open my own business. And before I forget, one thing I wonder, actually, when you talk to all these refugees and immigrants and especially the Vietnamese immigrants, I&#039 ; ve always wondered this myself is: there is someone who had a very similar experience than me, if for some reason they--at least on the surface, they kept more of the culture. Like, you can see. You know? Like, maybe they know how to ©Baylor University 35 cook Vietnamese better than I do. Maybe they--some reason or another, their friends are mostly Vietnamese, whereas mine are all over the place, even though they went to college. I would be really curious. I&#039 ; ve always wondered that, because I have Vietnamese friends that are like that. They&#039 ; re friends with me, but most of their friends are Vietnamese. And I always wonder why--how--we lived a very similar life, you know? And I&#039 ; m curious, have you found that? BRODY: Yeah. I mean, some people say that the culture and that sort of the age that they were at when they came and how many family members they lived with and all of that shapes the passing on of the values. I would--you know, just to kind of go on that theme, want to kind of explore with you--I mean, what values or cultural, I don&#039 ; t know, identity would you ascribe to Vietnamese themselves? |00:44:54| DANG: I think very family-oriented--and this is some Chinese, too--very willing to take care of the parents when they&#039 ; re old. Usually pretty frugal, always thinking of their kids instead of themselves. And I have to say, it&#039 ; s changed since. BRODY: How so? DANG: I think we&#039 ; re all becoming more Americanized, whatever that means. BRODY: Yeah, that&#039 ; s what I was wondering. What do you think that means? DANG: Yeah, my parents&#039 ; generation, it&#039 ; s almost embarrassing if you don&#039 ; t take care of your elders. But then the newer generation, it&#039 ; s like, &quot ; Oh, we can&#039 ; t live with them,&quot ; right? ©Baylor University 36 Like, we can take care of them but we&#039 ; re not living together in the same house, you know? (laughs) That&#039 ; s just not--that&#039 ; s--I think that&#039 ; s more how I feel-- BRODY: Getting Americanized? DANG: Yeah, Americanized. BRODY: More individual. DANG: Yeah, individual. Oh, like I still see my parents once a week, at least. That&#039 ; s really important. BRODY: So that&#039 ; s a key part of the being Vietnamese and maintaining that contact with the family. DANG: Yeah, yeah. Right. So, you know--what else? |00:46:20| BRODY: The language? Do you still speak the language? DANG: Yes. I speak very little Vietnamese, I speak some Cantonese. BRODY: I assume with your parents, then, it&#039 ; s Cantonese primarily? DANG: Um-hm, yeah. But then if I see my aunts and uncles and my grandmom, we&#039 ; d speak in Vietnamese. Yeah. Hardworking. Education always being super important. BRODY: Right. Did your parents really encourage you to keep going? ©Baylor University 37 DANG: Oh yeah. Yeah, very much so. Very much so. And then there&#039 ; s always these, like, stereotypes, right? Like Ivy League schools being really important, you know. And I&#039 ; m still talking about their generation. I think it&#039 ; s changed now where sports were not really that encouraged, you know, but musical instruments and art was really encouraged. You know? Like that kind of stuff, I mean, that was to T. Like even my sister who&#039 ; s ten years younger, all her and her friends were forced to play piano (laughs) even though they had no interest in that, you know? BRODY: (laughs) I think many of us were. DANG: Yeah, I know. It&#039 ; s very similar. But, yeah, I think family is a huge value, and not to say that Americans in general are not, but it&#039 ; s just a really high priority. BRODY: Yeah. It&#039 ; s an interesting question that you posed, though: the differences between different people with similar experiences. |00:47:40| DANG: Right. But one thing I&#039 ; ll tell you that&#039 ; s interesting is--so I&#039 ; m very similar in that, you know, I see my parents and try to take care of the elderly. But when it came to them making decisions for my life, I totally went against the grain. BRODY: Oh really? DANG: Yeah. BRODY: What did they want you to do? ©Baylor University 38 DANG: They probably wanted me to do--you know, be a doctor or lawyer or something like that, and I just wasn&#039 ; t interested in terms of my social life, and I just never-- somehow I never-- BRODY: But they were supportive of that art-- DANG: Yes, they were, but they--you know, you could--you know, it was definitely not how they would choose, and that&#039 ; s the same thing as when I talked about earlier where some kids would just do that, right? Okay, I&#039 ; ll go do that. But I was completely against the grain on that. And, you know, I don&#039 ; t know why that was. I just--I don&#039 ; t know how that worked out, why me. You would think my younger cousins would be like that, but I--yeah, I just never in any--pretty much any part of my life, like--you know, like Vietnamese parents are very--they&#039 ; re very supportive, but they&#039 ; re--you know, like most middle-class Vietnamese, if their kids can get into any college, they can pay for it. That&#039 ; s usually what their goal is, right? Or their goal. BRODY: College. |00:49:15| DANG: Yeah. They&#039 ; re supportive, but they&#039 ; re also kind of controlling, you know? Like, okay, you&#039 ; re going to play the piano and then you&#039 ; re going to do this. You&#039 ; re going to go become a doctor. You&#039 ; re going to go--you know? You&#039 ; re going to live in the dorm for-- you know. So they&#039 ; re very--but, one, my parents couldn&#039 ; t afford to do that, so maybe they had to let me choose myself, or where you&#039 ; re going to buy a house and all that. I made all those decisions-- ©Baylor University 39 BRODY: Yourself? DANG: --myself. And I didn&#039 ; t really--I didn&#039 ; t really take advice very seriously, I guess? I don&#039 ; t know why. Maybe that&#039 ; s just a personality trait. I don&#039 ; t know if it-- BRODY: Right. Well, and having had the freedom as you were growing up to make those decisions. DANG: Right. But that&#039 ; s different, I think, from most, especially ones that came here very early and were born in Vietnam. I think it was, &quot ; Okay, Mom and Dad wants me to do this. I&#039 ; m going to do it.&quot ; |00:50:12| BRODY: Yeah, that it&#039 ; s like another cultural difference. Have you been back to Vietnam? DANG: No, I haven&#039 ; t ; nor China. I&#039 ; d love to go to both and see. I&#039 ; d love to. Yeah, everyone who&#039 ; s been back tell[s] me it&#039 ; s great. I think a lot of people I know that have been back, though, didn&#039 ; t come on a boat, so it&#039 ; s a little traumatic. Like, my mom won&#039 ; t ever go back because it just reminds her of--you know, and then there were things where, you know, when we left and when my grandparents left they just confiscated their houses and just--you know what I mean? Like it&#039 ; s hard for them to go see that. So I think they don&#039 ; t have as much interest. But then my aunts--my mom, you know, who had a big family, her siblings that were younger that her didn&#039 ; t come until, gosh, what year? I was in junior high, so maybe mideighties or something? So they came on a plane. ©Baylor University 40 BRODY: They came--yeah, much later. DANG: So they go back all the time, you know? They love it, you know, to go back and see their friends and all that. But most of my parents&#039 ; friends are here, you know, because they were the same age, they went on a boat, and so my parents don&#039 ; t have as much of an urge to go back. BRODY: And a tie? DANG: Yeah, but they--my aunts and uncles go back all the time. BRODY: Yeah, so, I mean, like we were talking about before, the timing matters a lot. DANG: Yeah, absolutely. And they probably feel more acclimated there than here, even today. |00:51:39| BRODY: So is your whole family--is everyone still in this area? DANG: Well, my mom&#039 ; s side&#039 ; s all over the place, yeah, (laughs) because there&#039 ; s so many of them. But my dad&#039 ; s side? Yes, they&#039 ; re all here. All of them. BRODY: Do you get together as a family? DANG: Yeah, yeah. I&#039 ; d say--I see my immediate family more, but maybe three, four times a year, absolutely. And now I see my cousins more, yeah. |00:52:06| ©Baylor University 41 BRODY: Okay. Well, that&#039 ; s good. Is there--I&#039 ; m just trying to make sure that we covered everything. Oh, thinking about politics. Is that something that you&#039 ; re kind of on top of in terms of either here or in Vietnam? DANG: Well, my dad is very--he&#039 ; s very sort of China-centric, so, you know, I got him all these Chinese channels, so he watches this and he&#039 ; ll tell me all that, so I hear a lot about that. I don&#039 ; t know much about the politics in Vietnam. I know a little bit about politics and where I stand here, but no, not in Vietnam. I don&#039 ; t keep up very much. BRODY: Yeah, because you didn&#039 ; t really live there. DANG: Yeah, I didn&#039 ; t really live there, so, you know-- |00:52:58| BRODY: Do you think of yourself as Vietnamese American, American, or some other label? DANG: I think I&#039 ; m Vietnamese Chinese American. Yeah. I think as I get older I see a lot of things I do that&#039 ; s very similar to how my parents did it, and then I see some thing[s], those are very opposite, you know? BRODY: Right, right. I mean, the question of identity is really what--you know, what we&#039 ; re trying to get at. DANG: Okay. ©Baylor University 42 BRODY: There was thinking about--you know, just in our conversation we&#039 ; ve kind of learned a lot about the things that were important to you that kind of shaped your worldview, so, again, I was curious of how you thought of yourself. DANG: Yeah, and I think--you know, in the American sense I really believe in individuals. Like I just think--you know, with this country, and I know there&#039 ; s people behind the scenes that we don&#039 ; t give credit to, but for the most part when times are tough or even when they&#039 ; re not, there&#039 ; s always individuals that make huge, huge impacts. But when it comes to friends and family and people at my office, there&#039 ; s this--I always think of this sort of group dynamic, you know? I never forget that I&#039 ; m just a tiny little speck in the universe, you know? But then when you think about in specifically your career and what you want to do, I do believe that individuals can do immense things. |00:54:45| BRODY: I agree, I agree, and I think your family story and your story is a testament to that. Well, those are about all the questions I have, but is there anything else or any other stories that you would like to share or that I&#039 ; ve forgotten to ask? DANG: I think the interesting for me now is looking back. Like I feel like, you know, like lately, especially in an academic setting, there&#039 ; s a lot of students, exchange students, from Mainland China, which, you know, my parents always raised us really as Chinese. So a lot of things people find difficult is they always think--see, with the Asians, if you&#039 ; re Korean, it doesn&#039 ; t matter if you&#039 ; re born in Paris, you still call yourself Korean. BRODY: You&#039 ; re Korean, yes. ©Baylor University 43 DANG: Same with the Chinese, same with the Vietnamese, you know? So they raised us as Chinese, but when I see now actual, you know, Chinese people born in mainland here, it&#039 ; s really odd. Like, they seem really foreign to me because I have nothing in common with them. They have certain things that are really odd to me, you know? And my parents have visited China a few times and my dad&#039 ; s very proud, and even he had a hard time. Like, for instance, at the subways, there&#039 ; s no line ever, or anywhere. There&#039 ; s no line. You just go. So he found that very rude, you know? Because he&#039 ; s so used to having an orderly line and who&#039 ; s in front of you goes first. So I find the same thing. Like, I&#039 ; ve had students who were from mainland, and when I went to UT there were a couple of--and it was really difficult to interact with them sometimes because their culture is so different. BRODY: Even though you personally identify--right. (laughs) DANG: Was raised somewhat Chinese, right? Yeah, it&#039 ; s just really weird, you know? BRODY: I understand that. (laughs) |00:56:56| DANG: Yeah, so I think that&#039 ; s interesting. But it&#039 ; s fun to look at it that way now because I&#039 ; m trying to process it and, you know, think how was I when I got here? How different did I appear to other people in my actions and all that? But it&#039 ; s interesting. It&#039 ; s fun to see it that way because I feel like--seeing them makes me feel more American even, you know? Because, like, I wouldn&#039 ; t do that that way, you know? BRODY: Right. That&#039 ; s--it really brings to light some of the differences between culture and values and norms that you&#039 ; ve grown accustomed to that aren&#039 ; t necessarily cultural. ©Baylor University 44 DANG: Right. BRODY: That&#039 ; s another interesting point that you&#039 ; ve raised there. |00:57:45| DANG: And then sometimes they come here and it&#039 ; s only temporary. They know that in their head, so maybe they don&#039 ; t acclimate as well? BRODY: Yeah, that&#039 ; s a good point too. DANG: We came here ; this is our home. Period. We&#039 ; re not moving again. But they&#039 ; re coming here just for college or for business a few years and then they go home, you know? They just want a degree from here or they want to say, &quot ; I worked on Wall Street for five years,&quot ; you know? So maybe they&#039 ; re not as interested in acclimating, you know? BRODY: Right, the mindset. DANG: Right. So it&#039 ; s totally--it&#039 ; s very interesting to watch. |00:58:20| BRODY: Do you have children? DANG: No. BRODY: No. So, sort of, that&#039 ; s the next stuff, right? Thinking about what values are the values that are the ones you would want to transmit from your own parents to your children. ©Baylor University 45 DANG: Right, right. BRODY: Well, thank you so much for your time and-- DANG: You&#039 ; re welcome, I hope I was able to give you some stuff to work with. BRODY: No, this was amazing. I really appreciate your time and sharing your memories. It&#039 ; s an important story and I&#039 ; m glad that we can record your part of it. Thank you. DANG: Okay. Well, thanks for having me. end of interview All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. audio Interviews may be reproduced with permission from the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. 0

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“Interview with Bang Dang,” Becoming Texans Becoming Americans, accessed February 5, 2023, https://becomingtexansbecomingamericans.org/items/show/60.