Unsettled Debts: 1968 and the Problem of Historical Memory| “Thái Bình Means Peace”: (Re)positioning South Vietnamese Exchange Students’ Activism in the Asian American Movement
Vietnamese exchange students were influential in the U.S. movement against the American war in Vietnam but are often overlooked in movement histories. To account for this pattern of omission, the author analyzes the complex politics of mythicization that has animated the Asian American Third World Left, specifically focusing on the legacy of Nguyễn Thái Bình. Bình’s arrival in the United States in 1968 was part of a U.S. Agency for International Development scholarship program designed to induct Vietnamese students into building an American-backed South Vietnamese society. Instead, many of the students joined the antiwar movement and formed Vietnamese/American antiwar organizations. Bình was deported for his activism and killed after allegedly hijacking a flight to Saigon in 1972. The mystery surrounding his death, particularly the assumption that he was assassinated, continues to influence Asian American organizers and scholars. His legacy invites analysis about the role of resonant historical myths in the production of social movements.