Yellow Peril in Arkansas: War, Christianity, and the Regional Racialization of Vietnamese Refugees


  • Perla M. Guerrero Temple University Press



At the intersection of Asian American studies and southern history, this article examines the racialization of Vietnamese refugees in Arkansas in 1975, when the federal government selected Fort Chaffee as a processing center for people fleeing Southeast Asia. It constructs a framework that asks how Northwest Arkansas’s history shaped government agencies’ and Arkansans’ reactions to the refugees. The responses of the state and the people to the presence of the Vietnamese reflected national factors such as the controversial nature of the Vietnam War, fear of competition in the labor market, and long-standing national anti-Asian sentiments. These concerns intersected with dynamics such as Christian beliefs including the rise of the Moral Majority and its racial overtones, states’ rights, and racial mores grounded in local history. The article draws on never-before-used sources that allow us to hear the voices of Vietnamese refugees as they awaited sponsors in Fort Chaffee. Though focused on the experience of Vietnamese refugees in 1975, it provides an entry point to analyze how regional history affects processes of racialization for other groups such as Latinas/os.