No Little Saigon in San Jose

A big controversy in San Jose over the naming of predominately Vietnamese American shopping area came to a head early this morning when the city council took back its decision to call it the “Saigon Business District.”

Months of protests and calls to name the area “Little Saigon” have put Madison Nguyen, the city’s first Vietnamese American council member, on the hot spot because she voted for the Saigon Business District name. Many have called for her to resign and she has been labeled a “communist sympathizer.”

About 1,000 people showed up for yesterday’s city council meeting, with a majority behind the Little Saigon option. Despite the vocal support, the council did not vote to name the district Little Saigon. Instead, it voted to put in place procedures to let business areas come up with their own names.

Politics and accusations of communist sympathizing aside, Saigon Business District sounds too serious to me. Little Saigon is more catchy, and there’s a Little Saigon in Orange County and San Francisco, and the various other “Little . . .” areas around the country, so it’s more familiar sounding as well.

It is amazing the emotions that two words can raise. Saigon, which I assume evokes memories of Vietnam before the communist takeover, is in both names in question, so maybe I’m missing what has everyone so worked up. I’m not Vietnamese and I don’t live in San Jose, so maybe someone out there can enlighten us.

This post can also be found on Hyphen magazine’s blog.