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While the slavery of Africans and the genocide of Native Americans are familiar topics to many, what the Chinese in America endured remains an unfamiliar subject to most. Severe acts of racism and discrimination—pogroms, massacres, mass expulsions and near-genocidal policies—were perpetrated against the Chinese, but the facts surrounding this Chinese chapter in American history are largely neglected or suppressed, and certainly not taught in standard school text books. Official mentions of the topic, if any, are anemic at best and tend to emphasize the concessions granted to the Chinese or the few reparative steps taken by the US government, which, as a rule, came as too-little-too-late for many Chinese Americans.
There has been no intentional negative focus in the creation of this article. A factual rundown of all major historical events affecting the Chinese in America will readily show that most landmark developments—from the founding days of the USA to recent decades—simply were detrimental for them. The American treatment of its own ethnic-Chinese population (among others) and the ethno-specific targeting of this particular group of fellow immigrants leaves a lot to be desired.
To be fair, not everything bad that happened to the Chinese in America should be construed as being solely due to ethnic persecution. During the Great Depression, San Francisco Chinatown residents perpetuated and capitalized on negative stereotypes, such as staging “spontaneous” knife fights between “opium-crazed” triad members for passing guided-tour groups to attract visitors. Additionally, there were situations created by the Chinese community, particularly in the 1960s, that brought on justifiable police raids and ensuing investigations, such as their underground sweat-shop operations and human trafficking, etc. Yet, similar activities by other groups, such as the Italian-American mafia, have not resulted in any wholesale ethnic discrimination that was written into law, as in the case of the Chinese.
Do civil rights apply to Asian Americans?
When Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her bus seat to a white man in 1955, it sparked civil disobedience, boycotts and a mass movement against racial segregation. Yet, when civil rights finally gained a foothold for African Americans and a new tide of racial-sensibilities began to be the default, they would come much later for the Chinese:
Until 1965, when the Magnuson Act was repealed, Asians were not only barred from immigration, but Asian Americans in all 50 states, including US citizens, were legally disfranchised and subjected to high rents and punitive taxes.
In 1982, a Chinese American was bludgeoned to death in a racially motivated attack in Detroit. His killers walked free with a mere $3,000 fine, with the judge ruling that they were “not a threat to society” by virtue of their being gainfully employed citizens at the time of the murder.
Until 2001, US laws against ethnic-Chinese immigration and property ownership (Alien Land Acts) remained intact in states such as Wyoming.
In 2011—2013, Asians continued to be openly denigrated by perpetrators who expect impunity, asserting that their behavior falls entirely within the acceptable norm. A UCLA student Alexandra Wallace posted a YouTube video of her rant against Asians that went viral... US-born basketball superstar Jeremy Lin was stereotyped, patronized and called names in the US mainstream media, such as “two-inch penis,” “fortune cookie,” “yellow mamba,” “kung fu grip,” “chink in the armor,” “FOB” and “from Taiwan” ... Following
the crash of Asiana flight 214 at San Francisco Airport, California's KTVU broadcasted a report with fake pilot names: “Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk” and “Bang Ding Ow,” while other mainstream media was rife with mentions of “Fright 214” ... Los Angeles band, Day Above Ground, released Asian Girlz, a music video comprising highly derogatory, sexist-racist lyrics, and subsequently defended it as a “celebration of Asian women.”... ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live aired a segment suggesting that the US kill all Chinese people to resolve its US$1.3 trillion trade imbalance with China.
Squinty Asian chink-eye jokes are considered harmless fun by many. Would it have been equally acceptable if Disney girl Miley Cyrus (third from left) and her pals had pulled out their lower lips to make “fat-lip nigger” jokes to highlight a lone African-American in their midst?
In 1995, the US federal Glass Ceiling Commission found that Asian Americans are paid less than whites in most occupational categories—even after controlling for educational level, immigrant status and other variables. In strict social-science terms, the data is robust: Asian Americans and whites are not treated equally, and the difference can be attributed either to race or to nothing at all.
In 2009, an exhaustive study published by sociologists at Princeton Uinversity found that when measured on an all-things-being-equal basis, Asian Americans were required to score at least 140 points higher than whites on standardized tests, in order to qualify for admission into top universities.
Asians, who currently represent 5% of the US population, continue to be severely underrepresented as a minority group in movies. Asian actors were still being funneled into negative stereotyped roles.
(Hollywood is yet to grant a starring role to an Asian male unless it is innseparable from their identity as a foreigner with martial-arts skills. Asian females are portrayed as sexually available to Caucasians and occasionally African-Americans, while Asian males are desexualized and never shown as consummating a relationship with a Caucasian female. See Hollywood Asian stereotypes.) Negative media perceptions were identified as a factor affecting relationships. Marriage statistics in the US—considered the world’s largest melting pot—revealed the lowest rates of intermarriage for Asian males (as opposed to Asian females). Follow-up studies indicated various social dynamics at play in terms of racial preferences/discrimination, and that Asian males are shunned and considered the least preferred partner for practically
all other ethnicities:
Married couples in the United States, 2010 (thousands)
The phenomenon is not isolable to cultural dissimilation. Follow-up studies indicate that Asian male adoptees who were brought up in Caucasian households with completely Anglo-Saxon environments encounter a lack of acceptance by Caucasian females.
Early Chinese Settlers in the Americas
When did the Chinese arrive in America?
*Genetic evidence found in Amerindians’ (maternally inherited) mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) supports the theory of pre-Columbian multiple genetic founding populations migrating from Asia. The evidence suggests the migration was by sea and not via ice-age land routes as previously assumed.
If the accounts of the Chinese buddhist monk Hui Shen , who visited a land he called Fusang, are anything to go by, then in 450 AD, the Chinese traveled along what can only be the West Coast of America, southward from present-day British Columbia, to Baja California. If you believe in the theories of Gavin Menzies as put forth in his book, 1421, or Henriette Mertz’ Perl Ink (1953), or the findings of Col. Barclay Kennon (who served on the US North Pacific Surveying Expedition in 1871), or Charles Godfrey Leland (1824-1903), or Sinologist Karl Friedrich Neumann (1793-1870), the Chinese have been in the Americas for centuries, perhaps even millennia,
long before the first European settlers arrived. There is also genetic evidence to support this.*
According to European records, the Chinese came to the Americas from the onset, alongside some of the first European explorers, traders and settlers:
From 1541 to 1746, Spanish records show the existence of Chinese shipbuilders in present-day southern California.
In 1565, Chinese sailors arrived in the Americas aboard Spanish ships. A number of Chinese and Filipino crewmen jumped ship after being forced to work as slave labor on the Manila Galleons, transporting cargoes of Chinese luxury goods to Acapulco, Mexico. Some of these Chinese former sailors became small-store owners in Mexico by the 1600s; some allegedly moved north, towards modern-day Louisiana. Chinese shopkeepers were already in Los Angeles when the first Anglo-Americans arrived.
In 1785, the ship, Pallas, skippered by John O’Donnell, was left stranded in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, and had a crew of 32 East Indian lascars (Asians) and 3 Chinese seamen named Ashing, Achun and Aceun.
In 1788, Chinese sailors arrived in Hawaii serving under Captain John Meares onboard the British ship, Iphigenia Nubiana, which was engaged in the lucrative black-market fur trade between the northwest coast of America and racketeers/merchants on coastal China. Within years, the Chinese former sailors establish sugar plantations in Hawaii and export sandalwood to China. Captain Meares also brought Chinese sailors to work in Nootka Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
While the Chinese generally fared better than Native Americans and African slaves, a gray-zone distinction was made in many American states to tentatively class the Chinese as fellow-immigrants with very limited rights.
The questions that beg to be asked are:
Why were the Chinese—who were arguably just as “entitled” as the Europeans were to the New World, and who could be argued to have had just as manifest a destiny as the “whites,” if not more—subjected to such a high level of persecution? Does their belonging to a minority group explain everything? What conclusions could be drawn from events in the timeline below?
History timeline of Chinese immigration and anti-Chinese activity in the USA
1541-1746: Spanish explorers and settlers document the presence of Chinese shipbuilders in current-day southern California.
1565, 1587: Chinese sailors arrive in the Americas aboard Spanish ships. A number of Chinese and Filipino crewmen jump ship to escape slave labor aboard the Manila Galleons, used for transporting cargoes of Chinese luxury goods to Acapulco, Mexico.
1600s: A number of Chinese former sailors establish themselves as small-store owners in present-day Mexico and some begin moving north towards modern-day Louisiana. Chinese shopkeepers are well-established in Los Angeles by the time the first Anglo settlers arrive.
The Manchurian Qing Dynasty comes to power in China after deposing the Ming. Ming loyalists and disfavored classes flee to coastal areas such as the Pearl River Delta in Canton, which becomes a hotbed of anti-Qing activity. In constant fusion with foreign traders for the next 200 years, a new rebellious middle-class of innovative and entrepreneurial merchants (all racketeers as far as the Qing government is concerned) arises. It is from Toishan, in this region, that the majority of Chinese immigrants to America will come.
1830s: Following their exploitation by a circus, the Siamese Twins (ethnically Chinese-Thais), Chang and Eng Bunker, go into business for themselves and tour America for seven years as part of a curiosity display. Representing the only Asians most Americans have ever seen, they create and reinforce the image of Asians as being freaks of nature. The twins become celebrities protected by their great wealth, eventually settling down in North Carolina in 1839 and become naturalized citizens (despite the 1790 statute that nonwhites are ineligible for citizenship). They buy a plantation with slaves, and become practically the only Asians to be accepted as fellow Americans in that era.
Historical records indicate the presence of Chinese “sugar masters” living in Hawaii and Chinese peddlers and sailors in New York.
1833: The British Parliament enacts the British Slavery Abolition Act but continues to allow exceptions to the rule until the 20th century. Slave labor is procured by contracting slave owners for the servitude of existing slaves, often referred to as “indentured labourers” or “coolies”—a derogatory term used for unskilled Asian workers.
1834:The Chinese Lady (Julia Foochee Ching-Chang King, later given the moniker Afong Moy by her circus agents), the first documented Chinese female to come to America, arrives in New York. She is marketed as a cultural and curiosity exhibit. Thronging crowds pay to see her and her tiny feet, which are deformed by the Chinese practice of foot binding.
1839: The Qing government of China confiscates and destroys a British stockpile of 23,000,000 lbs (1.04 million kgs) of opium destined for the illegal Chinese market. In retaliation, the British military seizes the Chinese port cities of Amoy, Canton, Ningpo, Shanghai and Nanking.
1840s-1870s: Various European powers claim jurisdiction of China’s port cities, where the Chinese are relegated to second-class citizens in their own country. Unfair treaties result in the Qing government shifting the burden of indemnities to peasants throughout China. Europeans buy, trick or capture 750,000 “coolies”—Asian slaves and/or indentured labor—and trade them in the port cities of Macao, Hong Kong and Amoy, all of which are under the control of the British, in direct contravention of the British Slavery Abolition Act passed in 1833. Most of the coolies are shipped to South America and the Caribbean to replace declining African labor populations. Up to 45% of the coolies typically die at sea. A large number also ends up in Hawaii or mainland America.
1847: The British cut off funding to warehouses along the Pearl River, causing more than 100,000 laborers to lose their jobs. Unable to support their families, some decide to seek their fortunes in America. Most of them unwittingly sign life-time contracts with slave contractors in order to emigrate.
1848: The first “documented” Chinese from Canton province arrive in San Francisco. (Although this is the official version of US history, many other Chinese immigrants were in fact documented as having preceded this particular group of immigrants in San Francisco and other parts of the US.) A few months later, a Chinese resident writes home to his relatives in Canton, China, to share the news that gold has been discovered in Sutter’s Mill, California, near the Sacramento River.
1849: Hundreds of Chinese, virtually all of them male, arrive in California. At least 300 gather nightly at a Chinese restaurant in Jackson Street, San Francisco, which is still a frontier town at this time.
1850s: Shiploads of Chinese laborers numbering in the thousands, mostly from Toishan Province in Canton, China, arrive in San Francisco in search of a gold. They bring with them pump and sluice technology learned from other Chinese tin miners in British Malaya. The media refers to Chinese immigrants as “Celestials,” a term derived from their status as subjects of the “Son of Heaven”—the Chinese Emperor. The patronizing term reinforces the notion that all Chinese are inherently foreign, eternally inassimilable and “unearthly.”
1850: About 450 Chinese arrive in California.
California introduces a Foreign Miner’s Tax which is imposed exclusively on Chinese miners, who are frequently made to pay the taxes more than once.
Millions of innocents in regions such as Canton, China, suffer immense hardships when the Qing government brutally crushes uprisings such as the Taiping Rebellion. Large numbers opt to emigrate in order to support their families. Most settle in the surrounding countries of Asia, while some 25,000 head for America within the next year.
1851: Some 3,000 Chinese immigrants arrive in San Francisco. DuPont Street springs up as the center of a new Chinatown in San Francisco. Chinese eating houses become popular and are patronized by people of all races. Wah Lee opens the first laundromat in San Francisco, “localizing” the laundry process and undercutting an established business (dirty laundry is sent to China for cleaning and returned 6 to 9 months later).
A Caucasian writer describes the sounds of orchestras at Chinese mining camps as the “wailings of a thousand lovelorn cats, the screams, gobblings, braying and barkings of as many peacocks, turkeys, donkeys, and dogs.”
1852: There are 195 Chinese contract laborers land in Hawaii.
More than 20,000 Chinese arrive in San Francisco. Two Chinese miners discover a giant 240 lb. nugget of gold, arousing bitter jealousy among white miners. The Californian Committee on Mines and Mining declares the presence of the Chinese “a great moral and social evil—a disgusting scab upon the fair face of society—a putrefying sore upon the body politic—in short, a nuisance.”
There are 27,000 Chinese in California. Governor John Bigler urges the creation of special taxes on the “coolies” to stop the “tide of Asiatic immigration.” The California legislature enacts the Commutation Tax law to discourage the Chinese from coming to the US, and the Foreign Miners License Law, a monthly fee payable in gold dust, to penalize the Chinese already living in California. The fee is arbitrarily increased in the years that follow. Corrupt tax collectors assault Chinese miners in order to extort extra taxes.
California Governor John Bigler further calls for an exclusionary law to bar Chinese immigration altogether.
1853: In People v. Hall, the California Supreme Court reverses the conviction of Hall who was found guilty of the murder of a Chinese man, Ling Sing, on the grounds that the testimony of a Chinese, who belongs to an “inferior caste of people who are non-citizens,” is inadmissible in court in accordance with prevailing race laws. The Court extends to Chinese people, a ban already in place prohibiting “Negroes” and “Indians” from testifying for or against white people. Ling Sing’s case gives rise to the phrase, “not a Chinaman’s chance.”
With the ethnic Chinese population having no possibility of legal redress, white miners act with impunity, systematically expelling Chinese miners from their sites. Chinese miners resort to prospecting abandoned claims. Their willingness to work together helps some of them find gold, despite the fact that these sites were considered exhausted of gold.
The Chinese community living on DuPont Street (Chinatown) in San Francisco are made to pay, on average, 2½ times the rent that white tenants pay.
The San Francisco Daily Alta California describes the Chinese as: “morally a far worse class to have among us than the Negro. They are idolatrous on their religion—in their disposition cunning and deceited [sic], and in their habits libidous and offensive [...] they are not of that kin that Americans can ever associate or sympathize with. They are not our people and never will be, though they remain here forever [...] They do not mix with our people and it is undesirable that they should, for nothing but degradation can result to us from the contact [...] It is of no advantage to us to have them here. They can never become like us.”
With immunity granted by the Supreme Court to any and all perpetrators, White-on-Chinese crimes increase. Mexican bandit Joaquin Murrieta descends on Chinese mining camps and kills 19 Chinese miners after robbing them of their gold. The Chinese place a bounty on his head and he is killed.
1854: The slave-trading ship Libertad arrives in San Francisco after 80 days at sea, with only 180 coolies—one fifth its original slave cargo—surviving.
The Gold Hill premiers, becoming possibly the first Chinese newspaper published in America.
Some 13,000 Chinese arrive in North America.
1855: Alabama congressman William Russell Smith proposes the exclusion of all Chinese from citizenship based on an argument of religion: “How long, sir, will it be before a million Pagans with their disgusting idolatries, will claim the privilege of voting for American Christians or against American Christians? How long before a Pagan shall present his credentials in this Hall, with power to mingle in the councils of this Government? The American Party demands a law to prevent it.”
1856: Friendly Shoshone and Bannock (Native American) Indians lead some Chinese prospectors to the Boise Basin (modern-day Idaho), where they find more gold than they can carry.
Mariposa County miners give the Chinese 10 days to vacate the area, or face 39 lashes and eviction by force of arms.
In El Dorado County, white miners torch Chinese camps, destroy their equipment and turn away new arrivals of Chinese miners.
The US signs a series of treaties known as the Treaties of Tienjin, forcing China to open its ports and grant concessions of land in China. (While it is often noted that the United States did not control any settlements in China, they shared British land grants and were invited to take land in Shanghai. The US turned the offer down only because the land was thought to be disadvantageous.)
1858: California passes a law barring the entry of Chinese and “Mongolians.”
All Chinese children are barred from attending public schools in San Francisco.
1859: Chinese fishermen establish themselves on Catalina Island.
Chinese children are barred from San Francisco schools.
The Oregon Constitution declares that no “Chinaman” is allowed to own land in Oregon.
1860: California enacts special laws to tax Chinese fishermen and Chinese workers in fisheries.
1862: Leland Stanford, president of the Central Pacific and later founder of Stanford University, calls the Chinese in California the “dregs” of Asia and a “degraded” people.
Chinese communities rally together and form the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.
To stem the demand for contracts arranged through immigration/labor agents, American citizens in American vessels are prohibited from participating in the “coolie trade.” California passes an act to protect “free white labor” from competition by Chinese “coolie labor” and to discourage Chinese immigration in the state of California.
California passes the Anti-Coolie Act—in reality a legalized “police tax” protection racket. Work permits are charged at $2.50 a month (a significant sum at the time) for workers over the age of 18 of the “Mongolian Race.”
1862-1965: More than a dozen states pass laws banning Asians from owning and inheriting property.
1863: Construction of the Central Pacific Railroad begins in Sacramento, California.
1865: The Chinese in California number about 50,000, of which 90% are young men of working age.
In March, the Central Pacific employs 50 Chinese workers to work between Auburn and Clipper Gap, to break a strike by white workers. Initially believing the Chinese to be far too delicate for the tough work, their superintendent refuses to have them, but his superior insists on hiring them with the argument that the race of people who built the Great Wall can surely build a railroad. The Chinese workers, who are paid less, turn out to be far more efficient than their Caucasian counterparts. Leland Stanford temporarily changes his opinion about the Chinese to that of a positive one in order to promote a drive to employ more Chinese workers.
1866: The Chinese en route to work camps are made to travel without the armed escorts normally afforded to whites.
On May 22, 50 Chinese on their way to Idaho City are killed by Native Americans.
On June 2, the Humboldt Register reports: “A drove of Chinamen on their way to Montana was attacked, just over the line, in the Queen’s river country, and 40 are reported killed.”
Railroad work intensifies, with Chinese workers working round-the-clock shifts. Nitroglycerin is brought in to speed up the rock-blasting progress, and the Chinese are the only ones willing to handle the unstable explosive. Emulating methods used in ancient China to build fortresses along the Yangtze River, they dangle on reed baskets suspended by ropes hung over cliff edges, position explosive charges and detonate fuses before signaling to be pulled to safety. An unknown number of Chinese workers die in accidents that follow (while records were kept for the number of animals lost, records of Chinese casualties were never kept).
Epidemics that sweep through the work camps rarely affect Chinese workers, who employ their own cooks, eat balanced diets and wash up nightly with hot water.
1867: On the arrival of spring, the frozen bodies of several dozen Chinese laborers are found as the ice and snow melts away. Many had died in one of the harshest winters in history. Chinese laborers, who tended to be assigned the riskiest of the jobs, were often caught in avalanches. Many had died still clutching onto picks and shovels.
Delighted with the performance of Chinese workers, railroad executives advocate the immigration of an additional 500,000 Chinese to California to ease the labor shortage: “It would be all the better for us and the State if there should half a million come over in 1868.”
Some 2,000 Chinese railroad workers, tired of being whipped as slaves (despite the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863), organize a peaceful and orderly strike, walking off their jobs in the Sierras. They politely present a list of demands to the their employers. The Central Pacific cuts off their food supply, effectively starving them back to work, since they are denied any transportation to leave the area.
1868: China and the US government sign the Burlingame Treaty, granting China “Most-Favored Nation” trading status in return for China’s agreement to recognize, among other things, the “inherent and inalienable right of man to change his home and allegiance” and the right of Chinese subjects to “free migration and emigration” to the US “for the purposes of curiosity or trade or as permanent residents.” The Central Pacific sends labor recruiters to Canton (Guangdong) province. Thousands of Chinese arrive in San Francisco as a result.
The Central Pacific labor force is two-thirds (2/3) Chinese, who are made to work much harder while being paid far less than their Caucasian counterparts.
Collis P. Huntington, owner of Central Pacific, refuses to arm Chinese workers so they can defend themselves against attacks by Native Americans: “A Winchester
is worth $12, a Chinese none.”
1869: Newly arrived Chinese immigrant workers are packed into train cars with barely any standing room, sent on their way to railroad-construction sites. Many of them die from suffocation en route.
Fights between Irish and Chinese railroad work crews break out. The Irish are surprised at the fighting abilities of the Chinese, who are smaller in size. Later, a mystery blast in the Chinese camp wounds several. Days later, another mysterious blast kills several Irish workers, after which there is an instant truce and total cessation of hostilities.
The Transcontinental Railroad is completed. About one in ten Chinese workers died building the railroads—1,756 miles of track were laid at the cost of 1.7 Chinese deaths per mile—leaving about 12,000 Chinese still employed at this point.
On May 10, hundreds of railroad men gather to have their picture taken at a ceremony in Promontory Point in Utah, to witness Stanford laying the final “golden” spike. However, the Chinese, who comprised the majority of the work force, are excluded from the ceremonies entirely (see ceremonial photograph). In a subsequent oil painting rendition of the memorable event, only two Chinese men are depicted, crouching; every single participant in the picture is subsequently numbered and named, while the two Chinese workers are nameless and faceless.
The Reese River Reveille, an Austin, Nevada newspaper publishes unfounded rumors of an outbreak of smallpox in the Chinese quarter, stating, “There is no class in the city that would spread the fell disease so rapidly and widely as the Chinese, for its members do the principal part of the washing [laundry] for our citizens.”
1870: Realizing that their employers have no intentions of paying the salaries owed to them, former Chinese railroad workers in Texas launch a class-action suit.
More than 12,000 former Chinese railroad workers settle in the California Delta to help with levee construction, draining swamps by using sluice and pump technology taken from Asia. They also take up farming, cannery work and other menial chores that Caucasians will not do. Nearly every river town in the California Delta features a Chinatown.
An identifiable “Chinatown” quarter springs up in Los Angeles, on Calle de Los Negros—The Street of the Dark Hued Ones—a short alley of 50 feet wide and one block long, between El Pueblo Plaza and Old Arcadia Street. About 200 mostly male Chinese work mainly as laundrymen, market gardeners, agricultural and ranch workers, as well as road builders. Despite the heavy discrimination, disproportionately high rents and extra taxes levied on them, the Chinese achieve a dominant economic position in the Los Angeles laundry and produce industries. The Los Angeles Chinatown flourishes, expanding eastward from the Plaza across Alameda Street, eventually attaining a population of over 3,000.
One June 30, the bones of 1,200 Chinese workers (some 20,000 lbs.’ worth) who died building the railroads are shipped to China for burial.
California enacts law barring the entry of Chinese women on the grounds that they will serve as prostitutes. The Chinese male population is faced with a lack of suitable women to marry due to shunning and de facto anti-miscegenation laws.
The Overland Monthly publishes a poem titled, The Heathen Chinee, which becomes the country’s most popular and reprinted poem. It is set to music and Brent Harte and Mark Twain collaborate to bring The Heathen Chinee to the stage, under the title, Ah Sin. The play provokes laughter at the Chinese as being bizarre in terms of their physiognomy, language, food and their custom of wearing queues.
1871: On Oct 24, a brutal race riot breaks out in Los Angeles that comes to be known as the Chinese Massacre of 1871. One out of ten people in the city participate. Every Chinese-occupied building is ransacked and virtually every Chinese resident is attacked or robbed. The county coroner confirms 19 Chinese deaths at the hands of the mob (some estimates put the number of deaths at 23).
The Chinese, who are made to pay extraordinarily high rents and special taxes at several times the rates of whites ban together in small living spaces. San Francisco passes the Cubic Air Ordinance, requiring at least 500 cubic feet of air space per inhabitant. It is solely and rigorously applied on the tight arrangements in Chinese living quarters. Hundreds of Chinese are routinely arrested in the middle of the night and huddled into small jail cells, ironically contravening the ordinance. Many refuse to pay the fines imposed, effectively staging jailhouse sit-ins.
In response to the jailhouse sit-ins, San Francisco enacts the Queue Ordinance specifically to target the Chinese custom of wearing queues. It requires that all prisoners in San Francisco jails have their hair cut to no more than one inch long. Chinese throughout the city are summarily arrested on miscellaneous trumped-up charges and their hair is cut off while in the jails, in accordance with the law.
1872: The California Civil Procedure Code removes the law barring the Chinese from giving testimony in court.
Tuscadora is home to the largest Chinese community in Nevada’s hitherto history. About 4,000 former railroad workers settle there and work as miners.
All ethnic Chinese are barred from owning real estate or business licenses in California.
1873: San Francisco passes a Laundry Ordinance, penalizing Chinese laundrymen for not using horses or horse-drawn delivery vehicles—as a rule they deliver laundry on foot, carrying them in two baskets attached to the ends of a pole balanced on their shoulders.
1875: The Page Law bars the entry of Chinese, Japanese, and “Mongolian” prostitutes, felons and contract laborers. Effectively criminalizing contract labor, the law is applied to any and all Asians, except for a handful of special-status merchants and diplomats.
Los Angeles & Independence Railroad hires 67 Chinese workers.
1876: The Southern Pacific Railroad connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles (including a 1.25-mile San Fernando tunnel) is completed by Chinese laborers.
The Supreme Order of Caucasians is formed in Sacramento, California, with the primary purpose of running the Chinese out of the US. It quickly grows to 64 chapters (called “camps”) statewide, with approximately 5,000 members.
Chinese vegetable vendors are forced to acquire special licenses to operate.
1877: Dennis Kearney is elected Secretary of the newly formed Workingman’s Party of California (not to be confused with the Workingmen’s Party!) and leads violent attacks on the Chinese. Speaking publicly at the old Sand Lot near City Hall, he issues denunciations of the Central Pacific, which employs large numbers of Chinese, and advocates vigilante action against both railroad bosses and Chinese people.
Anti-Chinese riots break out in Chico, California.
In San Francisco, several thousand people rally at City Hall to protest the drastic wage cuts by railroad companies. A crowd of 500 people gather to burn down Chinatown, but do not succeed in destroying all of it when they are are stopped by a volunteer force comprising 30 mounted patrol officers and volunteers.
1878: A circuit court in California rules in In re Ah Yup that the Chinese are not eligible for naturalization, on the grounds that they are of the Mongolian race and not Caucasian.
The Greenback Labor Party meets in Toledo, Ohio. with delegates from 28 states. Platforms advocate, among other things, the imposition of limitations on Chinese immigration.
The California Constitutional Convention calls for the restriction of citizenship for the native-born and foreign-born of Mongolian blood [sic]; it further calls for the prohibition of corporations from employing Chinese laborers.
Chinese vegetable vendors go on strike when Los Angeles passes yet another ordinance aimed at the Chinese.
1879: Congress passes the Fifteen Passenger Bill, limiting ships crossing the Pacific to carrying a maximum of 15 Chinese passengers. President Rutherford D. Hayes vetoes the bill, on the grounds that it contradicts the terms of the Burlingame Treaty of 1868.
California adopts a new constitution forbidding the use of any and all Chinese labor.
California state legislature passes law requiring all towns and cities to move all Chinese beyond city limits, but a US circuit court subsequently declares the law unconstitutional.
1880s: Chinese workers comprise more than half of the labor force in the Los Angeles area, serving as farm workers and ranch hands. The Chinese also become the principal vegetable vendors of Los Angeles, controlling 90% of the industry.
The Northern Pacific has about 15,000 Chinese workers on their payroll.
1880: The Chinese government agrees to limit the emigration of its citizens to America in exchange for the better protection of those already there.
San Francisco passes an ordinance targeting Chinese laundries in wooden buildings. At this time, about 95% of the city’s 320 laundry operations are conducted in wooden buildings and approximately two-thirds are owned by Chinese persons. (This ordinance is subsequently overturned, when the application of the law is proven to be discriminatory; refer to 1886: Yick Wo v. Hopkins below.)
California civil code section 69 prohibits the issuing of licenses for marriages between whites and Mongolians, Negroes and persons of mixed blood.
1882: The US Senate and House of Representatives passes a US Federal Law called the Chinese Exclusion Act. Congress acts quickly to implement the suspension of all Chinese immigration, as well as barring all ethnic Chinese from acquiring citizenship through naturalization for the next 10 years.
1883-1887: Following the implementation of the Chinese Exclusion Act, US Immigration records show a total of 8,031 Chinese entering or reentering the US in 1883. By 1884, this number is cut to 279. By 1885, a total of 22 Chinese enter the US. In 1887, a total of 10 Chinese from privileged classes (scholars, diplomats, merchants) are granted entry into the US.
1884: Leland Stanford runs for senate and changes his opinion about the Chinese again, this time, favoring a ban on Chinese immigration altogether.
The Chinese Exclusion Act is amended, with a clarification that it applies to any and all ethnic Chinese, regardless of their country of origin or citizenship (effectively banning the Chinese diaspora from entering the US).
Restrictions are increased on the Chinese already in the US and those seeking reentry. Wives are barred from entry/reentry; anti-miscegenation laws (against mixed marriages and fraternization) are enacted.
The vast majority of the nearly 100,000 Chinese immigrants reside within the American West, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington Territory. Most are bachelor males and their numbers dwindle drastically in the next four decades as the population ages.
1885: In what comes to be known as the Rock Springs Massacre, white immigrant miners in Wyoming riot against Chinese miners who are paid less and historically recruited as strikebreakers), killing 28, wounding 15 and destroying 75 of their homes. Mutilated bodies are found in the aftermath. The US Secretary of State Thomas F. Bayard responds indifferently, asserting that the Chinese brought it upon themselves by being “different” and “inassimilable.”
Near Newcastle, Washington, a mob of whites burn down the barracks of 36 Chinese coal miners.
Throughout the Puget Sound area, Chinese workers are subjected to violence and driven out of communities in cities and towns such as Tacoma, Seattle, Newcastle and Issaquah (then known as Squak). Near Newcastle, Washington, a mob of whites burn down the barracks of 36 Chinese coal miners. In Tacoma, protestors announce that all Chinese in the city must leave by November. In early November, a mob of whites, led by the Tacoma Mayor Jacob Robert Weisbach and backed by the Tacoma Police, move into Chinatown and marches the Chinese to a railroad station where they are forced to board a train to Portland.
Congress bans “contract labor”—a ban that, in practice, is used mainly against the employment of Chinese immigrants, as whites continue to be contracted without problem.
Neighboring Canada enacts a Head Tax, forcing Chinese immigrants to pay a fee of $50 (a substantial amount at that time) to enter the country.
In the winter, mobs drive Chinese workers out of small towns and workplaces throughout Oregon territory.
Large numbers of Chinese begin exiting the US to avoid persecution.
San Francisco builds segregated Oriental School in response to Mamie Tape case of the preceding year, in which Joseph and Mary Tape sued the San Francisco school board over the enrolment of their Chinese daughter, Mamie, in a public school.
1886: In Yick Wo v. Hopkins, the US Supreme Court rules that a San Francisco ordinance passed in 1880 barring laundry operations in wooden buildings is race-neutral on its face, but is exclusively administered in a prejudicial manner and thus infringes on the Fourteenth Amendment.
In the Seattle Riot, a mob rounds up Chinese residents and immigrant workers. Virtually every Chinese resident is forcibly ejected from the city. As a diplomatic settlement, the US government pays the Chinese government for these offenses, but not the actual Chinese victims themselves.
In Oregon, mobs continue to drive out the Chinese, many of whom make their way to Portland, where they settle in the city’s Chinatown. The Chinese are generally tolerated in Portland due to close the city’s commercial shipping ties to China.
Parts of the Los Angeles Chinese quarter are burned by white arsonists.
The Los Angeles Trade & Labor Council and the Knights of Labor move to boycott Chinese goods and Chinese labor in Los Angeles.
Hawaii bars Chinese immigration.
Large numbers of Chinese continue to exit the US to avoid persecution.
1887: Bandits rob and kill 34 Chinese miners in Hells Canyon, Oregon, at a location subsequently named Chinese Massacre Cove. The perpetrators comprise members of leading families. With all ethnic Chinese having virtually no protection under the law, key eye-witness testimonies are declared inadmissible and the killers are never brought to justice. Local newspapers ignore the trial entirely.
Oregon governor Sylvester Pennoyer, a leading force in anti-Chinese agitation, demands the expulsion of Portland’s Chinese population.
Large numbers of Chinese voluntarily leave the US to avoid persecution.
1888: James A. Whitley publishes The Chinese and the Chinese Question, a 200-page discourse addressing the “measures requisite to meet the invasion of the Chinese.” His concludes that, “one course, and one course only, can stay the Eastward migration of the yellow race, and its gradual conquest of the land [...] the Chinese must be expelled from our borders at any hazard, and at any cost.”
Following the anti-Chinese riots of 1885-1886, the Chinese government concludes that the American government is unable to protect Chinese living in America. Sino-American negotiations commence and the Americans seize on the opportunity to pass the Scott Act, signed by President Cleveland, permanently banning the immigration or return (reentry) of Chinese laborers into the US. The House unanimously passes the bill, which is met by only slight resistance in the Senate. Spontaneous mass demonstrations break out in California to celebrate the new law. Some 20,000 Chinese who had left the US temporarily for a home visit to China are refused reentry. The Supreme Court upholds the Scott Act.
1889: In Chae Chan Ping v. United States, the Supreme Court upholds constitutionality of Chinese exclusion laws, ruling that all ethnic Chinese may be barred from entry into the US on the grounds that they are inassimilable, superseding all prior treaties with China.
1891: Los Angeles Chinese market gardeners, working between Westminster and Huntington Beach are harassed and attacked by mobs.
1892: The Chinese Exclusion Act is renewed by the Geary Act, leaving exclusion laws intact for an additional 10 years. All Chinese are required to have residence certificates carried with them on their person at all times in case of inspection by police.
1893: In Fong Yue Ting v. United States, the Supreme Court upholds constitutionality of Geary Law and declares that Congress has the right to legislate expulsion through executive orders.
The Geary Act is amended to impose harsh restrictions on Chinese businessmen entering the US.
Several towns in southern California attempt to expel the Chinese.
1894: Immigration officers are granted sole jurisdiction over the rights of aliens entering the country. The Chinese are targeted by corrupt custom officials for the extortion of bribes. Many Chinese, including those born in the US, are detained on attempting to enter/reenter the US.
In the Gresham-Yang Treaty reverses some aspects of the Scott Act of 1888: China agrees to halt the emigration of its citizens to the US in return for the readmission of those back in China on a visit.
A Japanese man applies for US citizenship, but is refused by US circuit courts on the grounds that he is neither white nor black.
The silent movie, Chinese Laundry Scene, features a Chinese character eluding an Irish cop.
1896: A Chinatown in Honolulu is burned down due to a bubonic-plague scare.
1898: Hawaiian Chinese are barred from stepping foot on the US mainland, despite their presence spanning several generations/centuries.
A US court sets the precedent for denying US-born Chinese reentry and citizenship on grounds of their ethnicity. In United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the Gresham-Yang Treaty of 1894 is reversed. Wong, a Chinese born in San Francisco, who had previously been granted a reentry permit in 1890 “upon the sole ground that he was a native-born citizen of the United States” finds himself detained at the Port of San Francisco by the Collector of Customs in 1895 when he returns from yet another visit to China. This time, he is denied entry on the grounds that “although born in the city and county of San Francisco, state of California, United States of America,” he is “not a citizen thereof” by virtue of his mother and father “being Chinese persons and subjects of the emperor of China,” “and the said Wong Kim Ark being also a Chinese person.”
1900: The Chinese (and not rats or fleas) are accused of being carriers of the bubonic plague and the entire San Francisco Chinatown is cordoned off and quarantined.
The Boxer Rebellion, a grassroots movement in China aimed at the removal of the Qing rulers, targets foreigners and missionaries for interfering with and weakening China. Although the Chinese in America are overwhelmingly vocal about their opposition to these actions, virtually all Chinese who leave the US during this period of unrest are denied re-entry.
Hawaii is annexed into the US. All people of Chinese blood resident on on the islands—including descendants of the very first Chinese settlers who arrived alongside the Europeans, whose families have been farming and building the infrastructure for generations—are required to obtain and carry certificates of residence on their persons at all times.
Neighboring Canada raises the Head Tax on Chinese immigrants from $50 to $100 (a substantial amount of money at that time).
The Chinese male population (comprising 95% of the entire Chinese population in the US) falls to some 85,000—a decline of roughly 20% in 10 years. The aging, mostly male Chinese population continues to dwindle rapidly due to a combination of anti-Chinese immigration laws, the denial of spouses from reentry into the US, anti-Chinese naturalization laws and anti-miscegenation laws.
1901:Samuel Gompers of the American Federation of Labor, a strong proponent of the Chinese Exclusion Act and co-founder of anti-Chinese movements, co-authors and submits to Congress a paper titled, “Meat vs. Rice, American Manhood against Asiatic Coolieism, Which Shall survive?” He argues that Chinese people, because they eat rice, will drag down the standard of living for Americans, who eat meat, and that “the Chinese, if permitted freely to enter this country, would create race antagonisms which would ultimately result in great public disturbance.” He concludes that the Exclusion Act “protected us against the gravest dangers, and which, were they relaxed would imperil every interest which the American people hold sacred for themselves and their posterity.”
1902: The Geary Act, which is an extension of the Chinese Exclusion Act, is again renewed for 10 years, barring all Chinese from entry and naturalization. Chinese residents are required to present themselves for registration to obtain resident certificates. A number of Chinese are deported.
Police and immigration officials raid Boston’s Chinatown premises without search warrants and arrest some 250 Chinese who do have their registration certificates on their persons at the time.
1903: Neighboring Canada raises the Head Tax on Chinese immigrants from $100 to $500 (equivalent to 2 years’ worth of wages at that time). A companion law is passed, allowing only one Chinese immigrant into Canada per fifty tons (50.8 tonnes) of ship weight—only 10 immigrants were allowed to enter Canada on a ship weighing 500 tons (508 tonnes).
1904: All Chinese are barred from entry or naturalized citizenship in all US territories.
The Geary Act is amended, extended indefinitely—all Chinese are barred from entry and naturalization for the foreseeable future.
1905: The Asiatic Exclusion League is formed by 67 labor unions active in the US and Canada. The League’s stated aims are to spread anti-Asian and anti-Chinese propaganda, and to influence legislation to restrict Asian immigration. Specifically targeted groups comprise Japanese, Chinese and Koreans. The League is immediately successful in pressuring the San Francisco Board of Education to segregate Asian school children.
Section 60 of the California Civil Code is amended to forbid marriage between whites and “Mongolians.”
1906: In the movie, The Terrible Kids, a group of boys attacks a Chinese man by yanking his queue.
Anti-Asian riot breaks in neighboring Vancouver, Canada.
A major earthquake in San Francisco destroys all municipal records, including immigration records. Some Chinese immigrants seize on the opportunity to claim they are US citizens and thus entitled to bring their wives and children to America.
1908: The movie, The Fatal Hour, features a Chinese archvillain, Pong Lee, who is aided by cleaver-wielding Chinese thugs who kidnap and enslave innocent white girls.
1910: Angel Island is opened as a detention center. Chinese arrivals are interned in holding cells for months or years, waiting for indeterminate periods to enter the US, and, unable to leave. Many families are broken up when only some members of their family are allowed entry and others, particularly the women, are not. Some lose their minds and are thrown in solitary confinement. Many end up committing suicide while incarcerated.
A total of 28 states prohibit forms of interracial marriage. Arizona, California, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Utah extend their prohibitions to include people of Asian descent.
1911: The Manchu government is overthrown. Chinese males in the US, who had been required by law (as Chinese citizens) to wear queues, immediately cut them off.
1912: The Native Sons of the Golden State establishes a lodge in Los Angeles Chinatown. Its members are American-born Chinese in California and its primary purpose is to defend the civil rights of Chinese Americans. The organization is later renamed the Chinese Americans Citizens Alliance or CACA.
1913: The California Alien Land Law is passed in response to increasingly successful Asian farmers, prohibiting all Asian immigrants from owning land or property, permitting them maximum leases of three years at a time.
The residents of Los Angeles’ Old Chinatown are threatened with relocation. Six acres of Chinatown property are sold for $310,000 to Southern Pacific Track Ways. Unable to own their own property, the Chinese residents are unable to acquire the property for themselves and are left without recourse.
1914: San Francisco capitalist L. F. Hanchett concludes a deal to acquire all of the Los Angeles Chinatown area east of Alameda Street. Old Chinatown is pegged for conversion into an industrial and warehouse district. Hanchett subsequently plans to build a railroad terminal instead.
1917: Chinese Americans travel to Europe to fight in World War I.
The Asiatic Barred Zone Act (also known as the Immigration Act of 1917) is passed in Congress, to exclude immigrants from South or Southeast Asia.
1917: Arizona passes its own Alien Land Law.
1918: A handful of WWI veterans of Asian ancestry are granted naturalization.
1920s: The extremely popular Fu Manchu debuts as Saturday-afternoon matinees, featuring a diabolical character with the “bloodshot eyes of a mad dog,” bared teeth and a “froth on his lips,” who schemes to bring America and Europe under Chinese control and “whose existence is a menace to the entire white race.”
1921-1925: Washington, Louisiana, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Kansas pass Alien Land Laws barring Asians from property ownership. To prevent circumvention, amendments are made to these state laws, barring even the US-born children and the legal dependents of Asians residing in the US from owning property.
1922:The Cable Act causes the revocation of the US citizenship of any woman who marries an alien who is ineligible for citizenship. Since 90% of the Chinese in America are bachelor males ineligible for citizenship and Asian females are virtually nonexistent, they are unable to intermarry or openly father any children. The aging Chinese population further dwindles rapidly.
1923: Following the USA’s lead, the Federal Government of Canada passes the Chinese Immigration Act, also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, banning most forms of Chinese immigration to Canada.
Chinese student immigration in the US is halted through the enactment of strict requirements for the show of funds.
In Terrace v. Thompson, the US Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of state Alien land Acts barring all ethnic Chinese from owning land or obtaining business licenses (regardless of whether they were born in the US).
In Porterfield v. Webb, the constitutionality of California’s Alien Land Act is upheld.
Idaho, Montana and Oregon pass Alien Land Acts.
Webb v. O’Brien rules that sharecropping is illegal on the grounds that is is a ruse that allows Asians to possess and use land.
Frick v. Webb forbids aliens ineligible for citizenship (such as Asians) from owning stocks in corporations formed for farming.
1924: The Johnson Reed Act (Immigration Act) restricts all Asians from entering the United States. On its face, the act initiates quota-based immigration, but since non-white immigrants are ineligible for naturalization in accordance with the Naturalization Act of 1790 and the Johnson Reed Act explicitly forbids the immigration of any persons ineligible for naturalization, the Chinese are effectively barred from entering the US altogether.
No Chinese female is permitted to enter the US for the next six years.
1925-1932: With the introduction of sound to film, white audiences embrace the character of Charlie Chan, who combines the stereotypes of Chinese Mystic and Chinese Buffoon. Forty-eight Charlie Chan movies are created, starred by white actors (Warner Oland) in yellowface and pot raying a fortune-cookie Confucius-quoting stereotype who lends to ridicule. Charlie Chan is appeasing in the face of denigration.
1925: In Chang Chan et al. v. John D. Nagle, the Supreme Court rules that the Chinese wives of American citizens are not entitled to enter the United States.
In Cheung Sumchee v. Nagle, the Supreme Court relaxes the 1924 Immigration Act somewhat, ruling that it does not apply to merchants’ wives or their children.
1927: In Weedin v. Chin Bow, the Supreme Court rules that persons born to American parents but who have never resided in the US are not of American nationality, and thus ineligible for entry to the US.
1928: In Lam Mow v. Nagle, the Supreme Court rules that a child born of Chinese parents on American vessels on the high seas are not eligible for citizenship.
1930: There are some 75,000 Chinese in the continental US (representing 0.06% of the total US population).
Chinese wives are allowed to enter the US on the condition that their marriage occurred prior to May 26, 1924. As a consequence of this restriction, only a total of some 60 Chinese women are permitted to enter the US in the next 10 years.
1931: The Cable Act is amended to allow women who are US citizens to retain their citizenship following marriage to an alien who is ineligible for citizenship.
The California Supreme Court upholds a decision approving land condemnations and the construction of the new Union Station at the site of Los Angeles’ historic Chinatown. Its Chinese residents are left with no recourse, because they have never been allowed to own any of the properties in Chinatown. They are evicted and forced to start over elsewhere with little or no compensation. Chinatown is razed to the ground.
1931-1935: Japan invades the province of Manchuria in Northeast China. The League of Nations censures Japan as an aggressor nation. Japan withdraws from the League and advances into current-day Inner Mongolia.
1933: White competitors propose that New York City enact restrictive municipal codes to drive Chinese laundry services out of business: US citizenship is to be a requirement for operating laundries and high licensing fees and security bonds are to be imposed. The Chinese organize the Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance to fight against the enactment of these ordinances.
Franklin D. Roosevelt launches the New Deal to bring the country out of depression. Many Chinese refuse to participate in aid programs, scorning them as charity. Records show that in San Francisco, the percentage of Chinese receiving government aid in 1935 is far less than that of the general US population.
1935: Los Angeles-born Hollywood actress Anna May Wong is rejected for the role of O’Lan in Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, in favor of Luise Rainer, a Caucasian actress who wears yellowface makeup to portray the character.
1937: Washington State legislature attempts to pass an anti-miscegenation law prohibiting “... any person of the Caucasian or white race to intermarry with any person of the Ethiopian or black race, the Malayan or brown race, or Mongolian or yellow race.”
Japan launches a full-scale invasion of China, taking control of major cities and regions. In what comes to be known as the Rape of Nanking, the Japanese imperial army rapes and slaughters hundreds of thousands of civilians. Although the killings are mostly done by katana (Japanese sword), the death toll exceeds that of the two atomic bombs that would later be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The Japanese wage gas and biological warfare on the Chinese populace in breach of the Hague Conventions and Japan’s Unit 731 begins conducting experiments on the populace. Despite the grisly reports in major newspapers streaming in from foreign correspondents and the numerous newsreels shown in theaters, the war in China means little to most Americans.
1938: In San Francisco, 39 Chinese sailors refuse to load and ship a cargo of scrap steel to Japan (due to Japanese war hostilities in China which began in 1931) and are promptly fired from their jobs.
Demonstrations by Chinese Americans in New York and along the US West Coast halt shipments of raw materials to Japan. The International Longshoremen and Warehouses Union (ILWU) is eventually persuaded to join the efforts of the Chinese War Relief Association, the American Friends of China and the Church Federation to initiate an embargo against Japan.
1939: Los Angeles’ Union Station is inaugurated. It is built over the city’s historic Chinatown, which was destroyed to pave way for its construction. Local Chinese merchants who were evicted raise funds to legally acquire properties (despite various laws barring them from property ownership) and build a new Chinatown northwest of the Plaza.
1940: The number of US-born Chinese Americans exceeds the number of foreign-born Chinese.
1941: With widespread political support generated by unions and Chinese lobbying organizations (refer to developments in 1938 above), President Roosevelt halts the shipment of arms and raw materials outside the Western Hemisphere, with the exception of Great Britain.
On December 7, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor.
1942-1945: Wyoming, Utah, and Arkansas pass Alien Land Laws barring Asians from property ownership.
The US Justice Dept. rounds up and interns some 110,000 ethnic Japanese, the majority of whom were born in the US. The premier newsweekly, Time, publishes a fallacious racial article titled, How to Tell Your Friends from the Japs, but later concedes that there is no infallible method, not even genetically, of telling the Chinese and Japanese apart. Chinese Americans resort to carrying identity cards issued by a Chinese consul general and wearing badges declaring, “I am Chinese.”
Some 20,000 Chinese Americans volunteer to serve in the military, representing about 20% of the US Chinese population. In New York City, 40% of the Chinese population is drafted. (The figure is 8.6% for the general US population.) The Chinese are only partially integrated into the armed forces, neither being fully accepted nor fully segregated. Despite the persecution they endure, many become decorated war heroes, although often only posthumously recognized as such (sometimes six decades after the fact, as in the case of Gordon P. Chung-Hoon).
1942: The US launches a daring raid on the Japanese mainland, which comes to be known as the Doolittle Raid. The pilots crash-land in China as planned, correctly assuming that the Chinese populace would assist them in their escape. However, in retaliation for sheltering the bomber aircrews and leading them to safety, the Japanese kill 250,000 Chinese civilians. (It is interesting to note that the movie, Pearl Harbor, which highlighted this little-known story in 2001, did not mention the 250,000 Chinese civilians who unwittingly died or willingly sacrificed themselves to lead nearly all the American airmen to safety; for further information, jump to the year 2001 below.)
Chinese seaman, Poon Lim, sets the world record for surviving 133 days alone in the South Atlantic on an 8-by-8-foot raft, after the British merchant ship on which he was serving as second stewrd is sunk by a German submarine. After months at sea, a freighter passes nearby, but on approaching and realizing he is Chinese, the (Caucasian) crew ignores his calls for help and moves on. He is spotted by a German U-boat performing gunnery drills in the area, but its crew also chooses not to rescue him. He hits landfall at the mouth of a Brazilian river and spends four months in hospital until he is repatriated to the UK. Fully recovered, he decides to emigrate to the US to join the Navy, but is denied entry due to the Chinese Exclusion Act. However, due to his fame, Senator Warren Magnuson grants him a special dispensation. The US Navy subsequently deems him “unfit to be a sailor” on account of his having flat feet (despite the fact that this is a prevalent genetic trait in Asians
and Africans, and it is merely a structural issue and not one of dysfunction).
1943: China is officially listed as an Allied Nation. The US and China sign a treaty of alliance, allowing US troops to use China as a base against the Japanese. In exchange, Congress repeals the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (and its various extension acts), replacing it with the Magnuson Act, allowing the entry into the US of a token 105 Chinese per year. Although Chinese immigration and naturalization is allowed for the first time since 1790 and the Magnuson Act is propagandized as a relaxation of restrictions, the quota of 105 is disproportionately low and inequitable, even by the US government’s own explanation of how the number was arrived at (see footnote #1).
In 1943 alone, an estimated 10,000,000 Chinese civilians are killed by Japanese forces. Although the US and China are officially allies, Chinese refugees and asylum requests are denied in accordance with the Immigration Act of 1924, which bars all ethnic Chinese from immigration (due to their ineligibility for naturalization).
The Magnuson Act is passed on December 17, allowing Chinese immigration for the first time since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Although many consider it to be a positive development, the act is particularly unfair and restrictive, limiting Chinese immigration to an annual quota of 105 new entry visas. The quota is supposedly determined by the Immigration Act of 1924, which sets the level of immigration from qualifying countries at 2% of the number of people who were already living in the United States in 1890 of that nationality. However, the arrived-at figure of 105 per annum granted to the Chinese is disproportionately low—the correct figure should be 2,150 per annum, in accordance with official census figures, which place the population of Chinese living in the USA in 1890 at 107,488 persons. (Refer to Comparison of Asian Populations during the Exclusion Years.) A small number of Chinese immigrants already residing in the US become naturalized citizens, marking the first time since the Naturalization Act of 1790 that any Asians are permitted to be naturalized. However, the Magnuson Act provides for the continuation of the ban against the ownership of property and businesses by ethnic Chinese. In many states, Chinese Americans (including US citizens) are denied property-ownership rights until the Magnuson Act is fully repealed in 1965.
1944: Faced with labor shortages in the defense industry, California repeals a law forbidding state and public corporations from employing any Chinese. The Chinese population quickly moves from menial jobs into the industrial sector, finding work at shipyards and aircraft factories offering union wages and benefits. Hitherto disenfranchised, the educated Chinese land their first jobs as engineers, scientists and technicians. Chinese family-run restaurants and laundries suffer manpower shortages as a result.
1945: General MacArthur grants Japanese war criminals immunity from prosecution in exchange for data gleaned from their biological-warfare research in China, which resulted in at least 580,000 civilian deaths. Despite the gruesome experiments conducted by Japan’s Unit 731 and the gas and biological warfare waged on the Chinese populace in breach of the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907) to which Japan was a signatory nation, MacArthur rules out the possibility of a Japanese equivalent of the Nuremberg trials. Many of the unpunished scientists move on to prominent post-war careers in politics, academia, business, and medicine.
The US passes the War Brides Act, allowing the spouses and children of US armed-forces members admission into the US. The admission list includes 722 Chinese dependents. Nearly 6,000 Chinese Americans serving in the military seize the opportunity to return from China with brides before the expiration of the act in 1949, partly contributing to an increase of the US Chinese population to some 117,000 by the end of the decade.
Post-WWII: Official casualty figures for WWII are compiled and revised, finally settling at the number of “40 million killed.” This oft-quoted figure in the Western hemisphere becomes a text-book “fact” for decades to come. However, this death toll, which includes US and other European forces fighting in Asia, excludes any and all other casualties in Asia. In China alone, which was officially an Allied nation during WWII, there were 35 million deaths.
1946: The wives and children of Chinese American citizens are allowed to apply for entry as no-quota immigrants.
1948-1950: The Displaced Persons Act and the Second Displaced Persons Act theoretically enables those of Chinese descent to change their citizenship status in the United States for the next six years. However, in practice, the number actually granted remains disproportionately low.
1948: The Supreme Court rules that real-estate covenants barring homeowners from selling to the Chinese and other minorities are unconstitutional. Some Chinese begin exiting Chinatowns and moving to suburbia. However, they generally remain unwelcome and resort to secret arrangements to circumvent reluctant sellers and angry white neighbors.
1949: The Communists take over mainland China. The US breaks diplomatic ties with the newly formed People’s Republic of China. The Chinese diaspora in the US are unable to visit China or remit any funds to their families.
In Namba v. McCourt, the Oregon Supreme Court inactivates (but reserves the right to re-activate) its Alien Land Law.
1950: In February, the Sino-Soviet Pact secures a bilateral defense agreement between the two Communist regimes of the USSR and China.
North Korea invades South Korea. General MacArthur leads a United Nations “Peace-Keeping Force” in Korea. His troops push the North Koreans out of the South and across Korea’s northern border into China. In October, Chinese soldiers cross the Yalu River into North Korea in response to North Korea’s request for aid. MacArthur proposes the use of at least 30 atomic bombs on China to create “a belt of radioactive cobalt” with “an active life of between 60 and 120 years” in order to wipe out communism “once and for all.”
Remittances to mainland China and the British colony of Hong Kong are prohibited when the People’s Republic of China enters the Korean War. Violators are fined up to $10,000 and given 10-year prison sentences.
Joseph McCarthy, an obscure junior senator from Wisconsin, begins attracting national attention by fanning the flames of anti-Communist hysteria. Employing scare tactics, smear campaigns, unsubstantiated allegations and falsified dossiers, he creates the impression that widespread security risks exist in the federal government.
President Truman proclaims a national emergency due to the Korean War, granting himself extraordinary powers to govern without reference to normal Constitutional processes—a state of national emergency is yet to be terminated by Congress.
1950-1955: The US government accuses Dr. Tsien Hsue-shen (Qian Xuese) of being a member of the American Communist Party on the grounds that he had befriended a pro-communist student in Caltech in the 1930s. Tsien, who first arrived in the US in 1935 to study at MIT and Caltech, quickly rose to the top of his field to become an aerodynamicist in the US space program, contributing substantially to US science and defense projects. On revolutionizing the fields of fluid dynamics, rocketry and engineering cybernetics, Tsien had helped to establish the Jet Propulsion laboratory in Pasadena, where he designed some of the very first missiles for the US. Despite his legal status as a Chinese national, Tsien is granted security clearance to enable him to work on classified defense projects. On the takeover of China by the communists in 1949, Tsien decided to apply for US citizenship.
However, Tsien’s security clearance is suddenly revoked based on the unsubstantiated charges. Feeling insulted and with his career suddenly at a standstill, Tsien decides to leave for China. He is arrested attempting to ship trunks of research papers. Newspapers feature sensational headlines such as, “SECRET DATA SEIZED IN CHINA SHIPMENT.” The confiscated “code books” turn out to be logarithmic tables and no classified material is ever discovered in his possession in the next 5 years that he is thoroughly investigated, while under house arrest without a trial. He is initially imprisoned for two weeks, until renowned physicist Robert Oppenheimer intervenes, offering him a place at Princeton University. The Immigration and Naturalization Service initiates deportation hearings on the grounds that Tsien is a “foreign national Communist.” However, US defense officials fight to prevent
his departure on the grounds that he possesses knowledge that will jeopardize national security if it falls in the hands of the China. Despite the overwhelming evidence indicating that Tsien is far from being a communist, he is eventually traded off in a secret deal with the People’s Republic of China—a group of American POWs captured in the Korean War are exchanged for Tsien. The persecution of Tsien ultimately
hurts the US more than the PRC, when Tsien is put to work developing China’s first ICBMs and becomes the “Father of Chinese Rocketry.”
1951: The editor of the China Daily News is charged with violating the Trading with the Enemy Act by publishing an ad for a Chinese bank, through which Chinese Americans can send money to their families in China. Three laundrymen who had sent money to their families in China are also charged. Their cases, US v. China Daily News and Tom Sung and Chin Gong and Hong Ming, are filed in the NY Supreme Court.
1952: The Immigration and Nationality Act (McCarran-Walter Act) upholds the disproportionately low and inequitable national-origins quota of 105 Chinese per year (see footnote #1). Although it appears to relax the total ban of Chinese immigrants, in actuality, the law tightens immigration restrictions, denies admission to “subversive and undesirable aliens” and facilitates the deportation of the Chinese. Thousands of aliens and naturalized citizens are threatened with deportation based on alleged left-wing connections.
In response to McCarthy, the FBI, in search of Communist sympathizers, taps phone lines, opens the mail of Chinese Americans and has agents shadow some of them on the streets; they question Chinese children in playgrounds.
The Justice Dept. charges Eugene Moy, the managing director of China Daily News, an American Newspaper, with an obscure and previously unused law issued in 1917, for calling for the recognition of the People’s Republic of China as a state. Moy dies soon after release from prison.
The FBI interrogates Tan Yumin, a subscriber to the China Daily News. He dies under mysterious circumstances: either having been pushed or having jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, his body is lost for days.
The California Supreme Court overturns Alien Land Act laws in Fujii v. State of California.
1953: Of the total quota of 205,000 immigrants per year allowed into the US, the Refugee Relief Act allots a mere 2,000 places to the Chinese, despite the significantly larger proportion of potentially eligible applicants originating from this ethnic group (in accordance with the US government’s own criteria) compared with other nationalities and ethnicities.
Senator Joseph McCarthy uses his chairmanship of the relatively unimportant Committee on Government Operations to elevate its Subcommittee on Investigations into a official Red-baiting platform. He begins chairing the infamous Senate loyalty hearings.
1954:US v. China Daily News, et al, goes to court. The judge delivers a guilty verdict for the editor of the China Daily News, on the charge of violating the Trading with the Enemy Act by publishing an advert for a Chinese bank, through which Chinese Americans can send money to their families in China. Three laundrymen who had sent money to their families in China are also found guilty.
The Displaced Person Acts (1948 and 1950) expire, after only 15,000 Chinese (a relatively small number of the total US Chinese population) have been granted rights to live in the US.
1955: The Montana Supreme Courts inactivates the state’s Alien Land Law in State of Montana v. Oakland.
An appeal by the defendants of US v. China Daily News is denied. The editor of the China Daily News and the three laundrymen are sentenced to jail for facilitating and sending money to their families in China.
The US Senate votes overwhelmingly to censure Senator McCarthy for his abusive behavior as a committee chairman. He is charged with “conduct contrary to Senatorial tradition.” His political influence disappears.
Everett Drumwright, US consul in Hong Kong, makes an unsubstantiated claim in his Foreign Service report that virtually all Chinese in America—all the way back to the days of the California gold rush—were/are illegal aliens capable of all manner of criminal activity, such as narcotics trafficking, currency counterfeiting, illegally collecting social security and veteran’s benefits, issuing fake passports, and spying for China. He further reports the infiltration of the US by a network of Chinese sleepers who were awaiting orders to sabotage and destroy America. As a result of this report, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover subscribes to the notion that the Chinese American community is teeming with spies from China. The entire Chinese American community is placed under investigation and scrutiny. The FBI knocks on the doors of nearly every Chinese household in the US, and Chinese Americans are subjected to interrogations and wiretapping. Thousands are detained and many are deported. For those who remain, many have their careers and/or businesses ruined through post-McCarthy-era paranoia.
1956: The Refugee Relief Act of 1953 expires, with only 2,000 Chinese refugees being allowed into the US during its validity.
Following Everett Drumwright’s report of the preceding year, US Attorney Lloyd Burke subpoenas 40 major Chinese American associations, demanding a full accounting of income, membership and photographs within 24 hours. Chinatowns on both coasts are raided frequently and Chinese business are disrupted at a loss of $100,000 a week. A federal judge eventually rules in favor of the Chinese, calling the subpoena attack a “mass inquisition.”
1956-late 60s: The US government initiates a Chinese Confession Program, compelling Chinese people to confess to their illegal status in exchange for immunity, provided that they report on other Chinese. Some 10,000 Chinese are caught in a tide of implications and “confess.” These confessions are subsequently used against the families of the confessors. Many are deported, while those who remain have the threat of deportation looming over them if they should fail to cooperate with the police or if they step out of line politically, such as by having contact with their family in communist China.
1957: A large portion of the allotment of 205,000 spots created by the Refugee Relief Act remains unused. Some 70% of the allotment had initially been reserved for immigrants from the UK, Ireland and Germany (provided that they are not of Asians origin). The Refugee Escapee Act is created to extend some 2,000 of these unused spots to stateless Chinese refugees.
1962-1965: The People’s Republic of China unexpectedly allows thousands of Chinese to emigrate in order to offset widespread hunger and famine. Some 70,000 refugees stream into Hong Kong, many of whom seek to move on the the US. Although now officially residents of British territory, they are denied entry due to their country of birth being China.
Although 70% of the allotment was reserved for immigrants from the UK, Ireland and Germany (provided that they are not of Asians origin), this portion of the allotment has largely been unused. President Kennedy attacks the nation-of-origin quotas as having “no basis in either logic or reason,” calls it an “anachronism” and argues that it “neither satisfies a national need nor accomplishes an international purpose.”
Following a presidential directive, the Attorney General eventually allows 15,000 Chinese to enter the US as parolees to relieve the refugee situation in Hong Kong.
1965: The Immigration and Naturalization Act eliminates national-origins quotas (Magnuson Act), effectively abolishing race as a criterion for allocating immigration quotas to various countries; an equitable allocation of 20,000 people per country are allowed into the US, with priority given to those with skills and family already in the US.
1966: The state of Washington repeals its Alien Land Law.
1969: Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, testifies before the Senate, warning that China has been flooding the country with communist propaganda. Without making any distinctions between Chinese Americans and foreign Chinese nationals, he claims that there are potential subversives among the “more than 300,000” ethnic Chinese in the US, who would readily spy on and/or sabotage the country.
1970s: The California State Fair Employment Practice Commission (FEPC) investigates charges of discrimination and uncovers “bamboo ceilings,” where less qualified Caucasians are better paid and promoted ahead of Chinese employees.
In-house studies reveal Asian Americans to be severely underrepresented in management positions. White managers express surprise that Asians had managerial aspirations, believing them to be content with technical and service positions.
1971: The US ends spying missions over China, and lifts its 21 year trade embargo. The rapprochement is intended to isolate the Soviet Union. The People’s Republic of China replaces Taiwan in the United Nations general assembly and is granted a seat on the UN Security Council.
1972: President Richard Nixon visits China. This historic summit begins the process of restoring diplomatic ties with China.
1973: Diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America are established. Asian Pacific American Heritage Week is declared by President Nixon.
1979: President JImmy Carter officially breaks diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
1982:Vincent Chin is bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat after a scuffle during which two Caucasians, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, call him a “Jap,” blame him for the recession and the loss of their auto-industry jobs and ignore Chin’s protests that he is in fact a Chinese American. Murder charges are reduced to manslaughter and the judge rules that since the two men were gainfully employed at the time of the murder, they pose no threat to society. They are released with a $3,000 fine (no jail time), and charged $780 for court costs. An outraged Asian American community organizes nationwide petitions for a retrial. In a second trial, the Justice Department convicts one of them, Ebens, for violating Chin’s civil rights (but not for his murder). However, the new verdicts are thrown out on appeal, and by the third retrial in Cincinnati, Ohio, both men are acquitted of all charges. Chin’s
family eventually wins a civil suit for $1.5 million in damages, but payments are scheduled at a maximum of $200 per month and defaulted on from the onset. In 1987, distraught by the injustice, Chin’s mother moves back to China. In 1997, Congressman John Conyers Jr. calls the Vincent Chin case a political “hot potato” that did not get picked up for “political reasons” with respect to the automobile industry.
1989: American Chinese Jim Loo is gunned down in Raleigh, North Carolina, by two white men who insist he is Vietnamese and thus responsible for the deaths of American soldiers in Vietnam. One of his killers is initially found guilty of only two demeanors. Recognizing similarities in the case to the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, the Chinese American community lobbies for federal intervention that eventually leads to a retrial and somewhat heavier sentencing.
1992: The United States Commission on Civil Rights, a Federal fact-finding agency, reports that Asian Americans face widespread discrimination, harassment, unfair treatment in court, scapegoating, racially motivated violence, economic boycotts and hit “glass ceilings” (also known as “bamboo ceilings” in this case) in the work place.
1995: The US federal Glass Ceiling Commission finds that Asian Americans are paid less than whites in most occupational categories—even after controlling for educational level, immigrant status and other variables. In strict social-science terms, the data is robust: Asian Americans and whites are not treated equally, and the difference can be attributed either to race or to nothing at all.
1997:A study by socioligists at Princeton University on bias in College admissions finds that on average, Asians are required to score a minimum of 140 points higher than whites on standardized tests in order to enter elite universities in the US.
Measured on an all-other-things-equal basis, in comparison with blacks and Hispanics, the discrepancy is even greater, with Asian Americans needing an SAT score of 450 points higher (on the old 1,600-point scale) than otherwise similar black applicants to have the same chance of being admitted.
1999-2001: In the midst of national hysteria about nuclear secrets being passed on to China, Dr. Wen Ho Lee, a 60-year-old research scientist is arrested and charged with 59 counts of mishandling classified information. He is interrogated continually, denied bail, kept in solitary confinement and forced to wear leg shackles and chains for 9 months. Although never formally charged with espionage, Dr. Lee is assumed to be guilty by virtue of his being Chinese. Two days before the deadline to produce evidence in support of their charges, the government is unable to prove their case against him and drops all but 1 of the 59 charges. It is revealed that an FBI agent had provided false testimony pivotal to the case. Dr. Lee is released with an apology from the presiding judge: “I sincerely apologize to you, Dr. Lee, for the unfair manner in which you were held in custody by the executive branch. They have embarrassed
our entire nation and each of us who is a citizen of it.” The New York Times issues an official apology to its readers regarding its coverage of Dr. Lee’s arrest, admitting that they had not conducted proper research before assuming Dr. Lee was guilty. The Justice Department releases a report in 2001 criticizing the Energy Department for providing inaccurate, incomplete, and misleading information to the FBI; the FBI is further criticized for failing to investigate and verify the information in its case against Dr. Lee. President Bill Clinton issues an official apology to Dr. Lee for his treatment during the investigation. (See also 1950-1955 above, regarding the persecution of Dr. Tsien.)
2001: The Wyoming legislature is successfully lobbied by the Alien Land Law Project of the University of Cincinnati Law School to repeal its Alien Land Law barring Asians from owning property in that state.
The movie, Pearl Harbor, tells the little-known story of Doolittle and his daring April 1942 raid on Tokyo. Omitted is the part about the 250,000 Chinese civilians killed in retaliation for aiding the handful of American aircrews who deliberately crash-landed in China, assuming correctly that the Chinese populace would help lead them to safety. While the ending credits detail the aftermath and impact of the raid, the quarter of a million Chinese who unwittingly died or willingly sacrificed themselves in support of the miliary operation are not so much as given an honorable mention.
A survey conducted by Yankelovich Partners reveals a potentially volatile mix of racial prejudice and political prejudice. One in four Americans harbor “negative attitudes” toward Chinese Americans: they find it inconceivable to vote for an Asian American as President of the United States and would disapprove of a family member marrying someone of Asian descent. The study indicates that considerable bias and negative stereotyping by a significant portion of the US population undermines equal opportunities and rights for Asian Americans. One in three (32%) Americans believe Chinese Americans are more loyal to China than the US, one in three (34%) Americans feel they have excessive influence in US high technology and nearly one out of two (46%) Americans fear that Chinese Americans will leak secret information to China. (These unparalleled negative figures are a point of concern for the ADL. In comparison, the negativity rate is 15% toward the idea of an African American presidential candidate, 14% for a female candidate and 11% for a Jewish candidate.)
2004: A study on “How Stereotypes Affect the Careers of Asian Americans” finds widespread evidence of glass ceilings for upwardly mobile Asians, based on preconceptions of the roles for which Asians are “suitable.”
Stereotypes of Asian Americans as “hard workers, technical nerds, uncomplaining, docile and quiet” fuel the “perception of Asian Americans as a good labor source,” as well as the expectation that Asian Americans “lack the ability to successfully manage... in a society that prizes individuality,” where leaders are traditionally exemplified by the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant prototype. The study also finds that Asians are mainly used as side characters in American media. In movies, they occupy supporting roles to Caucasian protagonists, or serve as antagonist to the Caucasian protagonist. Asian characters are frequently employed as comic relief and feature overplayed accents. They are portrayed as martial arts experts or mystical sages. Congruent with the stereotype of overachievers who are highly proficient in math and science, Asians are pushed into roles as nerds, geeks and scientists. Asian males are never granted a leading role unless it is inseparable from their identity as a foreigner with martial arts abilities. Asian men are cast in effeminate roles (according to western notions of sexuality) and never allowed to consummate a legitimate relationship with a Caucasian woman (apart from a handful of exceptions in Hollywood’s entire history). On the other hand, Asian women tend to be oversexualized and portrayed either as submissive China Dolls or as seductive Dragon Lady vixens. In either stereotype of Asian female sexuality, she is sexually available to white men and an acceptable partner to white men (and occasionally African Americans), although she is often illegitimate and endangers the white man’s relationship with his legitimate partner. There are also many ethno-specific occupations stereotypically assigned to Asians, including the Japanese businessman or the Chinese news anchorwoman. Cultural-identity issues of Asian-American youth are also portrayed in the media. (Refer to Hollywood Asian Stereotypes.)
2006: A Chinese applicant to Princeton University with near-perfect scores, Jian Li, files a civil rights complaint against the university for discriminatory policies that favor blacks and Hispanics while disfavoring Asians. On January 17, the Daily Princetonian publishes a guest column in mock chinglish,
under the pseudonym “Lian Ji,” in which the writer parodies Li’s attitude and experiences:“I so good at math and science ... I the super smart Asian. Princeton the super dumb college, not accept me ... My dad from Kung Pao province. I united 500 years of Rice Wars ... I love Yale. Lots of bulldogs here for me to eat.” (Ironically, an exhaustive study will later be published by Princeton sociologists in 2009, proving the existence widespread discrimination against Asian Americans in the admissions process.)
2009: An exhaustive study is published by Princeton sociologists who, after an extensive review the admission data from 10 Ivy League universities in the US, conclude that, when measured on an all-things-being-equal basis, Asian Americans are required to score at least 140 points higher than whites on standardized tests, in order to qualify for admission into top universities. The discrepancy is even greater in comparison with blacks and Hispanics, with Asian Americans needing to score at least 450 points higher in order to be on equal footing for college admissions.
2010: US Marriage statistics reveal the lowest rates of intermarriage for Asian males (as opposed to Asian females). Follow-up studies indicate various social dynamics at play in terms of racial preferences and discrimination, and that Asian males are shunned and considered the least preferred partner for practically all other ethnicities:
Married couples in the United States, 2010 (thousands)
The phenomenon is not isolable to cultural dissimilation. Follow-up studies indicate that Asian male adoptees who were brought up in Caucasian households with completely Anglo-Saxon environments encounter a lack of acceptance by Caucasian females.
2011: UCLA student Alexandra Wallace posts a YouTube video of her rant against Asians that subsequently goes viral.
2012: US-born basketball superstar Jeremy Lin is openly stereotyped, patronized and called names in the mainstream media: “two-inch penis,” “fortune cookie,” “yellow mamba,” “kung fu grip,” “chink in the armor,” “FOB” and “from Taiwan.”
2013: Following the crash of Asiana flight 214 at San Francisco Airport, Fox News affiliate KTVU broadcasts a report with the fake pilot names: “Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk” and “Bang Ding Ow.” Other mainstream media and blogs are rife with jokes about “Fright 214.” Asiana decides on a lawsuit, but subsequently drops the idea. Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center and the dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University, minimizes the effects of the prank and posits that there are no real-life consequences or long-term effects and thus no grounds for litigation.
In July, the Los Angeles band, Day Above Ground, releases a music video titled, Asian Girlz, with highly sexist and racist lyrics. In response to the outrage that follows, the band defends it as a satirical work and argues that they are misunderstood and not at all racist on the basis of the band’s positive discriminatory attitude and Asian-girl fetishism — each band member “worships” and dates Asian girls.
ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live airs a segment with a skit featuring children suggesting the US kill all Chinese people to resolve its US$1.3 trillion trade imbalance with China.
Conclusions in 2013
Although the Alien Land Laws in many states have been repealed, challenges to legislation restricting alien land ownership have generally failed. US Courts continue to uphold the right of state legislatures to restrict alien rights to property, meaning that although most of these restrictions have been repealed, they can be reinstituted at any time. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, these issues are being revisited primarily by the federal government rather than individual states.
American textbooks continue to list WWII casualties at “40 million killed,” completely sidelining the roles and sacrifices of Asians. In China alone, which was officially an Allied nation during WWII, there were 35 million deaths.
The mass media continue to project contradictory images that either dehumanize or demonize the Chinese, with the implicit message that they represent either a servile class to be exploited, or an enemy force to be destroyed. This has created and continues to create identity issues for generations of American-born Chinese: a sense of being different, or alien, in their own country; of being subjected to greater scrutiny and judged by higher standards than the general populace.
Asians currently constitute nearly 5% of the US population—one out of every twenty US citizens is of Asian descent, many of whom are fully acculturated “Americans.” Yet, “Asian” continues to be equated with “foreign,” and associated with a range of negative stereotypes.
Studies continue to indicate that Asians in the West are plagued with Perpetual Foreigner Syndrome—regarded as inherently inassimilable. Fallacious utterances such as “there were some Asian faces among the Americans” can still be heard, betraying the lingering concept of Manifest Destiny—the assumption is that by default, “Americans” are Caucasians or at most, black, while Asians remain outside the equation.
The Magnuson Act also known as the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943 was immigration legislation proposed by US Representative (later Senator) Warren G. Magnuson of Washington and signed into law on December 17, 1943 in the United States. It allowed Chinese immigration for the first time since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and permitted some Chinese immigrants already residing in the country to become naturalized citizens. This marked the first time since the Naturalization Act of 1790 that any Asians were permitted to be naturalized. However, the Magnuson Act provided for the continuation of the ban against the ownership of property and businesses by ethnic Chinese. In many states, Chinese Americans (including US citizens) were denied property-ownership rights until the Magnuson Act itself was fully repealed in 1965.
The Magnuson Act was passed on Dec. 17, 1943, the year China became an official allied nation to the United States in World War II. Although considered a positive development by many, it was particularly restrictive against Chinese immigrants, limiting them to an annual quota of 105 new entry visas. The quota was supposedly determined by the Immigration Act of 1924, which set immigration from qualifying countries at 2% of the number of people who were already living in the United States in 1890 of that nationality. However, the arrived-at number of 105 per annum granted to the Chinese was disproportionately low. The quota should have been 2,150 per annum, as official census figures place the population of ethnic Chinese living in the USA in 1890 at 107,488 persons. (See Comparison of Asian Populations during the Exclusion Years.) Regardless of method of calculation, the number of Chinese immigrants allowed into the USA was disproportionately low in ratio to the sanctioned immigration of other nationalities and ethnicities. Chinese immigration later increased with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965. (See The Chinese American Experience.)