Racism and the Chinese Immigrant Experience
Several reasons are commonly given for anti-Chinese views and activity in the US:
1. WASP xenophobia, fear of mixing races and consequent "impurity. This was already prefaced in Euro
American’s attitude against miscegenation as they came into contact first with the American Indians, then
the Africans who were enslaved then the Mexicans who were racially subjugated, and it continued with the
Asians who were deemed "inferior races"
2. (unfounded) fear of economic competition(white workers often looked at Chinese workers as aliens of
the owners, and this attitude divided the working class. Ethnic Antagonism caused by the dual wage
system divided the working class by whites and nonwhites, and since White capital favored cheaper labor
and nonwhites, white labor eventually pushed for Asian exclusion. For example the Asiatic exclusion
League(1905) and groups like the Native Sons of the Golden Wets.
3. Harangues of demo gouges like Dennis Kearney
4. Ignorance of Chinese culture
All of these factors/attitudes, though are effects of racism, not causes. Sinophopia, fear of Chinese , was
exhibited by early diplomats and missionaries to China, who described their hosts as filthy, lecherous,
cruel, ignorant, ll godless heather’s', and this prejudice came to characterize white America's attitudes and
actions toward the Chinese.
Racism is that which assigns permanent generalized inferiority to members of a group to justify exploiting
and subjugating them.
. Institutionalized Racism is the systematic discrimination against a group of people
through institutions, like law, education, employment, etc. These are both different from prejudice in that
they include the power to apply prejudice as policy. An important consideration in looking at policies, etc,
is to remember perspective, ie from whose eyes? (Example: protecting the right to freedom of speech of
those who want to make racist remark; are we considering the rights of victims of those remarks?
California led the country in both anti-Chinese activities and experiments exclusion. Exclusion eventually
became Federal policy toward Chinese.
Types of anti-Chinese activities:
1. Hoodlum Sport--individual harassment of individual Chinese, from calling names or spiting to tossing
dynamite in the window of a house. For example, until the 1940s or 50's it was dangerous for Chinese to
walk through the North Beach area of SF.
2. Mob violence. This was especially the case in California, but spread throughout the West. 34
California towns expelled their Chinese residents; 9 Washington vicinities; 3 Oregon vicinities; and 4
Nevada vicinities. In Seattle, the residents of Chinatown were put on a boat to go to San Francisco. In
Juneau, several hundred Chinese were set adrift on a raft.
In 1871 in LA, a white man was either killed or injured after trying to intervene in a feud between fighting