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[LABOR] Chinese Exclusion Act & American Organized Labor's Racism

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  • madchinaman
    The Chinese Question and American Labor Historians Stanford M. Lyman [from New Politics, vol. 7, no. 4 (new series), whole no. 28, Winter 2000] STANFORD M.
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 8 12:51 AM
      The "Chinese Question" and American Labor Historians
      Stanford M. Lyman
      [from New Politics, vol. 7, no. 4 (new series), whole no. 28, Winter
      2000]
      STANFORD M. LYMAN is Robert J. Morrow Eminent Scholar and professor
      of Social Science at Florida Atlantic University. A specialist on
      Asian American studies, minorities and sociological theory, he is
      the author of Chinese Americans, The Asian in North America, and
      Chinatown and Little Tokyo: Power, Conflict, and Community among
      Chinese and Japanese Immigrants in America. His most recent book is
      Postmodernism and a Sociology of the Absurd and Other Essays on
      the "Nouvelle Vague" in American Social Science.
      http://www.wpunj.edu/~newpol/issue28/lyman28.htm


      -

      Thus Gyory's account of the Chinese Exclusion Act ends with the
      statute's enactment into law and says virtually nothing about how
      organized labor fought for another 60 years to maintain and enlarge
      Asiatic exclusion from both the country and the labor sector;
      ** how Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, East Indians, and other peoples
      declared to be aliens ineligible to citizenship in the United States
      because they were neither white nor persons of African nativity or
      African descent petitioned the courts either for reclassification as
      whites or for the exclusion law and the naturalization statute to be
      declared unconstitutional;
      ** or how those laws made it a virtual impossibility for Chinese
      laborers in the United States to live a normal family life, leading
      an unknown number to rectify matters through smuggling, through the
      documentary creation of "paper sons," and through resort to the
      subterfuge that the Immigration and Naturalization Service came to
      call the "slot racket."

      -


      Periodicity: Montgomery v. Gutman and Gyory
      IN GYORY'S INVESTIGATION, THE NEW LABOR HISTORY'S PECULIAR
      PERIODIZATION becomes a way to avoid discussing labor's role in the
      anti-Chinese movement in the years following Congress's adoption of
      Chinese exclusion. Herbert Hill has taken notice of Gutman's and
      other New Labor Historians' peculiar approach to historical
      periodization, e.g., that Gutman "never explains . . . why he chose
      to limit the scope of his inquiry [into the situation characterizing
      the relationship of African American workers to the United Mine
      Workers of America] to the years between 1890 and 1900, why that
      period in the UMW's history was especially significant, and why it
      deserves the special attention he gives it," or why Nelson
      Lichtenstein, in his biography of Walter Reuther, gives great
      emphasis to Reuther's support for "fair employment" legislation but
      says not a word about the union's response after the enactment of
      Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

      Although Hill has noted how the "significance of historical events
      may be distorted if they are extracted from their temporal sequence
      without reason or explanation," a similar practice is to be found in
      Gyory's work.

      Thus Gyory's account of the Chinese Exclusion Act ends with the
      statute's enactment into law and says virtually nothing about how
      organized labor fought for another 60 years to maintain and enlarge
      Asiatic exclusion from both the country and the labor sector;
      ** how Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, East Indians, and other peoples
      declared to be aliens ineligible to citizenship in the United States
      because they were neither white nor persons of African nativity or
      African descent petitioned the courts either for reclassification as
      whites or for the exclusion law and the naturalization statute to be
      declared unconstitutional;
      ** or how those laws made it a virtual impossibility for Chinese
      laborers in the United States to live a normal family life, leading
      an unknown number to rectify matters through smuggling, through the
      documentary creation of "paper sons," and through resort to the
      subterfuge that the Immigration and Naturalization Service came to
      call the "slot racket."

      For Gyory, however, having freed the white workingman from the
      charge of anti-Chinese prejudice and discrimination, his work is
      finished. The Chinese are left to their limbo-like fate silenced,
      marginalized, evicted, not even a segment of the American working
      class nor a part of the history of the American working class.

      It is David Montgomery, contrary to the arguments advanced by Gyory,
      who takes notice of the fact that "The unions and the Knights of
      Labor in the Far West not only lobbied for legal prohibition of
      Chinese immigration but also, after passage of the Exclusion Act of
      1882 unleashed an 'abatement' campaign to drive Chinese by force
      away from mines, ships and lumber camps and formed a League of
      Deliverance, which attempted to compel all San Francisco employers
      to replace Chinese workers with white union members."

      White workers' hostility to Chinese workers continued even after the
      latter had conducted such strikes and threatened work stoppages as a
      successful cigar makers' job action in 1884 and an unsuccessful
      drive for a closed shop in 1885.

      Indeed, the Chinese successes in these struggles may have increased
      white workers' hostility toward them. And this hostility extended
      well into the 20th century and into other areas of work, including
      the kinds that seemed ripe for radical multiracial class actions.
      Thus, Calvin Winslow writes: " . . . [O]n the Pacific Coast,
      waterfront workers were mostly white. Chinese were excluded, and
      African Americans were relatively scarce until World War II."
      Labor's support for racism was ubiquitous.
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