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[LABOR] Heritage of Anti-Asian Hostility

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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, 2005
      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


      -

      One can almost hear echoes of Gompers's and Powderly's warnings
      about the threat that Chinese civilization poses for America when
      one reads Caspar W. Weinberger's "Foreword" to the House of
      Representatives Report of the Select Committee on U.S. National
      Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic
      of China ("the Cox Report"), which stated, "Communist China's long
      march against the United States is as tenacious as it is diverse
      from campaign contributions used to buy influence in the White
      House, to purchasing an interest in American corporations, to hi-
      tech spying, [and] to a plain old- fashioned military buildup and
      threats . . . "Further, when it is reported that 450 of the
      employees at Los Alamos are "foreign citizens," and that this number
      includes "more than 30 from Russia, China, North Korea, and seven
      other 'sensitive' countries"281 one senses that Chinese scientists,
      whether "imported" or American-born, alien or citizen, have become
      the era's current version of the "coolie menace."

      Unlike the Irish and other Euroamerican workingmen, whose
      grandparents sought and achieved the perquisites of "whiteness" by
      excluding them and scorning their ancestral culture, Chinese
      Americans of whatever socioeconomic class are transformed
      into "honorary whites" when denied a place in affirmative action
      programs, but otherwise and all too often regarded as
      permanent "immigrants."

      The deeper and more pervasive legacy of the Chinese Exclusion era
      has been captured by Lisa Lowe when she writes:

      A national memory haunts the conceptions of the Asian-American,
      persisting beyond the repeal of actual laws prohibiting Asians from
      citizenship and sustained by the wars in Asia, in which the Asian is
      always seen as . . . the "foreigner-within," even when born in the
      United States and the descendant of generations born here before.

      Gyory's book does nothing to dispel this national memory.

      -


      Conclusion: A Heritage of Anti-Asian Hostility.
      IN A STATEMENT DIRECTED AT BRITISH SUBSCRIBERS TO THE INTERNET
      BOOKSELLER AMAZON.COM U.K., Gyory wrote, "At the dawn of a new
      century, the Chinese Exclusion Act still casts a long, dark shadow
      over American society and our nation's treatment of immigrants."

      True enough, but the argument of his book, especially his revival of
      the "coolie" mystique, darkens that shadow. Suspicions about the
      character, intentions, and loyalty of the Chinese in the United
      States, whether recently-arrived or American-born, did not disappear
      after the repeal of the exclusion laws in 1943. "Without a doubt,"
      historians Philip P. Choy, Lorraine Dong, and Marlon K. Hom
      write, "Chinese exclusion . . . left a legacy of racism."

      Some examples: When, in the midst of the Korean War, troops from the
      People's Republic of China hurled back the American advance, there
      were roundups of alien Chinese on the east coast of the United
      States. In 1966, with the war in Vietnam raging and threatening to
      engulf the great powers in a wider conflict, Jerome Beatty, Jr., a
      Saturday Review columnist, hinted that America's Chinese could face
      the same fate as that which befell the Japanese Americans on the
      west coast in 1942:

      An unconfirmed rumor has come to my attention that our FBI is well
      prepared for a World War III in which our major enemy will be China.
      Detention camps have been secretly prepared in which will
      be "relocated" all the Chinese in the United States so that they may
      be screened, and prevented from sabotaging the war effort and
      signaling Peking with short-wave radios.

      Twelve years later, Ming Hai Loo, a 24-year-old Chinese American,
      residing in Raleigh, North Carolina, was gunned down by two white
      men who insisted he was Vietnamese and held him responsible for the
      deaths of American soldiers in Vietnam.

      In 1983, Loren W. Fessler, a journalist who had served as an adviser
      with Chinese airborne troops during the Second World War, pointed
      out that "the legacy of anti-Chinese feeling built up in the
      nineteenth century remained strong all through the first four
      decades of the twentieth century."

      But, ironically, his statement turned out to be premature. When,
      after two unemployed Detroit auto workers, on June 19, 1982, beat
      Vincent Chin, a Chinese American engineer, to death with a baseball
      bat, calling him a "Jap" and screaming "It's because of you
      motherfuckers that we're out of work," and a local judge sentenced
      Chin's killers to probation and a fine of 3,000 dollars each, a
      federal attempt to charge Chin's murderers with violating his civil
      rights failed. " . . . [H]ate crimes against Asians still . . .
      [occur]," Choy, Dong, and Hom point out, "testifying to the
      continued scapegoating of Asians in America during times of economic
      decline and unemployment."274

      Nor is the current version of apprehensions about a "yellow peril"
      the modern usage of a term introduced into the racist rhetoric of
      the Occident by Kaiser Wilhelm II around the turn of the 19th
      century limited to fears about job loss to Asian immigrants or
      to "outsourcing" of American manufactures to countries where a
      supply of cheap labor is available.

      By 1990 the Chinese had become the largest of more than 20 Asian
      peoples living and working in the United States. Their numbers had
      grown and the shortage of women among them had been relieved because
      of such post-repeal laws as the War Brides Act (1945), Displaced
      Persons Act (1948), McCarran-Walters Immigration Act (1952), Refugee
      Relief Act (1953), and two of the post-repeal Immigration Acts
      (1968, 1981).

      One aspect of these changes has been a peculiar distribution of
      occupations. Foreign-born Chinese are to be found at both ends of
      the occupational scale: some in well-paying, professional,
      technical, scientific and hi-tech positions; while others are at the
      low end, working as waiters, dishwashers, hotel and restaurant
      workers, and in the garment industry.

      American-born Chinese are more likely to be found in the white-
      collar professions or in business. Having avoided the blue collar
      sector where a lingering Sinophobic animus discouraged when it did
      not absolutely prohibit their entry, however, neither the foreign-
      or the American-born Chinese professionals have been able to put off
      the badge of suspicion and distrust the earlier exclusion had done
      so much to spawn: Thus, the allegations of espionage against
      government-employed Chinese scientists, engineers, and technicians
      employed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the corrupt
      practices admitted by two Chinese political fundraisers working in
      the arena of national politics have sent a chill into the ranks of
      this most successful part of the Chinese American community.

      "Because of the incidents at Los Alamos," Raymond Ng, a Chinese
      American engineer employed at the Sandia National Laboratories at
      Livermore, California, pointed out, " . . . a cloud of suspicion
      appears to hang over all Asian Pacific Americans."

      One can almost hear echoes of Gompers's and Powderly's warnings
      about the threat that Chinese civilization poses for America when
      one reads Caspar W. Weinberger's "Foreword" to the House of
      Representatives Report of the Select Committee on U.S. National
      Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic
      of China ("the Cox Report"), which stated, "Communist China's long
      march against the United States is as tenacious as it is diverse
      from campaign contributions used to buy influence in the White
      House, to purchasing an interest in American corporations, to hi-
      tech spying, [and] to a plain old- fashioned military buildup and
      threats . . . "Further, when it is reported that 450 of the
      employees at Los Alamos are "foreign citizens," and that this number
      includes "more than 30 from Russia, China, North Korea, and seven
      other 'sensitive' countries"281 one senses that Chinese scientists,
      whether "imported" or American-born, alien or citizen, have become
      the era's current version of the "coolie menace."

      Unlike the Irish and other Euroamerican workingmen, whose
      grandparents sought and achieved the perquisites of "whiteness" by
      excluding them and scorning their ancestral culture, Chinese
      Americans of whatever socioeconomic class are transformed
      into "honorary whites" when denied a place in affirmative action
      programs, but otherwise and all too often regarded as
      permanent "immigrants."

      The deeper and more pervasive legacy of the Chinese Exclusion era
      has been captured by Lisa Lowe when she writes:

      A national memory haunts the conceptions of the Asian-American,
      persisting beyond the repeal of actual laws prohibiting Asians from
      citizenship and sustained by the wars in Asia, in which the Asian is
      always seen as . . . the "foreigner-within," even when born in the
      United States and the descendant of generations born here before.

      Gyory's book does nothing to dispel this national memory.
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