1. THE PROBLEM and CHALLENGE of a PERVASIVE PRESENCE which is INVISIBLE
Local historical guide:"it's inexplicable, there must be some Mexicans here...actually I don’t see anything but white faces....Must be by design, huh?"
TTN: "What is history when the reporter does not record and the camera does not see?"
2. DEPARTURE and JOURNEY- a long time pattern of diaspora in the 2 coastal provinces facing the sea.
3. ARRIVAL:UNPRECEDENTED MULTIRACIAL/MULTINATIONAL DIVERSITY OF GOLD MINERS
BUT the basic distinction is RACIAL WHITE/ NON-WHITE with the WHITE ASSUMPTION of DOMINANCE. (" It’s as if I were to come into your living room, kick off my shoes and say, pretty nice living room, it’s home, it’s mine...WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? ").
4. IN THIS CONTEXT the CHINESE are TREATED the same as Indians and Blacks, and further, a special kind of NON-WHITE-FOREIGNERS, as well.
CHINESE PRESENCE crystallizes and raises the ante on the fundamental question: WHO IS AN AMERICAN, and WHO WILL HAVE THE RIGHTS OF AN AMERICAN?
Historical Black/White slave issues of American South regarding use of non-white labor is transferred to Chinese in American West.
5. Are the experiences of the Chinese in the Frontier West unique to them? How is theirs an "American Story"?
RACIAL THINKING is already FUNDAMENTAL IN AMERICAN SOCIETY.
There are racial and racist CARTOONS in Popular culture, ACADEMIC BOOKS; popular theories such as PHRENOLOGY re: the hierarchy of races of mankind, all act to rationalize and justify WHITE SUPREMACY.
6. The beginning of the anti-Chinese movement
The Change in mining from placer to big company, hard rock/hydraulic mining, displaces the individual independent mining companies of Chinese Laborers. These Chinese laborers become the scapegoats of idled, embittered former gold miners.
7. EARLY PROTEST OF THE CHINESE:
Immediate RESPONSE to INEQUALITY and INJUSTICE of FOREIGN MINERS TAX, 1852- 1870s. The Chinese alone, were not allowed to buy mining claims, but had to work discarded claims; the Chinese alone paid the foreign miners tax- worth 25-50% total State’s revenue.
"The French and English ignored it... the Mexicans refused to pay, saying We are not foreigners!". Only the Chinese being so visibly foreign had the tax unfailingly collected." At same time Chinese are judged as INFERIOR and UNASSIMILABLE.
Okihiro: "... open season on them. (Chinese, Indians and Blacks)..."
8. AT SAME TIME, THE CHINESE WERE OPTIMISTICALLY MOVING OUT AND SEEKING OPPORTUNITIES, in GROUPS
SEE physical fanning out in many directions throughout the inter-mountain states of the West: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, seeking opportunities. Commentaries of Historians, California Park Ranger and US Forest Service archeologists in Idaho and Oregon.
9. DISTINCTIVE WORK STYLE
MASSIVE LABOR PROJECTS OVER EXTENDED TIME and COLLECTIVE coordinated work style.
(Limerick: Chinese did not say," Oops, its gone but kept on working; 30 years/60 acres of stacked rocks at Granite Oregon)
TTN: (re: patience in face of limitations) "...not allowed to buy claims of our own, what others gave up, we reworked. And were well rewarded for our patience ..."
The Chinese had a RESOURCEFUl, INNOVATIVE, RECYCLING approach to working thoroughly, yet they were also guided by cultural beliefs.
Example of bedrock sluice mining for decades, Folsom, Calif; diverting streams and creating deep trenches, sometimes 30 feet deep: "...from the sky a bird sees that our trenches look like the bones of a very large fish..."
" But there was always one place that we did not touch ..no matter how much gold there might be underneath,.." It was the cooking, eating and socializing area chosen according to Feng Shui beliefs re: "facing south... near water", etc.
COORDINATED COLLECTIVE WORK STYLE - SACRAMENTO DELTA
TTN: "We recognized this fertile land. It reminded us of our Pearl River Delta. All we had to do was drain the swamps, clear the weeds, build the levees... We reclaimed this land...The foot sets down, new roots grow "
Massive labor, unhealthy conditions no one else would/could tackle.
Limerick: "... We know it as one of the richest agiculturally places on the planet , but an Ohio famer would just find it ‘weird’, and say no thank you, not here..."
10. CHINESE LABOR CRITICAL: "The only game in town."
IT WAS THE ONLY LABOR AVAILABLE BEFORE TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD WAS COMPLETED, WHICH CHINESE LABOR ALSO BUILT (90%, Central Pacific, western half, 1865-1869)
The Chinese ultimately PIONEERED in all aspects of agriculture (1870s, 75% of the labor force), mineral mining, light industry (shoes, clothing, cigars, soap, brooms), viticulture, including building wine cellars, shrimping camps, fishing, canning, etc.
They were the MIGRATORY WORK FORCE who seasonally traveled up and down the coast all the way to Alaska.
In summary, WHAT WAS THE CHINESE ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTION TO THE WEST??
Ling-chi-Wang: "As it turned out, California’ s economic development in the 19th century could not have been achieved without the Chinese. And I can say that unequivocally".
11. WHY DID THEY NOT JUST ASSIMILATE "... Like every other immigrant group"?
IT WAS NOT JUST LABOR , BUT CULTURE was characteristic of their WORKING WHILE BUILDING COMMUNITY: SUSTAINING THEIR DISTINCTIVE CULTURAL BELIEFS AND WAY OF LIFE. They built temples-(WEAVERVILLE TEMPLE, 1870’s) that lasted a hundred years, and rebuilt several times after fires. They had full sized Gods:
Banners and flags are used for processions, memorial placques addressing the Gods, artwork, all the accroutrements for altars, contribution boards acknowledging the donors of their community.
12. Were they SOJOURNERS or SETTLERS ?
Did they intend to stay, or were they just here to grab what they could and leave?
Daniels notes in the program that 1/3 of some European immigrants returned to their home countries also, but only the Chinese are asked to explain themselves on this either-or type choice.
Okihiro: " As if Chinese never built any homes in America..."
Calligraphy scroll with couplet:
Right side says: "The fallen leave returns to it roots"
Left side says: "The foot sets down, new roots grow"
Together the scroll couplet asserts in the film that they DID BOTH. They Returned to their Roots, and they also Planted New Roots.
13. Why did the Chinese stay, given the continuous discrimination and persecution?
TTN: " Why did we stay ? Of course everybody hope to get rich, ...but rich or poor, all must send money home. When you drink from the water you must always think of the source..." (Chinese saying regarding loyalty )
REMITTANCES HOME and a highly organized network of information, supplies, and relationships expessed their system of TRANSPACIFIC TIES.
And if they die in America? The transpacific bond included the important practice of having their bones returned to the home village to be reunited with ancestral tombs.
NOTE: returning bones is not just cultural, but the also the plain unreliability of burial grounds in America where they were prohibited from burial at all, and therefore the graves could be (and were) easily dug up to make way for other purposes, such as roads, highways, playgrounds, etc.
In addition since Chinese were obstructed from having families in America, they had no assurance of continuity care for the graves.
14. CULTURAL PRACTICES WERE THEIR MEANS OF MATERIAL AS WELL AS SOCIAL SURVIVAL
Setting up stores (CHEW KEE STORE, rammed earth structure, founded 1854) and imported from China all the necessities in foodstuff, medicinal herbs, clothing, household goods, ledger books, abacus, brushes and ink, games/costumes, fire crackers, incense, for celebrating Chinese New Year, etc., etc., in total, almost everything they could possibly need for creating a full community life .
TTN: "... In this strange and unwelcoming place, we brought everything we needed to live.."
15. They were MISSING ONLY ONE VERY IMPORTANT ELEMENT FOR LIFE IN AMERICA: THEIR WIVES or WOMEN THEY COULD MARRY
" ...the laws made it impossible for us to bring our families..also CUSTOMS...Even so, we community of men, without our womenfolk, tried to make here a place like home..."
PAGE LAW 1875, specifically targeting Chinese "prostitutes" overflows to discouraging all women from coming.
Anti-Miscengenation laws prohibited interracial marriages.
16. Those few Chinese women here were all treated as identically anonymous.
"... they were called China Polly, China Anne... most of all, China Mary..." Judy Yung: " China Mary was a generic name...they couldn’t tell the difference..." THREE CHINA MARYS: " Mary Moulton, Oakdale, Calif..." wears victorian clothers, owns property...(this other woman) her real name was Ah Yuen. She first came as a prostitute, then became a cook...she was alway seen with a Chinese man, called Mormon Charlie. The Mormons seemed to accept them both, and they are buried (in Evanston Wyoming) among the Mormons... We see her plain white grave stone, marked, "China Mary". Nothing else, no date, etc.; ...and then there was Mary Bong, of Sitka ,Alaska, she does everything..." ( all- around wonder woman- miner, fisherwoman, restaurateur, midwife, prison guard...) "...but they call her China Mary..."
17. WHY WERE THERE NO FAMILIES?
Economic reason : CHINESE CONTRACT LABOR IS A NEW TYPE OF LABOR, more economical than slavery (Ling-Chi Wang)
But CONTRCT LABOR is MOST IDEAL WHEN WORKERS ARE ABLE BODIED, SINGLE MEN FREE AND WILLING TO BE MIGRATORY, AND UNENCUMBERED BY FAMILIES. Conveniently the PAGE LAW, 1875, a Federal immigration law name for a Californnia congressman, specifically targeted the immigration of Chinese women, suspecting them all as potential prostitutes. Chinese female would-be immigrants presenting themselves at the West coast port of entry were subjected to humuliating questioning. This practice alone considerably discouraged the jouneying of Chinese women.
The Cumulation of Page Law, Chinese Exclusion Act, other instititutional interventions along with general racism, distinctively interfer with Chinese formation of families and distortion of community formation: the "Bachelor society".
"For more than a hundred years, American laws and popular opinion worked to interfer with the formation of families. It created a bachelor society, communities of mostly men, growing older..."
18. CHINESE MEN to WOMEN GENDER RATIO IMBALANCE...
Ran as high as 27:1 as shown in chart DECADE BY DECADE, during the 1860s to 1990s. It did not balance out 1:1, until 1970s, AFTER the immigration law overhaul of 1965.
19. EFFECTS OF GENDER IMBALANCE
Given the gender imbalance, CHINESE PROSTITUTION was a natural outgrowth in the frontier setting. The distinctive status of Chinese prostitutes however, as compared with Euro prostitutes, also common in the frontier setting, was that the Chinese women had written contracts, were placed in a category of indentured worker, and were not individual, autonomous agents. They were part of a system that impressed women into service, undergirded by profitability for both Chinese and European business partners. This was supported culturally by Asian patriarchal devaluing of women, and the filial piety expected of daughters’ loyalty and duty to improverished families in China.
ANTI-MISCEGENATION LAWS are overcome in some cases by Chinese men co-habitating and intermarrying with Indian and Mexican women and forming families.
20. COULD IT HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT?
In all historical recounts, we must also interrogate the seeming inevitablity of our own successful narrative drive. The film asks whenever possible: Could this story have been different?
Do we have any historical evidence of alternative outcomes? Specifically in this story, Could there have been Chinese families? i.e., What can we learn from the historical example of Chinese in 1850s Monterey, California?
COULD IT HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT? : Yes, if they could have avoided economic competition with Anglo Euros, and if there was a receptive local community (SEE Mexicans in Monterey).
Unique situation of Monterey, California- 40% women and there were many families of workers in the fishing community. This is an example of the CHINESE AMERICA THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. (NOTE: Chinese merchants as a class were generally able to have families, but not laborer/workers. Yet in Monterey, ordinary workers did have families.)
Monterey Chinese pioneered and made extremely profitable the fishing industry in California. They gathered abalone, including abalone shells, seaweed, cuttle fish, dryed and shipped them at time when Anglo-Euros were not knowledgeable, or not yet interested.
(They would become so later, and displace the Chinese.) They also had the good fortune of Monterey still remaining a largely Mexican community, not receptive to anti-Chinese sentiments.
Specific family JUNG SAN CHOY, pioneers in Abalone, traced into their family line, 3 generations, including daughter who became a welder in WWII shipyards, a granddaughter- Maggie Gee, we see her on camera, who became a WWII WASP pilot, and a physicist after the war. They are also examples of the CHINESE AMERICA THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN.
21. TTN: "But they did not want us to form communities. They wanted us to leave, not return, and tell others not to come. "
A WIDE ARRAY OF RESTRICTIONS are created DIRECTED SPECIFICALLY AT THE CHINESE TO :
PUNISH THEIR PRESENCE, DISCOURAGE THEIR STAYING, ENCOURAGE THEIR LEAVING, PREVENT THEM FROM RETURNING, PROHIBIT ANY NEW PEOPLE FROM COMING, PREVENT THOSE ALREADY HERE FROM FORMING FAMILIES BY PREVENTING THEIR WOMEN FROM COMING (Police Tax...Poll Tax... Cubic Air Ordinance, Shoulder Pole prohibiiton...Page Law, 1875...Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882, etc.
22. IS THIS JUST A CHINESE STORY? Is the history of the Chinese in the Frontier West really "an American Story"?
THE CHINESE COMMUNITY CHALLENGE THE RESTRICTIONS AND DISCRIMINATORY LAWS, and OVERTURN NUMBERS OF THEM; there is a long list of laws that have been "voided...repealed...declared unconstitutional...vetoed.."
Commentaries by Sucheng Chan ; Chas Mc CLain: " In fact I cannot think of a single dicsriminatory law that the Chinese perceived as discriminatory which they did not challenge".
Chinese legal victories established a principle of equality before the law, that all people in the United States, not just the Chinese who won cases, and not just citizens, but everyone who is here, and foreigners who come here are covered by the protection of the laws.
TTN: "We did not know we would achieve something so big. Only that what happened to us was not fair, and that we would fight it! But when we get justice for ourselves, we get it for everybody."
SUCHENG CHAN:Chinese legal challenges effectively expanded the meaning of being American to include not just Euro-Americans, but making it more international and extending the American dream "...beyond what the Founding Fathers might have had in mind".
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