College students of Japanese ancestry who have been evacuated from Sacramento, 1942.
By Dorothea Lange
Cities, cats, clothes.
And other things that don't begin with the letter C.
queen - 5/11
Guy: What do girls do at sleepovers?
Me: Pass the Bechdel test.
Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: The 131st anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
On May 6, 1882 President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law, barring Chinese laborers from entering the United States, and restricting the ability of Chinese living in the U.S. to leave and return. It also made it impossible for Chinese immigrants to become U.S. citizens. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 continues to be one of the most restrictive immigration laws ever passed by the United States.
The Exclusion Act was the first of a battery of restrictive laws that made it nearly impossible for Chinese people to immigrate to the U.S., and also made life difficult for Chinese immigrants already living and working in the U.S. Many supported the Act because of widespread dislike for the Chinese and anxiety about Chinese laborers taking jobs, especially during the California gold rush.
Unsurprisingly, it totally didn’t work. Not only did it not do much to improve economic conditions for white Americans, Chinese people living in the U.S. organized, contested the laws, and eventually the law was repealed in 1943. Last year, the House of Representatives passed a resolution apologizing for the systematic exclusion of Chinese Americans, only the fourth time the federal legislature has ever issued an apology to an entire group of people.
[Image: political cartoon of 1882 criticizing the Exclusion Act for arbitrarily excluding Chinese while admitting all kinds of other “undesirables.”]
Actually I think it’s a bit of a glib oversimplification to say that the Chinese Exclusion Act “totally didn’t work”. The laws were in effect for 60 years. In many ways, it did work. Chinese American populations dwindled during the Chinese Exclusion era and many Chinese communities were simply wiped out and vanished. Those communities were “bachelor societies” since no Chinese women were allowed and therefore there were no children, just aging and lonely men, which is partly how the stereotype of the sexless Asian man began — because of racist US immigration laws. In other words, we’re still living with the legacy of these laws.
White riots, firebombings, and lynchings of Chinese were condoned by these laws and mostly not even recorded. San Francisco Chinatown burned down in the 1905 earthquake, destroying all immigration records, and after that Chinese migrants developed an economy of “Paper Sons” and “Paper Daughters” to generate fake paperwork and hustle fake relatives into the country, but they still had to get past the hell of Angel Island. Chinese people, of course, could not vote and therefore had no vehicle for affecting politics. The only recourse was taking matters to court. All of this struggle and unimaginable suffering went on even after Chinese Exclusion laws were repealed during World War II, until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
“Une Femme Est Une Femme” photographed by Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello, and styled by Samuel François for Lula #16 S/S 2013