Week 5: Immigrants

After watching the documentary in the basic set, I was really struck by how terribly mistreated the Chinese were during this time period. Not only did they have to work from the ground up like any other immigrant group, but they also had to deal with the government constantly stripping away their rights and essentially negating all of their hard work. To me, the most striking example of this was the Chinese men who worked on the transcontinental railroad. Their dedication and hard work impressed their foremans so much that they started to encourage men to come over from China just to work on the railroad. However, the day the railroad was finished, the Chinese men were not allowed in the photograph that was taken of the joining of the east and west lines. They were never honored for their hard work and were cast aside, much like how the American government disrespected and cast aside all Chinese people with their exclusion acts later on. Both events were extremely shameful and, in my opinion, should be more talked about in American history textbooks. In my high school own experience, although my textbook did mention the exclusion acts, it did not go into any great detail about them. Before watching this documentary, I had no idea just how devastating the acts were, as my history book treated them as a blip that occurred after the Civil War. Overall, it was extremely sad to learn just how awfully Chinese Americans were treated.

However, the reading in packet 2 was able to cheer me up a bit. When I first started reading the information about the Peranakan Chinese, I almost immediately made the connection to Crazy Rich Asians. The first time I watched the movie, I remember being quite confused by the fact that although the male love interest’s family was from Singapore, they still spoke Mandarin and seemed to be deeply connected to Chinese culture. However, the information on the Peranakan Chinese helped to clarify things for me and gave me a broader view of Chinese immigration to areas outside of the United States. After learning about the experience of the Chinese immigrating to the United States, it was refreshing to read about immigrants that were not only able to thrive in their new home but also retain and proudly display their sense of cultural identity. It is great that Kevin Kwan (the author of Crazy Rich Asians) decided to spotlight this unique version of Chinese culture and bring it to a broader audience.

Works Cited

The Chinese Exclusion Act”. Directed by Burns, Ric and Li-Shin Yu. Public Broadcasting Service, 2018.

Choong Wilkins, Rebecca. “Who are the Peranakan Chinese? Deep roots and many routes” LARB China ChannelJanuary 24, 2019.

One reply on “Week 5: Immigrants”

The common theme of the posts I’ve read so far is that the Chinese Exclusion act was mentioned once or a few times and never again. The specific injustices are brushed over to an extent that really does make me upset and doubt my education.

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