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Extract From A Declaration Made By A Congressman On The "Chinese Menace"

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Par   •  9 Janvier 2013  •  2 729 Mots (11 Pages)  •  732 Vues

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Shanit

Bendavid

We are dealing with an extract from a declaration made by a Congressman on the “Chinese Menace” which dates back to 1892. The date is pretty significant here. In fact, it refers to the date when the Chinese Exclusion Act ends up and consequently, to the beginning of a new “Chinese Menace” due to the end of immigration regulation. The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in the United States in 1882. It was the first major legislation restricting immigration in the US. This bill, passed on May 6th stated that Chinese labour immigration was to be suspended for ten years. The Chinese Exclusion Act signed the climax of more than thirty years of progressive racism. However, the Anti-Chinese feeling had existed ever since the great migration from China during the Gold rush. In fact, during the 1800’s, many Chinese immigrants had settled in California, lured by the Gold Rush. They arrived in a territory that was unregulated and crowded with newcomers. Chinese immigrants spread across the country, working on the Transcontinental Railroad, replacing striking white factory workers on the East Coast but also going to the South to replace freed black plantation workers. Though the Chinese population still remained relatively small in 1870, more and more states began to have a noticeable Chinese presence. Little by little, the Chinese came to be perceived as an economic threat in the West. In fact, during the financially unstable 1870’s, the Chinese became an ideal scapegoat due to the fact that they were strangers. To the Americans, Chinese immigrants, who were very productive and low-paid, were stifling their job opportunities but also reducing their wages. However, most of these “Americans” had also immigrated to the US years earlier. Based on these prejudices and the great fear of Chinese domination of labour, Californians and other American labourers urged the Government to take action and pushed legislation through Congress. In May 6, 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act passed for a period of ten years. Yet, in May 6, 1892, the act was no longer in effect and the danger of a new mass Chinese immigration became alarming, hence this new declaration by Congress. Indeed, in this declaration, the Congressman underlines the emergency to pass a new act preventing the immigration of Chinese to the USA. According to this declaration, the demand is universal but especially essential to the welfare of the country. We may wonder to what extent the strong will to renew the Chinese Exclusion Act, as unfair as this Act is, turns out to be “justified” by Congress but especially essential to a country that used to advocate a myth of an “American social harmony & peace”. As a starting point, I shall examine an exclusion based on ethnic racism, jealousy and fear of Chinese domination. And then to conclude, I will devote the second part of my study to a strong desire to build a country based on white racial purity.

In fact, as preposterous as it may seem, the necessity to renew the Chinese Exclusion Act happens to be “justified” by Congress, and all this firstly based on ethnic racism. In fact, Chinese immigrants had become victims of criticism and racism because of their way of life. Chinese food, dress, religion etc… was very different from the European-American cultures that surrounded them and it turned out to be a serious problem to the Americans. Indeed, “their presence (…) is inimical to (their) institutions and is deemed injurious and a source of danger” (line 7-8) because they turn out to be too different from the Americans. In fact, line 7, the Chinese are presented as a “distinct race” and their way of living is clearly criticized. Their food diet is also criticized since it happens out to be pretty different from the basic American diet: “ (they live) on the cheapest diet ‘mostly vegetables’” (line 14). The way their dress is also scrutinized line 14: “ wearing the poorest clothing”. Moreover, the fact that Chinese people are ready to live under the worse conditions in the USA in order to raise money and then go back to their home country is criticized instead of being seen as a result of a hard-working nature and a will to succeed. The fact that they are ready to support the worst way of living like “living in (…) crowded tenement houses, surrounded by dirt, filth, corruption, pollution and prostitution” (line 10-11) gives a negative image of this People. Indeed, Chinese people seem to taint American purity but also to taint the image of quality that the country has fought to acquire during all those years that is to say the image of an industrialised and modern country. In fact, the image that we are given to see here is the one of a messy People without any education and respect for the country they live in. Far more than being just a great source of danger for the country and its people, the Chinese turn out to be a source of danger for the institutions of the country hence the reason why for the first time the Federal Government passed a law against an ethnic group. Their way of living, judged too different from the American one, happens to act against the welfare of the country and turns out to be highly injurious. In fact, this is clearly reproached to the Chinese line 12: “ They never assimilate with our people, our manners, tastes, religion, or ideas. With us they have nothing in common”. The discrimination here is clearly based on racial and ethnic differences. Because they are different, they are a threat. In fact, Congress and some Americans resent Chinese people because the ‘Americanization’ did not work on them. Consequently, they happen to be dangerous for the country because they do not fit to the American culture and institutions, two things that the American cherish and are so proud of. Indeed, we all know how strangers’ ‘Americanization’ is important to the American, who had already tried to convert the Indians in good Americans. We are far from the image that the USA once spread all over the world, that is to say the one of a free & open minded country where everyone is accepted and where social harmony prevails. Moreover, the fact that Chinese people are not attached to their country, “its laws or its institutions” (line 11) and that they are not interested “in its prosperity” (line 12) is a factor of exclusion for the Congress. However, when they turned out to be an essential workforce for the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, the fact that they “had not attachment “to their country was not a problem. According to the Congressman,

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