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Factors Behind Anti-Chinese Actions in California During the 19th Century

Sat, September 1, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Hynes, 103


Currently overshadowed by the phrase “model minority”, the sufferings of Chinese immigrants in the Western United States during the mid-19th and early 20th centuries has received limited attention. One of the reasons that few studies pay attention to this issue might be related to the availability of information. However, with a greater accumulation of information about these oppressive anti-Chinese actions, it is possible to answer some of the questions that are not answered by the existing studies. This paper has two goals to achieve: providing detailed information about the anti-Chinese incidents that occurred during these time periods, and identifying the sources of these anti-Chinese actions by engaging in an empirical analysis. Although the existing studies on anti-Chinese actions provide ample evidence of atrocities perpetrated upon Chinese immigrants, it is rare to find systematically organized data on these events. This study will provide a systematic overview of these incidents (e.g., driven outs, roundups, burnings of Chinatowns, riots against Chinese, killings, and lynchings of Chinese immigrants). Furthermore, this study seeks to answer the question of what motivated these anti-Chinese actions. A variety of potential sources will be examined to answer this question. According to some of the existing literature, economic competition between white laborers and Chinese immigrants during the economic downturn was the main reason. Another set of studies suggests that political elites' and the mass media's political maneuverings played a key role in accounting for these events. Others have pointed out that whites' racial prejudice or racism regardless of their political, social, or economic status was a driving force for these oppressive anti-Chinese actions. Still other scholars argue that labor organizations and anti-immigrant groups' organizational activities were behind this abuse of Chinese immigrants. This study empirically tests the relationship between these potential sources and the events by using author's own more comprehensive compilation of data.