Monday, March 19, 2012

Link of Interest: Anti-Chinese Riot in Seattle, 1886

From HarpWeek, a site that "will make it possible to take a detailed look at the various immigrant and ethnic groups that were a vital part of American culture during the second half of the 19th century", there're various articles from Harper's Weekly, which ran from 1857 to 1916. It appears to have done a really good job of living up to its name "Journal of Civilization" by chronicling how various ethnic groups contributed to the growth of the USA. This particular item was tweeted, but I do recommend browsing the whole site. A paragraph:

A deliberate and determined effort—an effort, too, without immediate provocation—was made on Sunday, February 7, to expel the Chinese from the town of Seattle, Washington Territory. By a preconcerted plan, of which neither the law-abiding citizens of the town nor the Chinamen had a hint, a mob invaded the Chinese quarter late Saturday night, forcibly but quietly entered the houses, dragged the occupants from their beds, forced them quickly to pack their personal effects, and marched them to a steamer. The mob was thoughtful enough to provide wagons to convey the baggage of its victims. Some had money enough to pay their fare to San Francisco, and many did not, but the mob made no distinction. The few policemen that became aware of the wrong-doing had no power and slight willingness to prevent it, and before the sleeping citizens of the town or the county officers knew what was going on, 400 Chinamen were shivering on the dock. The Sheriff ordered the mob to disperse, but the only result of his order was a hastening of the work of expulsion. The captain of the steam-ship admitted all the Chinamen who had bought tickets, but refused to allow the others to go on board. He armed his crew and attached hose to his boilers, and thus assumed the defensive. Not more than 80 of the 400 Chinamen purchased tickets and safety.

This is a part of US history that I very rarely see addressed at conventions and in steampunk literature: its utter racism towards racial minorities. I find the idea of multiculturalism being practically a playground for white people to dress up in non-white costumes quite problematic already, and there is often so little engagement with the histories associated with these costumes, it feels like our selves as people are redundant, and cast aside so people can have fun with our histories.

Especially when confronted with anti-Chinese screeds today, worrying over China's relationship with Africa, the ignorance surrounding how European and U.S./Canadian powers have treated both East Asian and African peoples on their own soils is deeply ironic, and I'm sure there are tons of scathing things to be said about white analysts judging China to be neocolonizing Africa whilst ignoring how Europe/US/Canada themselves continue to patronize and manipulate politics (oh, come on, Uganda having oil and Kony 2012 can't be just a coincidence). I'm far too tired at the moment to contemplate that, though.

Anyways, hope you enjoy the link.

1 comment:

  1. During my college years in Bellingham, WA (late 90's, up near the Canadian border) I learned about the expulsions as part of a local history project - this shit happened all over the PNW, not just in Seattle proper. The mayors of several cities participated in an apology/memorial project last year, on the 125th anniversary.

    Bookmarking the site for future reference and bolstering my frequent Santayana quotations...