Neither Here Nor There, So Where Shall I Go?

Neither Here Nor There, So Where Shall I Go?

Michael Gil

The individual care of a group or communities is often the best way to assimilate different demographics within home, school, or other places of safety and inclusion. One day Alicia Hsu, a teacher, was talking to her class about the circumstances of Rosa Parks’ epic stand against discrimination and asked if they were in her situation, what they would do? The children responded in their native dialect and answered, “I would move” (Hsu, 1995, p. 240). To which Mrs. Hsu asks gasping, “You would?  But why?”… “Because,” Tang mumbled, “we do not belong. It is their home. It is their train” (Hsu, 1995, p. 240.  To that effect Hsu wanted to know what went wrong and how she failed to inspire in them the belief that they have a place in a nation of immigrants, a nation to which they belonged for it was their home as well. During the 1800s to 1900s, Chinese immigrants were all but assimilated and cared for equally by their fellow man. As the racial tensions began to stir, many American legislators and policy makers view that the Chinese national character was inferior to that of the white men. This began to affect the children of Chinese immigrants in their ability to assimilate into American society. The primary factors that led to long lasting and profound discrimination against Chinese and Chinese Americans were violence, racial legislation, belief in a superior race, and economic instability. To which the children of Chinese immigrants never saw themselves as Americans as they were constantly reminded of the white man’s world and they are not white men but children from an “alien” race.

Within the field of social studies it is important to understand subjects of sensitivity, particular in areas examining discrimination. Students want and desire to be educated based on the historical content and context of particular stories within American history that concern their own demographic in order to understand their own history and identify with it. Teachers in association are to deliver that content and express the ideas of the time and explain the significance of that very event. For it is within those very explanations and examples given by the instructor that a student readily intakes the subject matter and applies it to social gathers to see if that very old version of history within the U.S still holds true. If not then they are ready to identify signs of unequal treatment as they were informed based on how previously America held very different ideas on how immigrants should be treated. Within this very article seeks to demonstrate and inform instructors on the topic of Anti-Chinese sentiments that led to events such as the Chinese Exclusion Law, violence against Chinese Americans, and developing stereotypes that may continue today within modern American communities (Chung, 2018). The Chinese Exclusion law was used to deny entry to certain status types of Chinese immigrants but soon began to prevent all Chinese immigrants from coming into the United States either as skilled or unskilled laborers (Chinese Exclusion Act, 2009). Americans thought that Chinese immigrants would degrade morale in American communities with opium and gambling while stealing American jobs. The significance of the Chinese Exclusion law was that it allowed anti-Chinese Americans to brand Chinese immigrant families as deviants and pests in the American quality of life. Which prompted many Americans to confront the threat of the so-called new Chinese menace, by any means, to what was seen as an endangerment of their own communities. In relation one of the primary means to discriminate against Chinese immigrants that American citizens used was violence and political interference. These Americans were dubbed Anti-Chinese and used violence and other means to enforce fear in Chinese communities. Americans felt that Chinese immigrants were unsuited for American citizenship to participate in the American way of life. They saw Chinese Americana’s unworthy or unable to positively contribute to American communities and are only capable of stealing from it. The effects of how the treatment of Chinese Americans and the future generations onward demonstrate a change in attitudes in anti-Chinese immigration, thus prompting an essential question. What were the primary factors that led to having a profound impact of discriminatory practices against Chinese Americans and what did the children of those immigrants see themselves as within American culture?

The study of Chinese exclusion from American communities ranges from violence, discrimination, stereotyping, and lack of assimilation for the children of those very immigrants. In the work of Sue Fawn Chung, Chinese Exclusion, the First Bureau of Immigration, and the 1905 Special Chinese Census: Registered, Counted, Arrested, Deported–1892-1906,  she depicts and analyzes the history of the Chinese Exclusion law with the inclusion of the Bureau of Immigration. The Bureau of Immigration primary focus was to find Chinese immigrants with improper documentation and detain them. Chung approaches the topic of Chinese exclusion by gathering evidence in accordance with the United States program created in the 1895 called BI which their primary purpose was to control immigrants, especially Chinese (Chung, 2018). Chung details that due to the BI’s realm of control at the time and enforcement powers involved regulations involved in completely sanctioned naked body search of Chinese immigrants despite knowing that in Chinese culture it was extremely offensive. Chung later argues that the new Chinese Census was an important part of the efforts for the BI to regulate further Chinese immigrants for political and economic reasons (Chung, 2018). That later created an atmosphere of fear as many Chinese immigrants view those very procedures made by the BI and Chinese Census were racially motivated. Finally, the main argument of Sun Fawn Chung was that Chinese immigrants were experiencing massive political struggle as anti-Chinese movements sought to protect American democracy in a nation full of immigrants from the seen Chinese menace.

The place of labor and economic fortune within America is seen by many as a market built and used by the American people. However, in Eddie L. Wong’s, Racial Reconstruction : Black Inclusion, Chinese Exclusion, and the Fictions of Citizenship, he details how planters looked to China as a source for workers and importing them to the United states became known as “coolieism”, they were paid at a lower wage rate then white workers. Wong approaches his historical analysis by using source material from “Senate floor debates to Supreme Court test cases brought by Chinese activists, public anxieties over major shifts in the U.S. industrial landscape and class relations became displaced onto the figure of the Chinese labor immigrant who struggled for inclusion at a time when black freedmen were fighting to redefine citizenship” (Wong, 2015). That very source material helps Wong demonstrate a correlation towards immigration and citizenship troubles in the shadow of Reconstruction. For in the wake of racial exclusion, Wong states “post-emancipation deemed Native and Chinese Americans as unredeemable heathens and morally unfit to participate in America’s manifest Destiny” (Wong, 2015). This philosophy or declaration, directly decides that Chinese Americans are not only a hazard to American communities but unfit to partake in the greater picture in how America will spread itself across the continent. Meaning at the time, minority groups such as Chinese Americans have no desirable historical contribution worthy of note within the grand scheme of how the country will continue to grow and succeed. Thus, removing later generations of Chinese Americans to have any sort of assimilation to look to in order to see themselves as an American, as their culture was denied any sort of worthy contribution to the American way of life. 

The treatment and racial discrimination of Chinese Americans are apparent within American society during the 1800s to 1900s. For during the so called invasion of the coolies was also when the very same Chinese Americans were experiencing discrimination from the American people and legislation out of stereotypical fears and potential lose in American jobs. As the racial tensions began to stir, many American legislators and policy makers viewed that the Chinese national character was inferior to the white man. This began soon to affect the children of Chinese immigrants in their ability to assimilate into American society. The primary factors that led to long lasting and profound effects in discriminatory factors for Chinese Americans were violence, racial legislation, belief in a superior race, and economic instability. To which the children of Chinese immigrants never saw themselves as Americans as they were constantly reminded of the white man’s world and they are not white men but children from an “alien” race.

Nothing further increases the reality of political belief than the law itself to institute and enforce legislation. In the year of 1882 Congress passed a series of laws to exclude Chinese laborers from entering the United States (Meade, 2017, p. 293). Those very series of laws prompted the famous law that barred a single demographic for a century within the United States. The case itself is known as Chae Chan Ping vs. The United States, given the title “Chinese Exclusion” by Justice Stephen Field. The court’s power to regulate immigration to the U.S provided the parameters over a controversial legal debate. During this time in the early 1880s many Americans were clamoring for a sort of theoretical Chinese wall where there would be more guards stationed across major immigration ports and create a new administration to enforce this theoretical Chinese wall in light of the Chinese exclusion law. In relation to this, much of the controversy again stemmed from the association of the loss of jobs within American due to Chinese immigrants taking those very jobs. In terms of how the white laborer can combat this was seen as impossible, “if he would attempt competition with the coolie, and will always be driven from his presence, as cheap currency displaces the better for while it is true that wages are relatively highest on the Pacific Coast, the coolie reduces wages and competes everywhere.” and “White labor will not submit to the degradation of a rivalry with such a competitor, but will either assert its power through the government or be driven from the presence of the coolie altogether” (Meade, 2017). The competition between the two groups was seen as an impossible competition as some employers believed in natural rights to which the employer can choose whomever to engage while hiring including immigrants. Which further increases the case’s importance in and causes discrimination and witch hunting among American citizens to Chinese immigrants.

The identity of a foreign entity brings with them a blank slate of which its only purpose is to be filled with some sort of applicable standard over what they are. In the case of the Chinese immigrants, they were given racial inequality and were branded as pests within their new found American communities. What prompted the legal racial inequality was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, as those of Asian descent were the first to be barred from entering the United States and prevented them from gaining citizenship. The regulations towards the arrival of Chinese immigrants were those seeking skilled or unskilled labor under the fear of Chinese immigrants infecting the good order of certain localities within the United States. Within the original piece of legal material of the Chinese Exclusion Law states “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, …… coming of Chinese laborers to the United States be, and the same is hereby, suspended; and during such suspension it shall not be lawful for any Chinese laborer to come, or, having so come after the expiration of said ninety days, to remain within the United States” (Chinese Exclusion Act, 2009). With the outlook of Chinese laborers as poor contributors to American communities and immigrants “stealing” the jobs of deserving Americans, many politicians rode the wave of Chinese exclusion by using 15 sections of Anti-Chinese legislation. By banning the Chinese laborers during the crisis of economic instability, being able to obtain a job lead to one of the primary factors in discriminatory ideas against Chinese Americans.

However, despite supposedly higher job opportunities many Chinese workers and Chinese Americans felt out of place and felt that they were not getting the opportunities they deserve just because they are Chinese. The story of Lawrence Klindt Kentwell, follows a Eurasian of English and Chinese descent who spent his formative years in Hawaii studying to be a lawyer. However due to his Chinese blood, he was excluded from local politics in Hawaii and thus did not have a single chance at entering the legal profession in the United States. The racism he experienced when trying to obtain his natural rights in the United States only made him strongly identify with his Chinese roots, leading him to leave his adopted home in America for good and go to China (Chen, 2019). Due to lack of equal treatment Kentwell felt that it was best to travel back where his roots came from in order to escape unequal treatment and seek better opportunity.  Many Americans saw Chinese people as an inferior group was due to three main reasons such degradation of social standards, habits of filth, and the wage rate. Those very two factors affect social dynamics in American communities as the spreading stereotypes of Chinese immigrants began to warrant them unwanted discrimination and violence. Americans fought back against what they saw as the rise of Chinese immigration to be an invading army that was stealing the resources that they deserve as Americans. In relation to the idea of social standards the overall quality of American living within condensed neighborhoods were given the idea that the Chinese demoralize social instincts and customs. In short, Chinese immigrants would be “inveterate gamblers, opium smokers, bring no families with them, and have reduced prostitution to a system. ……. the Chinese immigrant gambles & deadens his sensibilities by smoking his opium.” (Atchinson, 1894, p. 141).  Those very ideas of foreign born being attributed to America are seen as Anglo-Saxon traditions and continue to still affect it when dealing with attitudes towards immigration from the 1800s and 1900s. For within the Anglo-Saxon tradition sees itself as manifest child of destiny which has been encouraged thought American politics as they accept original various immigrants into their nation Also, shows a key correlation in Chinese American’s, in the face of racial discrimination and legislation, do not feel as if they are American as violence and discriminatory comments are against them. As the legislation and social attitudes change show from the 1800s to 1900s so does how Chinese Americans continue to see themselves.

Chinese Americans had lacked opportunities that were essential to their American way of living. The ability to assimilate into American culture was never properly given to them from the late 1800s to 1900s as many Chinese descendants felt they were alienated within the very nation they were born in. The history of violence, economic instability, discrimination, and alienation drove Chinese American descent and Chinese immigrants to experience hardships that they would not experience otherwise. For the usage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the denial of civil rights, racism, and stereotyping prompted many Americans to see Chinese immigrants as a pest. Thus undeserving of the American privileges which prompted a few Chinese Americans to shut themselves out of the American way of life as only “true Americans” can experience America or life in the United States altogether. For during the so called invasion of the “coolies” was also when the very same Chinese Americans were experiencing discrimination from the American people and legislation out of stereotypical fears and potential lose in American jobs. Jobs were being rapidly taken by Chinese workers for less pay, thus prompting Americans to view that the Chinese were stealing their jobs. The primary factors that led to long lasting and profound effects in discriminatory factors  for  Chinese  Americans  were  violence,  racial  legislation,  belief  in  a  superior  race, and economic instability. To which the children of Chinese immigrants  never  saw  themselves  as  Americans  as  they  were constantly reminded of the white man’s world and they are not white men but children from an “alien” race. These feelings of lesser worth with the context of historically demographic treatment can leave an impact on a child who is discovering that his or her idea of the world is not all inspiring. Instead, they may see it as a battle for potentially, that someday, discrimination will perhaps resurface if the rights conditions are met. For the instructor’s role within teaching the subject, they must inform students how in certain parts of history there are terrible things that yet to be fully extinguished in our modern society. As such elements of discrimination has yet to leave world and instructors must inform students on that history in order to prevent and bring awareness to discrimination within and outside the classroom.


Atchinson, R.M. (1894). Perils of unrestricted immigration. Retrieved from Chen, L. (2019). A mixed-race child’s fate under the Chinese Exclusion Act: Lawrence Kentwell’s fight for inclusion in local politics and legal profession. Asian Pacific American Law Journal, 23(1), 1–17.

Chinese Exclusion Act. (2009). Chinese exclusion act of 1882. Retrieved from

Chung, S. F. (2018). Chinese exclusion, the first bureau of immigration, and the 1905 special Chinese census: Registered, counted, arrested, deported, 1892-1906. Chinese America: History and Perspectives. Retrieved from

Hsu, A. (1995). It’s our train. Horn Book Magazine, 71(2), 240–246.

Meade, E. (2017). Chinese immigration to the United States, 293. Retrieved from

Wong, E.L. (2015). Racial Reconstruction : Black inclusion, Chinese exclusion, and the fictions of citizenship. NYU Press.

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