Between the years of 1860-1890, around 250,000 Chinese immigrated to America. Hastily the immigrants came, which began to infuriate the native-born Americans because of their different culture and acceptance of laborious work for low-wages and stimulate anti-Chinese sentiment. Shortly the Chinese-Americans were notorious for stereotypes such as being gamblers, immoral, and barbaric due to their foreign cultural norms - which are portrayed in a political cartoon of a Chinese immigrant being exiled from a classroom by his teacher and fellow American classmates. At this time, Chinese immigrants were not allowed citizenship due to their skin color, beaten, and driven away from their homes by white men who blame the Chinese for America’s economic difficulties.
The Chinese people immigrating to America typically came without their families and worked in harsh conditions such as building railroads for 12 hours a day, year round. They yielded no threat of striking against the companies andaccepted lower wages than whites because it was stillmuch more than they earned in China. Thus companies hired Chinese-Americans over all others which began to enrage many whites. Whites blamed the country’s economic difficulties on the Chinese-Americans and created the negative stereotypes describing them as, “heathen, morally inferior, savage, childlike, and lustful” (Takaki 205) out of spite. Although, since it is normal in China to gamble on the streets, sleep and eat on the floor, and practice their own religion publicly, these stereotypes were reinforced. Furthermore, the Chinese women whom immigrated were typically brought as prostitutes promoting the immoral and lustful stereotypes.
The feelings and stereotypes Americans had towards Chinamen are depicted in a political cartoon released by “The History Project”. The image shows a Chinese student holding an ironing board and an opium pipe in each hand wearing unkempt clothing being kicked out of a classroom by his fellow American classmates. Usually only women and children did laundry and it was considered very immoral to smoke opium, rendering the “childlike and immoral” stereotypes. To really express how other oppressed minorities resented the Chinese as well, a black student appears to be smiling while an Irish-American student holds a sign that reads “Kick out the heathen; He’s got no vote”. This is ironic because African and Irish-American’s have less than a whole vote at this time, but were still ready to belittle anyone else if it meant they were not at the bottom of the hierarchy of races in America.
During the 1860’s, two-thirds of the Chinese population in America were working in California mines. The U.S. then imposed a monthly tax on the foreign miners that did not desire citizenship. This was a catch-22 because citizenship was only given to white skinned foreigners. Throughout California, “Chinese were beaten and shot by white workers and often loaded onto trains and shipped out of town” (Takaki 201). This was intended to make the life of the Chinese workers much more difficult and promote violent anti-Chinese protests.
Many Chinese immigrants benefitted from working in America and going back home wealthy, but it wasn’t without its drudgery. After all of the prejudice, racists laws, and hate crimes enacted towards the Chinese-Americans, The Chinese proved resilient. Without their hard work, the Central Pacific Railroad may never have been completed and America would be a much less diverse country.
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