The Little Known History of Racism in the United States against the Chinese

Thirty-six years before the 1921 Greenwood Massacre of African Americans in Oklahoma, there was a similar incident in Wyoming but the victims were Chinese.

“On September 2, 1885, 150 white miners in Rock Springs, Wyoming, brutally attack their Chinese coworkers, killing 28, wounding 15 others, and driving several hundred more out of town,” History.com reported.

“The Rock Springs massacre was symptomatic of the anti-Chinese feelings shared by many Americans at that time. The Chinese had been victims of prejudice and violence ever since they first began to come to the West in the mid-nineteenth century, fleeing famine and political upheaval (the Christian led Taiping Rebellion and the English and French led Opium Wars). Widely blamed for all sorts of social ills, the Chinese were also singled-out for attack by some national politicians who popularized strident slogans like ‘The Chinese Must Go.’”

The Rock Springs massacre wasn’t the only incident of racism against Chinese immigrants in the United States.

 

The Chinese Exclusion Act, a United States federal law signed by President Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1882, ended all immigration of Chinese laborers.  The African American Policy Forum says, “The Chinese Exclusion Act was an immigration law passed in 1882 that prevented Chinese laborers from immigrating to the United States. The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first immigration law that excluded an entire ethnic group. It also excluded Chinese nationals from eligibility for United States citizenship.”

“During their first few decades in the United States,” The Library of Congress informs, “they (Chinese immigrants to the United States) endured an epidemic of violent racist attacks, a campaign of persecution and murder that today seems shocking. From Seattle to Los Angeles, from Wyoming to the small towns of California, immigrants from China were forced out of business, run out of town, beaten, tortured, lynched, and massacred, usually with little hope of help from the law. Racial hatred, an uncertain economy, and weak government in the new territories all contributed to this climate of terror and bloodshed. The perpetrators of these crimes, which included Americans from many segments of society, largely went unpunished.”

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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