In the following passages, I will be discussing the Asian immigration experience in to the United States. The focus will not be so much in establishing a chronological account of the social phenomenon as in analyzing the social and cultural forces that have operated in the regard for Asian Americans.
The Chinese were the first people to immigrate in large numbers to the United States by late 1840's. Driven by the desire to extricate themselves from economic hardship so prevalent in their country and the impending British takeover of China after winning the Opium War of 1839 -1842, the Chinese came in large numbers in the United States. They were attracted to do this due to the gold rush that was occurring in the California region. Most of them ended up as contract labourers. (Barkan, 2007)
Discrimination showed its presence when the Chinese were obligated to pay the Foreign Miner Tax. This piece of legislation required all foreign miners to pay certain tax for their participation in the industry. The tax measure was only applied to Chinese workers in spite of the predominance of European immigrants. When they resisted paying the tax due to unfair application, the Chinese were physically abused and even murdered without hope of retribution from the justice system due to the fact that the law prevented Chinese immigrants from testifying against Whites in court.
In the PBS documentary entitled Becoming...
Almost 12,000 Chinese labourers were employed to the dirtiest and hazardous work by the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific in constructing mile after mile of railroad track. An estimated 1,000 of them died as a result of poor working conditions such as rock avalanches and explosion accident. Their wages were also about 60% of what European immigrants were paid.
The list of discriminatory practices does not stop there. When the Chinese went into strike to ask for equality in salary, management cut off their food supply and starved them into submission. They were also treated as if they only had a minor contribution in the project's accomplishment as evidenced by their exclusion in the ceremony in Promontory Point, Utah celebrating the completion of the project. They were never mentioned in the speeches and were actually summarily fired and were forbidden to ride the train back to San Francisco.
Seeing the Chinese as an economic threat due to the cheapness of their services in almost all trade, Americans embarked on a campaign of terror against them. There were several cases of lynching, murders and anti-riot practices ultimately resulting to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Chinese immigrants were prohibited from becoming US citizens and incoming immigration from China was effectively hindered.
Living in a society which prevented them from being integrated into mainstream culture and discriminated upon them wit respect to rights in education and owning of lands, the Chinese established what is popularly known as China towns where they can conduct business among themselves thereby limiting the need to trade and deal with American whites. The establishment of China towns