- Hope on Union
Racism Directed at Asian North Americans Part 2
In recent days editorials written by Asian North American writers have been published, and scholars with Asian heritage have been interviewed on the rise of racism directed against Asian North Americans. The question that is most often asked of me is, “What is the cause of the rise of incidents of Asian Hate?”
Racism against Asian North Americans is not a new problem. Racism was codified into the Constitution, and until we reckon with the evil intent of the U.S. in its creation, we will never be honest enough to address the systemic racism in U.S.
The Constitution states that “all persons” born in the U.S. are automatically granted citizenship (jus soli), and then in the Naturalization Act of 1790, the framers of the Constitution clarified “all persons” to mean “free white person[s]…of good character”. This came up because, in 1790, a group of Chinese sailors filed for citizenship by claiming that they were also “persons.” They were denied, and we do not have to ask about the indigenous peoples and those of African heritage. The true racist intent of the founders of the U.S. was made clear.
This happened in the second year of the existence of the U.S. as a nation and the second year of George Washington’s presidency. The Asian North Americans being given birthright citizenship did not happen until 1898 following the landmark Supreme Court case the United States. vs. Wong Kim Ark. The first Asian North American to become a naturalized citizen was Edward Bing Kan in 1945.
The U.S. was created only for “pseudo western Europeans,” those who were too poor to live in England, Netherlands, France, Germany, or other western European nations. This was reflected in the names of states and cities in the new colony: New England, New Amsterdam, later renamed as New York, New Hampshire, Maryland – a new country dedicated to the English Queen, Mary.
The U.S. was created to be a pseudo-Europe for the European “outcasts,” or second-class Europeans, who were not good enough to live in Europe. All non-whites were to work to build a country for whites, and when the work was done, then they were supposed to go away or “go back where you came from.”
Asian hate started when the Chinese came during the gold rush and found wealth, so they passed the Chinese Exclusionary Act. Only men were allowed to go and work in the mines or on the railroad for slave wages but were expected to go back to China when the work was completed. They also created Chinatown in San Francisco as an urban prison forcing all Asians to live only with the ten blocks of Chinatown, and those found outside of Chinatown after sundown were killed.
Prior to the 1965 Immigration Act, there were about 1 million people of Asian heritage, and about 90% were born in the U.S., and they have concentrated in the west coast and New York City. However, there are now more than 20 million people of Asian heritage in every area of the U.S., and more than 70% are born outside of U.S. The initial wave of “skilled” workers that arrived in the early ’70s were tolerated. Still, the violence rose in the late ’70s and ’80s with the arrival of the war refugees from South East Asia following the U.S.’s humiliating defeat in Vietnam.
The violence against those of Asian descent is based on the ideology that the U.S. was created for whites from western Europe. All others were to be used for whites’ benefit but were never intended to be included in the new country. Racism against Asian North Americans is rooted in the belief “America” is meant to be a “white” country, and to fight racism, an effective anti-racist strategy must be a cooperative effort from non-white communities working together.