American Views Of Chinese Immigrants

chinese immigrants 1

Here is a text about Chinese in America. I think my father Mac McCaughey does a fine job as the voice of Mark Twain.

The Chinese have been in America a long time. They came in the 1850s during the Gold Rush. Some three-quarters of the laborers on America’s transcontinental railroad were Chinese. Many European Americans resented them. The Chinese were willing to work for less money, and so took jobs away from the Caucasians. They were accused of sticking together, of not assimilating into mainstream American culture. Of course, it was impossible for them to mix. They could not afford to buy housing where the upper- or middle-class whites lived. Nor did those whites want them for neighbors.

In 1882, the U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. This prohibited migration of Chinese for 10 years. In reality, laws discouraging or prohibiting further Chinese immigration continued until 1943, when the U.S. and China became allies against Imperial Japan.

Nevertheless, there was a fascination with Chinese life and the Chinatowns that appeared in big cities. Mark Twain had a high opinion of the Chinese:

They are a harmless race when white men either let them alone or treat them no worse than dogs; in fact they are almost entirely harmless anyhow, for they seldom think of resenting the vilest insults or the cruelest injuries. They are quiet, peaceable, tractable, free from drunkenness, and they are as industrious as the day is long. A disorderly Chinaman is rare, and a lazy one does not exist. So long as a Chinaman has strength to use his hands he needs no support from anybody; white men often complain of want of work, but a Chinaman offers no such complaint; he always manages to find something to do. He is a great convenience to everybody – even to the worst class of white men, for he bears the most of their sins, suffering fines for their petty thefts, imprisonment for their robberies, and death for their murders. Any white man can swear a Chinaman’s life away in the courts, but no Chinaman can testify against a white man.

Today 2.7 million Asian-Americans are of Chinese ancestry (not including Taiwanese!). Two million Americans speak Chinese at home, and nearly every town has its Chinese – often American-influenced Chinese – restaurant.

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