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Mexicans are the New Chinese

September 1, 2009

In the mid-1800s in the United States, there was a shortage of cheap labor*, and there were railroads that needed building.  At the same time, there was this whole Gold Rush thing going on, which attracted all sorts of people.  As a result, there were suddenly thousands of Chinese people coming into the country.

As far as the railroads go, it was the same story of capitalism and race that we continue to see – the railroad barons wanted a cheap labor force willing to put up with deplorable working conditions.  Single men with no family to speak of were a plus, because then, when they died, there was nobody to do anything about it (or to demand some sort of recompense from the company).

So they went out and got themselves some Chinese.  And when I say they went out and got them, I’m not kidding – during the 1860s and beyond, American businessmen and plantation owners sent out ships to China to bring back boatloads of labor.

Suddenly, America was flooded with all these Chinese people: working on railroads across the country, and in California looking for gold.  At first, the U.S. citizens were cool with it: there was plenty of gold to go around, and jobs, as well.  But that didn’t last very long.

Because the gold started to dry up.  Jobs became a little scarcer.  And, suddenly, the Chinese became the problem: those damned foreigners were stealing gold from hard-working Americans, and their willingness to get paid sh– was driving down wages for even more hard-working Americans.  The majority got restless, the government listened, and – BLAM – the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

They passed a freaking law to keep Chinese from being able to immigrate to the U.S. – while all other immigrants were allowed.

They passed a law that kept Chinese that were already in the country from returning if they ever left (to, say, get their families or something).

They passed amendments to this law that kept anybody with Chinese blood, regardless of where they were born (i.e. whether they were a naturalized U.S. citizen or not) from being able to leave and return again.

The penalty?  Prison and deportation.

Luckily, this didn’t last too long.**  I mean, the act was quickly repealed 60 years later (in 1943) and a quota of 105 Chinese immigrants were legally allowed per year.  That’s not a joke.  Up until 1943, the Act was still in effect.  And there was a quota of 105 Chinese allowed after that.

Finally, in 1965, and the Immigration Act of the same year, limits on Chinese immigration ended.

So, what were the results?  First off, this racist public policy (and there’s nothing else to call it) kept Chinese from being able to get a real foothold in the States.  As far as employment went, Chinese workers ended up mostly in laundry and restaurant work, because those were the jobs where they weren’t competing directly with white men (and thus could avoid most of the outright violence and hostility).  And, to this day, the majority of new Chinese immigrants come to the country to work in restaurants.

Now do I really need to spend the time explaining in detail how this connects to present-day Mexican immigrants?  Do I?

The passing of laws to specifically target one group of immigrants (in a country made by immigrants, and where other immigrants are happily accepted)?

The blame for stealing “hard-working Americans’ jobs” while specifically being sought out as cheap labor under sub-par conditions, so companies can save money?

Outside of this manual labor, the only other real options being in food-service?

Being stereotyped as “dirty” and “unhygienic,” and blamed for spreading disease?***

Do I need to say anything else?  Really?  None of this is new.  None of it.  This is how the only truly successful colony is going to be.  This is how it’s going to do things.  This is how the group at the top – who are aware that justice has nothing to do with their rule – is going to keep themselves there.  Deflection and scapegoating.  “Us” versus “Them.”  Fear of the “other” that is coming in in large enough numbers to pose a possible statistical threat.

That’s how it goes.  That’s how it went.

However, there’s one big difference in all of this (and what I hope to prove a positive): the relative ease of coming to the States for Mexican immigrants (compared to Chinese).  It’s why white Americans are so scared.  And it’s just enough to make it possible that these brown folks can pose a numerical threat in the relatively-near future (which is scary for a “majority” in a democracy such as this one).

Of course, that’s also why authority figures are going to battle so hard to take away Mexican-Americans’ rights.  They will fight to keep them away from the vote, so they can’t actually have a say or power.

So here’s my brown-ish fist, offered to the cause, hoping that that particular “They” at the top . . . LOSE.

* Of course, the shortage of cheap labor came up because of that danged pesky Emancipation Proclamation and all that free (literally) labor (aka “slaves”) getting “freed” (metaphorically).

** I say this firmly tongue-in-cheek.  On top of all that, it wasn’t until 1948 that laws preventing Chinese and whites from marrying were finally repealed in California.

*** I never did a Swine Flu post, but I still need to.  But let’s just say that there’s no doubt in my mind why folks are trying to make it sound like such a big deal (when it isn’t) – because it’s a nice, easy way to blame Mexicans for something without being seen as an overt racist . . .

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4 comments

  1. One of the things that many people don’t realize is just how large America’s immigrant imprisonment-deportation system is.

    And it’s not just Mexicans or Latinos that the USA is targetting. Asian Americans are also included.

    Welcome to the Land of the Free.

    http://www.homelandgitmo.com/

    http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/

    Fighting to Stay
    http://www.wiretapmag.org/stories/21744

    Perfectly Legal Immigrants, Until They Applied for Citizenship
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/12/us/12naturalize.html?_r=2

    New report blasts U.S. on immigrant detainees
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/25/MNAM16MA7P.DTL&type=printable


  2. Bringing in cheap labor, using them then rejecting them and telling them to go back to where they come from is a definite cycle in the USA.


    • That’s the nature of America’s predatory capitalist system.


  3. But add money and a white spouse and their (Hispanic/Latino) children can assimilate.
    Not true of Asians and Blacks.



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