CHINK!"": A Documentary History of Anti-Chinese Prejudice in America by Cheng-Tsu Wu -- Ed.

CHINK!"": A Documentary History of Anti-Chinese Prejudice in America

Email this review


Another in the publisher's ""Ethnic Prejudice in America"" series which also includes ""Mick!,"" ""Wop!,"" and ""Kike!"" (the latter reported on below, see Seizer). The overwhelming majority of documentary materials reprinted here -- federal and state (almost exclusively California) anti-Chinese statutes and case law; examples of informal discrimination found in newspapers, magazines, textbooks, and popular literature; and accounts of anti-Chinese riots, police brutality, and vigilantism -- derive from the last half of the 19th century when feelings against the Chinese-American community were most virulent and blatant. The collection provides a tidy scrapbook of Caucasian-American intolerance and xenophobia: an incredible Chinese pigtail removal ordinance (San Francisco, 1876), California constitutional provisions of 1879 barring any ""Chinese or Mongolian"" from establishing a corporation or working for the state government, a New York Times article (1874) entitled ""Do Chinese Eat Rats?"" which also dragged in the cat meat canard, a lengthy scholarly essay from the Pacific Northwest Quarterly discussing the violent attacks on Chinese in Seattle during 1885-86, and much, much more, all filled with the scurrility of prejudice. As for this century, the editor seems hard put for material, acknowledging that bias has waned considerably during the past three or four decades; ""But these changes should not be overestimated, welcome though they may be. Charlie Chan may have become a popular hero, but he was still depicted as an 'inscrutable, mysterious, and damned clever Chinaman.'"" However, all Cheng-Tsu Wu produces to illustrate the subtler, more refined forms of racial slur are a dozen or so snippets from the ax-grinding journal East/West. This collection has documentary value but, like ""Kike!,"" it is an analytical failure; we get a picture of what happened but the why of the matter is reduced to ""The Chinese in this country. . . have suffered so much for so long simply because they are non-white."" Because of this sort of historical naivete and superficiality, the collection's perspective is at the least suspect.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1972
Publisher: World