May 22, 2017

Oriental Exclusion

Interestingly for me, grandpa's travel to the U.S. was during the years of the discriminatory Oriental Exclusion Acts that limited immigration from China to to the U.S. to zero people per year, so I do not know how he entered the United States in 1941.

He was a student from an elite family and not one of the Chinese laborers that congress feared, so maybe he entered under a legal loophole. I wonder, suddenly, if that is why my Anglicized last name has a Germanic spelling, and why my grandfather and grandmother never spoke in Chinese in public, even to each other. Did grandpa enter under a German identity? Did he avoid speaking Chinese to avoid the attention of racist immigration officers? I think entry was probably very tricky, and very few Chinese-American families have the same immigration story and timeline as mine. Entry from China was virtually nil from 1924 to 1943.

Incidentally, when people say Asians are a "model minority" and ask "why are Chinese people so smart?" I think the reason is that for many decades even before and after this period, there were draconian and racist exclusion laws that meant that you needed to be a sophisticated member of the elite, with money and access to lawyers, to navigate the loopholes and enter the United States. This continues to be true today.

Thus Chinese and other Asian immigrants have long been children of the rich, educated elite. No surprise that when they come to the United States, they join the ranks of the rich, educated elite.

Posted by David at May 22, 2017 05:57 AM
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