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Angel Island

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Angel Island


Capitalist's Exploitation of Immigrants

"The two societies can be rather simply characterized: on the American side, as one that stresses individual enterprise, which is expansive; and on the Chinese side, as a society that stresses the collective social order, which is resistant."1 America is said to have been founded by the white settlers and capitalists. In truth, these presumed pioneers used immigrants to fulfill their needs and desires. Capitalists and businesses created deceptive propaganda in order to exploit the Asian and European immigrants to the American Dream.

The American Dream portrayed the Constitution's promise of equal opportunity to all immigrants. To the Chinese, America and most notably California, was known as the "Mountain of Gold or Gold Mountain." Gold Mountain was more of a myth than a fact the American advertisements proclaimed it to be. Advertisements spoke in propaganda of untold riches and stories: great pay, good food, large houses, and most of all, that the Chinamen were welcome. Unfortunately, the Chinese immigrant's dream was shattered when he went searched for Gold Mountain, but found himself washing someone else's dirty clothes.

The initial Chinese to arrive on U.S. soil were treated favorably the American government and were welcomed in California. The Chinese conception then was to immigrate temporarily and return home after reaping the rewards of the American Dream. Most Chinese came from the province called Kwangtung and possessed similar interests and ideas. Immigrants originally traveled to Hong Kong and then to America by way of a ticket-credit system. This was the only way families could afford the expensive journey and essentially the Chinese were becoming indentured servants to buy their passage. A trip to America could cost fifty dollars, but at the pinnacle of the Gold Rush frenzy, captains and agents would price the trip at two-hundred dollars or more. There were less than a hundred people from China by 1853; however, the large influxes began in 1854, where thirteen-thousand immigrants traveled by ship in search of gold. It was not until these great influxes that Americans started to notice their Far East counterparts.



While a mere thousand Chinese immigrated annually, which irritated American workers because of the competition for jobs, eight-hundred-thousand Europeans came to the U.S. per year and nobody gave it a

second thought. Shortly, with all the problems the Chinese were said to have caused, new laws, such as the Exclusion Acts and various taxes, came into being. The Chinese were taken advantage of by the capitalists, the people who stood to benefit the most from the Chinese movement to America. By inventing stories of the land of gold, they captured the hearts of young entrepreneurs to traveled to America. They were then signed on as indentured servants. During American colonial times, indentured servants were used to assist farmers, until the farmers realized the servants would soon become competitors once they fulfilled their required years of work. Chinese, on the other hand, planned to leave once they were finished making some money and would not stay; therefore, the act of employing indentured servants was reestablished.

"Whenever any sizable group of people who share a language and cultural pattern different from the majority enter a country, they tend to congregate. They find a section of a city or a town and make it their own."2 Chinatowns formed in many parts of the United States. The largest, most important one was located in San Francisco. Daily life in the city life was competitive and anxious. Being extremely distinct from other nationalities, Chinese inhabitants were easily picked out of crowds. They wore blue cotton shirts, baggy pants, wooden shoes, big jackets, and huge basket hats with queues hanging down their back. The Chinese stood out like none other in a society dominated by whites. At the beginning, one would see men alone on the streets because Asian women weren't allowed to travel to the United States. Chinatown became known as "the bachelor society." The main reason the American government enacted laws prohibiting Asian women, was the capitalists didn't want the Chinese starting families. Else, the Chinese would start businesses that would compete for American profits.

The few women who did come to America were typically prostitutes. By 1880, there was a 14 to 1 ratio between men and women respectively. The illegal importation of Asian women was a substantial money maker for the white men who controlled the prostitutes because each woman would make considerable amounts of cash daily to satisfy the needs of the Chinese males. The women were also slaves and the white men would take all the profits. To disgrace the Chinese reputation and obscure the fact that the government was denying female immigration, whites would say the Chinese preferred their singsong girls better than their wives and was why no families were being started.

Within Chinatown, another smaller government also prevailed: the Chinese Six Companies. They were not an Asian institution but were an American one instead. The Chinese had their primary requirements met by the Six Companies, such as food, shelter, and jobs. The Six Companies maintained much control over different Chinatowns and tried it's best to fight and protect for Chinese equality. No Chinese could receive a ticket home without the consent of the Companies. When Chinese first started to arrive in California, the Companies recruited the newer immigrants for work and gave them a place to stay until the arrivals found jobs.

The lure of assured gold in 1849 was the sole reason Chinese began journeying to America. Congress prohibited parts of the Sierra Mountains from them and they were usually run off property when they found a likely stream for gold. Unlike other ethnicities, the Chinese dug into the soil for gold instead of panning in the streams. In this way, the Chinese did not compete with other nationalities, but they continued to receive ill treatment for reaping the land of it's resources. When they were assaulted or their claim was jumped by white miners, they were refused the ability to sue. In the Sierras, a Chinese had no protection from the whites because local districts constructed mining laws without the federal government's consent. The legislature launched a foreign mining tax designed to ostracize Mexican miners in 1850 and by 1852, another foreign mining tax was issued and this time directed specifically at the Chinese. Each non-citizen miner had to pay three dollars a month because of this tax, but the catch was that a 1790 federal law reserved natural citizenship for white people alone and denied the right to Chinese. These foreign mining taxes stayed till the 1870 Civil Rights Act where they were declared unconstitutional. By 1870, however, the California government had leeched five million dollars out of the Chinese and did not have to pay a cent back to anybody.3 For protection, Chinese joined into small groups and formed their own companies. Twenty to thirty Chinese inhabited restricted cabins with cramped conditions. The Cubic Air Ordinance was then passed saying each lodger must be provided at least five-hundred cubic feet or be fined five to ten hundred dollars. Constantly under pressure, the Chinese abandoned the gold fields as the profits slowly decreased. Wherever a dollar was to be made, a capitalist was to be found. Capitalists obviously did not have the desire to grant the Chinese what they wanted without reaping any profits, so they created laws to make the Chinese either leave their occupation or pay the tolls.

"Wherever in the world there is an oriental working population, there is no room for a white one."4 was a statement from Chester Rowell, describing the current economic situation. Racial prejudice kept the Asians and Europeans segregated. Children were more accepting to other races than the adults who were not willing to intermix. Racism was taught through specific or unconscious instruction by the adults. White men would not work under or with Chinese because of a current paradigm the two could not exist together in harmony. Even churches and YMCA's did not accept them. During the Civil War, when there was a shortage of labor, Dennis Kearney coined the phrase "The Chinese must go." Chinese became the scapegoats for lower class workers and the Knights of Labor. Anti-Coolie Clubs formed to promote anti-Chinese sentiments and discrimination. Chinese were accused of introducing Small Pox to California because of epidemics in 1870 and 1876. After 1870 the American government began vaccinating every passenger from Asiatic ports. Chinese were referred to as "swarms", "floods of Chinese", or "yellow hordes", but in 1882 there were only a hundred thousand Chinese in a country of sixty-three million people, which was 0.2 percent.5 By keeping the distinct groups separated and against each other, the capitalists are able to keep the work wages to a minimum. Profits were maintained and work continued without complaint.

Labor unions, farmers, merchants, lumbermen, and house wives all opposed Oriental immigration. Advocates of Chinese labor argued that Chinese workers reduced the production costs, and as a result there would be lower prices, which was equivalent to an increase in salary for white workers. Eventually, Chinese labor would upgrade the status of white workers because the white workers became the foremen and directors. By the end of the 19th century, there was an economic crisis that caused unemployment for the first time. The Asian Exclusion League was another group formed for the elimination of Chinese immigrants and immigration. They were affiliated with the American Legion, the State Federation of Labor, and Native Sons and Daughters, who all held political power. Chinese were described as heathen, morally inferior, savage, childlike, and lustful, who fed on dogs, cats, and rats. Political cartoons portrayed Chinese a bloodsucking vampires. White speakers stated that the fight for America from the "red man" would have been in vain if they lost to the horde of Chinese. Capitalists feared offending the Orient because of the fact that it could threaten favorable commercial relations. The Workingmen's Party and anti-Chinese bias kept the Chinese out of the labor market; unions stopped them from being part of organized labor; Alien Land Acts prevented them from owning farms; and Foreign Miners' License taxes hindered them from mining. All this led up to the 1882 Exclusion Act.

During the year of 1882, Congress passed an act known as the Exclusion Act that abolished Asian immigration altogether. The arguments for the Exclusion Act were that Chinese were unassailable, lowered the standards of living labor, came merely to drain the country of it's wealth, and would endanger the public tranquillity and injure the interests of people. The following years afterwards, numerous laws were passed in order to oppress the already dwindling Chinese population. Chinese were prevented the ownership of land by the Alien Land Act of 1870 and the miscegenation law forbade the intermarriage between Asians and Americans. In 1855, the State Legislature enacted a head tax law of $55 on every Chinese immigrant. Not only was the government becoming extremely wealthy with this tax, but for the Chinese it was almost like doubling the fare for overseas travel. To break a Chinese will, the government fabricated a Queue Ordinance where any Chinese that went to prison would have his queue cut off. This was against everything a Chinese believed in because to cut ones queue off was to surrender loyalty to the emperor. The state government began taxing all Chinese with a nonagricultural occupation as well and failure to pay was a harsh punishment. Tax collectors hunted Chinese down and forced them to pay or else they were tied down, beaten, and the taxes were doubled. What was ironic about the law and taxes were that they were against everything the American Dream had stood for and the idea America has tried to promote for other races.

"A great army laying siege to Nature in her strongest citadel. The rugged mountains looked like stupendous ant-hills. They swarmed with Celestials shoveling, wheeling, carting, drilling, and blasting rocks and earth."6 Once mining became unprofitable for the Chinese, entire waves of Chinese flocked to work at Central Pacific Railroads, which was started by Charles Crocker, Collis P. Huntington, and Leland Stanford. The railroad being constructed was to connect with Union Pacific, somewhere east of the Sierra Nevada. Aaron H. Palmer suggested that the Chinese be utilized to erect the transcontinental railroad and bring California under cultivation since the beginning. For the company superintendent Charles Crocker, time was money because of the pressure he received from the government. At first, there were few Chinese working for the railroads but when it was discovered that they were equally capable and more reliable than white men, they formed 90% of the entire work force. Pressed for time, the Chinese workers were forced to work through the winter of 1866 when no white man would think of doing such a thing. Snow drifts over 60 feet covered the construction operations and the Chinese had to live and work under the snow, digging shafts for air and using lanterns for light. Here, the Chinese were being taken advantage of when others races with the same jobs refused to follow orders.

In the spring, the Chinese went on strike demanding wages and work hours similar to the white men. 5 thousand workers walked out "as one man" claiming "eight hours a day good for white men, all the same good for Chinamen." Crocker decided to take actions into his own hands by stopping provision shipments. Virtually imprisoned in camps in the Sierras and starving, the strikers gave up within a week and were forced back to work. Railroad construction was similar to indentured servitude in that you had no civil rights. Basically, you did what you were told and you were forbidden to quit work. Nearly thirty thousand workers were said to be injured ...

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Keywords: angel island fun park, angel island immigration, angel island definition, angel island ferry, angel island definition us history, angel island sonic, angel island history, angel island ferry schedule

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