Ending American Erasure

[NB: Byline check, thanks. /~Rayne]

In my personal library I have a copy of my textbook from American Government, a mandatory class when I was in high school in Michigan from 1974-1978. Most students took this class in their senior year as it was understood they needed familiarity with government before they voted for the first time, usually within a year of becoming seniors.

Covered about week three of the school year, the subjects of immigration and citizenship followed an overview of basic forms of government, the American republican system of democracy, and the Constitution.

It was the first time in my life that coursework directly addressed any topic related to my family’s origins – specifically my father’s Chinese heritage.

This is it, all of it from that class, in three paragraphs, one of which is a footnote.

The text, Page 83:

Oriental and Personal Exclusion Policies. Congress placed the first major restrictions on immigration with the passage of the Chines Exclusion Act in 1882.[3] At the same time it barred the entry of convicts, lunatics, paupers, and others likely to become public charges. Over the next several years a long list of “undesirables” was composed; for example, contract laborers were excluded in 1885, immoral persons and anarchists in 1903, and illiterates in 1917.[4] By 1920 more than thirty groups were listed as ineligible on grounds of personal characteristics.


[3] The law was intended to stem the flow of “coolie labor” to the Pacific Coast; the Chinese could and did work for far less than white laborers, especially in the mines and on the railroads. By 1924 all Orientals had been excluded except for temporary visits. The policy was relaxed somewhat during World War II when provision was made for the admission of limited numbers of Chinese, Filipinos, and natives of India. Since 1952, immigration from each independent country in the Far East has been regulated by the quota system.

Page 89:

Just how broad the 14th Amendment’s statement of jus soli is can be seen from one of the leading cases in the law of citizenship, United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898). Wong Kim Ark had been born in the United States to parents who were citizens of China. After an extended visit to China, he was refused entry to the United States by immigration officials at San Francisco. They insisted the 14th Amendment should not be applied so literally as to mean that he was a citizen. They held that as an alien he was prohibited from entry by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that under the clear words of the 14th Amendment Wong Kim Ark was, indeed, a native-born citizen and that the Chinese Exclusion Act could not be applied to him.

Because he and his immediate family members left no documents like journals, a total of 318 words in Magruder’s American Government, fifth edition circa 1971, are all I have to understand why my great-grandfather ended up staying in Hawaii rather than coming to the U.S. mainland.

There was nothing in the textbook about other laws affecting immigration and citizenship of Chinese coming to the U.S. – nothing about:

Anti-Coolie Act of 1862
Naturalization Act of 1870
Page Act of 1875
In re Ah Yup 1878
Angell Treaty of 1880 and 1892
Geary Act 1902
In re Hong Yen Chang 1890
In re Knight 1909
Immigration Act of 1924, which included the Asian Exclusion Act
Lum v. Rice 1927

Nothing at all about state and local restrictions affecting Chinese immigrants like:

CA Foreign Miner’s Tax Law 1852
CA law barring “Chinese or Mongolian races” 1858
Pigtail Ordinance of San Francisco
Alien land laws across multiple states

And while there was a generalized discussion of the Naturalization Act of 1790 affecting naturalization of “free white person[s] … of good character,” there’s nothing about its affect on Chinese who weren’t considered white.

As recently as 2018 (!) an alien land law remained in effect in the state of Florida which denied Asian farmers the right of land ownership; the law was finally overturned by voters that year though they had rejected its repeal in 2008.

All of this is particularly galling knowing that over the course of the project, the Transcontinental Railroad was built with the labor of as many as 20,000 Chinese immigrants – enough men to populate a small city. In my American History class the achievement in which the west and east railroads were joined was covered with little more than a passing nod.

Just look at this famous photo taken at the celebration of the railroad’s completion:

Chinese immigrants made up as much as 90% of Central Pacific Railroad’s workforce. How many Chinese faces do you see in that photo? The Chinese paid dearly, hundreds having died from the dangerous work and conditions, paid far less than whites on the same job, only to be literally erased.

It’s also particular painful over the last couple of weeks observing the anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre in which Black Wall Street residents were murdered, knowing that there have been multiple massacres in American history of Chinese Americans which have gone unobserved. Granted, there have been more massacres of Black Americans throughout American history like the 1920 Ocoee massacre, but like the thousands of railroad workers the Chinese victims of white rage since the 1800s received a dearth of recognition.

How many U.S. textbooks contained references to these violent assaults on Chinese American communities during which whites drove out residents after attacking and sometimes killing Chinese Americans:

Los Angeles Chinese Massacre 1871
33 California attacks 1880s
Rock Springs Massacre 1885
Attack on Squak Valley 1885
Tacoma riot 1885
Miscellaneous mob violence in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon 1885-1886
Seattle riot 1886
Hells Canyon massacre 1887
Pacific Coast Race Riots 1907
Bellingham riots 1907

Likely none. Perhaps it’s just as well my great-grandfather never made it to the mainland, becoming an American citizen after the U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898 and granted Hawaii’s citizens U.S. citizenship in the process of establishing the Hawaii as a territory.

It’s funny Donald Trump forgot this bit of history each time he denied Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship, yet more deliberate erasure. Each time I heard about Trump’s birtherism I wondered if my family’s citizenship was likewise being called into question for being both brown and born in Hawaii.

~ ~ ~

All of this is to say that the rabid state-level attempts to excise teaching the truth of America’s history is another racist effort to police brown people and erase them while continuing to siphon their value (i.e., keep working and contributing to Social Security and taxes, but die early from the same kind of racist neglect extended to Americans of color through the nation’s history.)

Hello again, colonialism, this time occupying not only brown bodies but the public’s mind, whitewashing the past.

I won’t use the phrase which was honestly and earnestly applied to the body of knowledge which teaches all of America’s history, including its pre-nation origins. I respect the persons behind it, but the phrase or label has become toxic, deliberately made so by a counter movement intended to invoke a reflexive negative reaction in a particular audience.

That I will call out for what it is: it’s white supremacy and nationalism with oligarchic sponsors, attempting to sanitize its wretchedness and avoid disclosure of its ongoing toxic effect on this country by insisting the history of Black Americans is removed from classrooms.

It’s naked racism, fighting against a near-term future in which half or more of the U.S. is not white, in which people like me and my family are a part of a new majority.

It’s a raw struggle for continued domination over the narrative through which they cling to power – the falsehood that America is ever-innocent and eternally white, that its emergence over the last 402 years didn’t depend on the physical, economic, and political subjugation of non-white humans and their nations, even now on a rolling basis.

It’s desperate denialism which cannot accept this country began as multiple layers of theft, constructing an illusion of a vast and empty space waiting for European whites to fill it, suppressing the truth that forced labor by brown people helped turn this space once occupied by indigenous brown people into the precursor entity which became the largest economy in the world.

Fuck all of that. Fuck the erasure which denies people of color have been an intrinsic part of this country’s emergence and too often under violence.

~ ~ ~

No country is perfect. Absolutely none; it’s the story of humanity. A good many countries are now or have been occupiers or occupied over the history of mankind. Changes in boundaries and country names through human history often came with atrocities. There are some truly awful histories like that of the former Belgian Congo and the more recent Cambodia under Khmer Rouge, South Africa’s apartheid past, and now the horrors of the Israel-Palestine conflict and China’s carceral Xinjiang province.

In this the U.S. is not alone. It’s simply a younger country than the United Kingdom whose English forebears injected their brand of slavery into this nation’s history by bringing enslaved people of Ndongo ashore into what is now the state of Virginia.

The same nation later “discovered” Hawaii, encouraging the first wave of colonists and their European diseases which over the next hundred-plus years would wipe out roughly 80-85% of Hawaiians.

This is in part why Hawaii became a territory and is now our fiftieth state. There were too few Hawaiians left to mount a vigorous rejection of colonialism, to defend against the seizure of its monarch. Magruder’s American Government gave even less text to the process by which Hawaiians’ sovereign was deposed and its government replaced as American sugar plantation owners desired, in order to reduce taxes on their products.

I can’t recall exactly how much my American History text expended on Hawaii but I doubt it was little more than a page.

In spite of the wrongs done by Britain and then the U.S. to the small sovereign Pacific nation, it is a bulwark of islands guarding the remote mainland, its residents ready to defend their nation as they were in 1941.

The women in this U.S. Navy photo who were training to fight fires in Pearl Harbor naval shipyard aren’t all white. They are like me and my family – mixed race, some Hawaiian, some Chinese. There were more who were Filipino and Japanese. Let’s not forget war hero and former senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, also of Japanese heritage who served his country in WWII with distinction along with other tens of thousands of other Japanese Americans even as 120,000 more civilian Japanese Americans were interned.

These Americans didn’t withdraw and withhold their efforts because the nation which claimed their island as territory was at that time majority white. They signed up to serve the military as did many other local residents who likewise weren’t all white.

Like so many other non-white Americans — Black American descendants of slaves and later immigrants from African nations, Vietnamese and Latin American immigrants, Native Americans who were here all along, so many more — they are part of our complete history and are entitled to be remembered and taught in classrooms.

Any and all of these groups are worth more than three paragraphs. All America deserves a richer, more complete picture of itself. Their story is our story; it shouldn’t be muted, silenced, erased.

Accept the truth: this is what America looks like at its best, warts and all.

81 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    I didn’t even begin to touch on other Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants to this country. There’s so much more history which has been actively suppressed if not suffocated for lack of oxygen. I have family members who are part-Japanese, part-Filipino, part-Portuguese through my Hawaiian family. All of them deserve recognition of their forebears’ role in building what this country is today.

    And everything I’ve said is just as applicable to Black Americans’ history.

    When these racist GOP state legislatures and school district boards remove teaching of race related to American history, it’s not only goddamned personal — it’s relevant to the kind of governance we have. We need a more diverse representation because our country already is diverse. We need more kinds of thinking from a broad spectrum of Americans because the problems we face now and in the years ahead won’t be solved by the same kinds of thinking our government has used for too long.

    But the GOP is using race as a prod to rile up its base and ensure they turn out to vote in 2022. That’s what this is to them, just another tool to retain power and continue their corruption of governance, achieving an anti-democratic authoritarian state. They don’t care that they are wiping out personal family histories of fellow Americans to this end.

    • Spencer says:

      I am so sorry for the pain that erasure has caused you (and so many other people, only some of which you could point to in your note and this comment). Thank you for explaining that pain to us.

      Yesterday/Saturday, Heather Cox Richardson posted an excellent description of the reasons why critical case theory is such a flashpoint in today’s world, and ended it by saying “It acknowledges the importance of history.”. Thank you for helping us to better understand some important but largely-erased history.

      Spartacus Olsson ends every episode of the YouTube “War Against Humanity” seies by saying “never forget”, but we can’t remember what we’e never known. Thank you for chipping away at our unawareness.

      • Rayne says:

        No apology necessary, Spencer. Far more important to see what racism has done, what it is doing, how it benefits certain groups while polarizing and potentially destabilizing communities and the country as a whole — and then act constructively to change the dynamic.

        It’s absolutely essential that we as a whole understand racism is and has been used as a wedge to increase polarization in the U.S. The response to the Black Lives Matter movement was manipulated by Russian influence operations post-Ferguson; Putin clearly understands the original sin of racism remains a lever he can use for destabilize. When we can accept our past and present, build a more mutually equitable future, the leverage disappears. We must accept the problem systemic racism here poses as a potential threat to global stability.

  2. BobCon says:

    There’s an enormous problem in the framing over the attacks on honest history by the right in the press.

    There is a deep bias against honesty that goes to the highest levels of places like the NY Times, as shown by the installation of Michael Powell as their top voice on “identity wars.”


    The basic framing of what is happening this way is like calling the Tulsa massacre a conflict.

    Powell has written deeply biased — and even worse inaccurate — pieces on Betsy DeVos and the ACLU repeatedly invoking neutral-sounding language to hide the deep bias he (and his editors) have which is that anyone speaking out for the truth is the agressor and anything the right does is defensive in nature, and that there is no way to know what is right and wrong.

    And it is important to stress that this is not a single isolated writer at the Times — he represents a deep institutional bias by management all over the industry. Even when their own outfits are victims of bad faith stings by right wing organizations, their instinctive bias is to treat the problem as the left.

    The Times as an institution deserves a lot of credit for publishing the 1619 project, and it also deserves enormous shame for the way the politics and national reporters and editors have worked to undercut it on endless occasions.

    • Rayne says:

      I take the kinder, gentler punching down by Powell and the like personally because I know what I’ve lost already before they begin. The intentionally toxic framing is why I refuse to use it. Were I a Black American I would take it and own it but I can only commiserate and establish an alternative frame as someone whose heritage has been erased systematically, even down to my family’s language.

      Hell, even my own family name was fucked up on arrival in Hawaii at the port by customs’ documentation, severing me and mine from more than 16 million who share the same name. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to lose even that much by enslavement, and then have that loss denied and whitewashed.

      • BobCon says:

        The underlying sickness behind the “just asking questions” crowd like Powell is some people get to ask questions and some people have to answer, and surprise, surprise, look at how the interests of race and power get sorted out as to who asks and who has to answer.

        You can add to that the entire issue of who gets to decide when a question is answered. Again, for the Powell types somehow the things that are up for debate, the things that don’t have sufficient proof, somehow by magic align ever so closely with the point of view of only side when it comes to race and power.

        • Rayne says:

          Who has the power to ask/report is bound up in capital in this country, and who has capital is generally white — that’s how we get Powell. This is why I was so very happy when Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the Los Angeles Times, potentially changing the dynamic. It’s a great paper and it has the ability to be what WaPo and NYT have been, but sadly I don’t think it’s profitable under its current business model.

          There’s a series right now in LAT on the problem with Latinx representation in Hollywood (https://www.latimes.com/latinogap/) which exemplifies the kind of coverage it provides that other large metro/national papers fail to provide. Really need to find better business models to support this more realistic coverage.

          • P J Evans says:

            The Times used to have sections with more local coverage, but they lost those in the 90s. The plant where they printed some of the local editions was closed down and is being turned into Yet Another Upscale Housing and Shopping complex. I think that killed a lot of the customer base – if you have to subscribe to two papers to get local and national news, and the one with more national news is more expensive, which do you choose?

  3. P J Evans says:

    Let’s hear an “Amen”!
    (Cousin-by-marriage of Japanese ancestry (grandparents were immigrants), two of Indian ancestry, one Pilipina, two from Africa (opposite sides) – I think my family is becoming more American, not less, over time.

    • Rayne says:

      Becoming more American in its diversity is the promise of Emma Lazarus’s New Colossus — which, sadly enough, was published the year after the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. The lamp lit beside the golden door should remain lit for exiles.

  4. BillD says:

    Anyone visiting Pendleton, Oregon, (maybe to buy a blanket or Big Lebowski sweater) should take the underground tour. It’s where the Chinese lived and worked during the hours after dark when they weren’t allowed on the streets. Above ground on the tour is a brothel where more acceptable folks worked.

    • Rayne says:

      Any chance you have a link to whatever entity manages this tour? Thanks.

      “acceptable folks” = brown people from whom value could be extracted

        • Rayne says:

          Thanks for the link. Interesting video — might be one person in it who’s Native American, one person who may be mixed race Black, but no one who was obviously Asian let alone Chinese. Kind of makes the point in its own way.

        • Rayne says:

          Thanks for the links.

          I would be care with the broad generalization about Chinese American’s origins; Taishanese are only about 10-15% of total Chinese American population. Most of the folks I worked with at a Fortune 100 company weren’t Taishanese. I remember at least one heated discussion between a married couple who worked at the same corporation when one spouse complained the other refused to speak Cantonese; he only knew Mandarin because it’s all his family spoke. And one of my closest friends was a Hakka immigrant from Hong Kong.

          • P J Evans says:

            maybe a lot of the earlier immigrants were from Taishan – I understand that some of the older (and more familiar) Chinese restaurant dishes can be traced back to just a few villages in the area of Canton (as it was called then).

          • John Lehman says:

            Understood, sorry.

            Should also confess an error of by “Shanghai Tunnel” thinking it a pejorative reference to the city of “Shanghai” and by extension all Chinese not to the deplorable 19th century practice of being “Shanghaied”, that is, being gotten drunk, drugged and kidnapped and waking up a forced crew member on a ship.

  5. OldTulsaDude says:

    Thank you, Rayne. This is wonderful. My own daughters – now grown – are half-Asian. I was only 3 paragraphs in when my thoughts turned to Germany and how they have handled their horrific history. If only the U.S. could do the same. We are all imperfect – and there is nothing to fear about teaching how those imperfections have led to our own horrors in the past, and why we need continued vigilance to overcome our continued imperfections.

  6. silcominc says:

    Thanks Rayne for a powerful piece. Thanks too BobCon for your addition about NYT. As someone who is older (sounds like many of you are too), I can see how history has recorded events that I lived through and see how they have already become distorted, whitewashed and overly selective in what they recount and what they don’t.

    • Rayne says:

      The life and death of Martin Luther King Jr. is a particularly good example. He’s a totem now, waved around every year by corporations as a symbol of something the shareholder class objected to firmly when he last walked the earth. Sanitized, rebranded, now another brown body from which value is extracted even in death.

      Really need to revisit the entire premise of the zombie based on this concept, hmm?

      The problem is so much bigger than simple discrimination based on skin color or cultural heritage. It’s a sustained capitalist framework arising from colonialism.

        • Rayne says:

          Haaland is a bright light in this administration. It’s a grim story she tells about the boarding schools but necessary — it’s too easy to see the same thing happened under Trump when asylum seekers’ children were ripped away from their parents and adopted without consent. We need to look at the dark places in American history to recognize them when they happen and prevent them when we can, remedy the damage.

          An older family member was a Canadian Anishinaabe boarding school student; they refused to discuss it with their immediate family because they were so traumatized by the experience. I can’t begin to imagine what they experienced.

      • P J Evans says:

        My freshman US history class in college had a wider view than the Florida people would like to see taught – it included critical papers about the “Manifest Destiny” stuff, and we read the “Autobiography of Malcolm X”, which made me a lot more sympathetic to him and the Black Power movement.

        • Rayne says:

          Definitely should have seen more in university-level courses; I know both my kids did in the last eight years. My son in particular also received a solid bit of women’s history at the same time. Unfortunately he also saw just how uninformed and racist his cohort was at a Big 10 school; one student on a sports scholarship was annoyed at how much new material they had to learn in a history class because “they didn’t have time for this new crap.”

          • Rayne says:

            Dude. I’m not the one who needs this. YOU are the one who should be reading it if you aren’t AAPI or have AAPI family members.

            And I’m telling you that site is light on AAPI content. That link you shared is content from WWII to the present; it treats discrete events with On This Day pieces instead of continuous history, as if AAPI history is only worth remembering if memory has been jogged on a particular day. Chinese have been in what is now the U.S. since the late 1700s. It’s like ignoring the history of Black Americans from 1619 to 1776. This is why people of color support decolonization of American history to teach ALL of it, not part of it.

            • P J Evans says:

              I remember being surprised to find that one Union soldier at Gettysburg was from China – but also was a citizen. (He later went back to China.)

            • jerryy says:

              Perhaps you misunderstood. That page is for education materials meant as a starting point “… as a starting point for students to do further research.”, it is not intended as a comprehensive accounting.

              The first entry about Wong Kim Ark dates from the 1898 US Supreme Court decision “… children born in the United States, even to parents not eligible to become citizens, were nonetheless citizens themselves under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’. Very important stuff.

              One of the last entries about Lee Yick, “…On May 10, 1886, Lee Yick won a Supreme Court case that ensured that all people —citizens and non-citizens — had equal protection under the law.’ also important stuff.

              I understand they accept verifiable stories and information. You could try submitting some.

              • Rayne says:

                First, don’t mansplain me and push ownership off on me with “Perhaps you misunderstood.” No, YOU misunderstood that I do NOT need your white POV on my AAPI exerience.

                You did notice I noted the Wong Kim Ark case in my post, yes? Perhaps YOU didn’t read my post. The majority of content at the page you shared is still WWII era and later.

                I do my work here at this site; my post here notes quite a bit of Asian American history as a starting point. I’m not helping Zinn’s site when they have far more resources to do the work correctly.

                Jesus, let’s extract more content from another brown body. I’m only glad I pass for white or I’d get this nonstop.

                • jerryy says:

                  You seem to go out of your way to take offense, and make generalizations about race and gender of a name and email address.

                  • Rayne says:

                    I notice you’re sharing a lot of personal experience about your own minority status. Oh, wait…


                    We’re done in this thread.

  7. Nehoa says:

    Rayne – extremely well said. I wish we, as a whole community, would be honest with our history…good and bad. That would help us all appreciate what strength diversity gives us, and how important being a welcoming place to immigrants is to our future.
    I have lived and worked in other countries. Countries that are not open to immigration. They are, or will be, stagnating due to populations that are getting too old and too insular. The U.S. has another option. Welcome those who want to be Americans, regardless of where they came from. Grow as a vibrant, diverse nation.

    • Rayne says:

      When immigration isn’t seen as a positive resource, it can be weaponized. That’s what happened with the UK; it only took a wave of Syrians and other Middle Eastern and North African asylum seekers fleeing conflict and drought to upset its politics. Ukip was able to use that to create moment behind Brexit using xenophobia (insert curse on Nigel Farage), and now the UK is steadily falling apart post-Brexit, slowly destabilizing.

      If it had embraced the wave of immigration the way Germany had, they’d be far more stable but Theresa May and the rest of the Tories were simply too racist to see the destabilization for what it was.

      Doesn’t even begin to touch on what UK has done to the Windrush generation who like Black Americans had been instrumental in building the economy but treated like scum due to the anti-immigrant pressure fed by Ukip and then Brexit.

        • Rayne says:

          Yes — note the curse on Farage who picked up the race ball and ran with it as Ukip — with destabilization of Middle East and north African countries causing refugee influx. We need to look more carefully at Russia’s role in Syria as part of destabilization; it wasn’t just a response to drought or continued Arab spring. The entire Brexit project appears to have had dark money financial support from Russia through Aaron Banks, who’s tried to shut down reporting about it with a SLAPP suit against journalist Carole Cadwalladr.

          And the money likely helped buy Cambridge Analytica/SCL services which in turn may have shaped Facebook microtargeted messaging ahead of the Brexit referendum. The entire Brexit operation looked like a proof-of-concept for the November 2016 election; there may have been a payoff at the end in the form of shorting the pound (read the last two grafs at that link).

          • Ginevra diBenci says:

            Rayne, thanks for the pound-shorting tip, which I had missed. Most in this country have probably forgotten Farage’s junkets over here traveling around as a cheerleader for Trump. He always seemed a shade too smart to be a “useful idiot” for Putin, but I’ve never wanted to straight out call him a Russian plant. He’s still a conundrum for me.

            • Rayne says:

              Should look at how many hedge fund managers were involved in both Brexit and the 2016 election, beginning not only with Farage but with Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon. Every time there was a chance to short sell based on Trump’s or Johnson’s idiocy we should have been looking for their fingerprints. I suspect these guys think they are using Putin when he’s using them. What they all have in common is a desire for anarchic libertarianism and Ledeen-ian universal fascism in a white supremacist framework.

  8. Eureka says:

    Powerful, powerful Rayne. Excellent point about the de-leveraging impacts of knowledge and acknowledgement, and your framing that the US is not unique in having its ugly helps to relax some of the tension to which deniers cling.

    I’ll add that we must know these histories to comprehend* the current right wing-piloted / RU-facilitated modes of attack — compare that “Silly” comment ploy on a recent page (comments closed else I’d mark it there). Long before Americans could share a common body of these richer stories, the supremacists & facilitators are re-running into overdrive to pit (in that example) Asians against Blacks in further service of building the pale patriarchy’s infrastructure. [I noticed that he dropped explicitly the gender angle.]

    Instrumentality at its most usurious.

    *While triangulating groups against each other can be visible enough, their methods of ends-laundering/intellectualizing should also be unmasked (as part of corrective meta-narrative, too). The boots-on-the-ground types, of course, automatically filter that extraneous shit right out — like the Capitol defendant with J. Philippe Rushton’s race-evolution-behavior [sic] book amidst his Nazi paraphernalia and “White’s Only Material” [sic, but LOL] folder. [Spoiler alert: Rushton and others place Asians atop their hierarchies not because they’re “the best”, but — and this is part of the stereotypy — because they define them as controllable and if one wants to hide a triangle within a linear-seeming framework, that’s how you do it. That’s the intellectual heritage — not some undue concern for the welfare of certain persons of Asian descent.] It’s “only” the media (where Americans get their info), dark-webbers who dabble in popular comments sections, and such, who waste everyone’s time with the artifice of scaffolding.

    “Silly’s” comment:

  9. Molly Pitcher says:

    Rayne I appreciate your writing and view point on this. Having been born and raised in Berkeley, I need the perspective of the rest of the country. I forget how truly different the environment is here until I go east. Not saying that it is perfect here for people of color, but it is certainly better than most of the rest of the country.

    Visiting my daughter in Nashville is an absolute slap in the face.

  10. Hopeful says:


    Thank you for this post. Brings me back many years.

    I grew up in the later fifties and all of the sixties in a little town, which would later become a suburb of Sacramento, called Florin.

    I’ve since learned that it was once called “The Strawberry Capitol of the World”; mainly due to Japanese farming diligence.

    My best friend in first grade was Peter Horikoshi.

    I had many Japanese friends in all the years that I progressed through the schools in that district.

    But, I was later to learn that almost all of my Japanese friends families had been affected by Executive Order No. 9066 which would eventually force them to relocate to internment camps. ( There is a great book on this subject called Daughter of Moloka’i, by Alan Brennert which captures Japanese people living in Florin before/after Pearl Harbor).

    I don’t know the answer. Maybe that exclusion approach was a strength in the ancient days of hunter/gatherer or clans to survive.

    But I have worked with peoples of many different cultures; my conclusions are that what they ( I ) want is a chance to enjoy life, be healthy, and be given an opportunity to show what they (we) are capable of.

    • Rayne says:

      Want another really great book on the effects of internment on Japanese American communities? Try Strawberry Days by David Neiwert.

      This: “they ( I ) want is a chance to enjoy life, be healthy, and be given an opportunity to show what they (we) are capable of” — I think, fitting with Pride month, this is not a far walk from The Gay Agenda:
      The Gay Agenda via reddit
      which is pretty much what all humans want (though they may want their choice of dairy, soy, almond, rice, or oat milk).

      • posaune says:

        Thank you for this post, Rayne. My in-laws are Japanese-American. Spouse is nissei. Extended family at Manzanar. Immediate family not interred (mostly b/c they owned farmland in CO near Pueblo). However, they were significantly socially restricted: (curfew, not allowed in many public places, kids couldn’t join boy scouts, clubs, not allowed in movie theaters, pool, library etc.) Much shaming and discrimination. Lifelong scars and PTSD within the wartime child generation, that is STILL seen today. And yet, this family of 8 kids went on to yield, three physicians, two nurses, physicist, chemistry prof, ag scientist. Grand kids held to extremely high standards. Heartbreaking. Trying so diligently to be “American.”

  11. John Cole says:

    Thank you Rayne for this excellent and very personal article. I have often said that a person can love this country while recognizing it flaws. Hiding historical wrongs and atrocities just increase the chances of them being repeated. I also believe that it is patriotic to hold this county’s behavior to a higher standard. Thanks again for sharing such a personal story.

  12. Silly but True says:

    A good article.

    A specific question to those who know the history of the Chinese rail laborers.

    When the Railroad Retirement Program (the federalized railroad worker pension program) was established in 1934 were Chinese laborers eligible and/or if not, when/if/has eligibility ever been bestowed upon them?


      • P J Evans says:

        I knew one guy – sadly, died way too young – whose family was one of the earlier Chinese arrivals, back around the 1850s.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Thanks for the link. Ironic resource, given that Leland Stanford, along with the rest of the Big Four, made his millions abusing them (and other workers, average investors, and those who bought land along their government-issued right of way, not to mention their bribing Congress to an unprecedented degree). But valuable.

        Chinese workers joined other mostly immigrant labor that built the transcontinental railroads. But they did the most dangerous work: drilling hard rock and using primitive explosives; constructing trestles; digging and laying track at break-neck speed. They kept to themselves, grew and supplied their much healthier own food; boiled water to avoid endemic diseases; and avoided the bars and brothels railroads rigged and used to get back much of the money they paid out to workers.

        Without Chinese labor, it would have taken much longer to drill, bridge, and mine the way across the Sierra Nevadas, where 20′ snowfalls could bury their work for months. Without them, the Southern Pacific would have remained a pipe dream for much longer.

        • Rayne says:

          Earl, go read about the Chinese workers some more. The railroad couldn’t get adequate responses to postings for white workers. You make it sound like the Chinese were incidental to a larger body of white workers when the Chinese “Celestials” were 80% of Central Pacific’s construction workforce.

          As for Leland Stanford: I listened recently to one of the most uncomfortable if informative interviews with Gordon Chang, co-director of Stanford’s project team behind the Chinese Railroad Workers in America project. He’s written more than one book about the subject. During the entire ~45 minute interview he never, ever mentioned that he is Chinese American. He literally erased his own identity, treating it as if it was irrelevant to his role at the university founded by Leland Stanford and the railroad for which Stanford was president. Chang’s self erasure is internalized oppression; we can reasonably expect to see its effect in the Stanford project.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            I don’t think that’s a fair reading of my comment: without Chinese workers, “the Southern Pacific would have remained a pipe dream.” My emphasis was that Chinese labor did the most novel, difficult, and dangerous jobs – essential to crossing the Sierra Nevadas – as well as the raw, backbreaking labor.

            The Central (later, the Southern) Pacific and Union Pacific competed to lay the most track. Immigrant Irish were the dominant labor force for the UP. But the CP portion of the line – fueled by Chinese labor – was more difficult, complex and harder to build.

            I suspect Chang is wrestling with the issues you raise, as well as the standard requirement that historians erase themselves from the history they write, lest they commit the mortal sin of having apparent bias. The requirement itself, though, is establishment promoting and carries its own potential for bias.

            The requirement affects the Gordon Changs, for example, much more than the Eric Foners and Daniel Boorstins. Howard Zinn and Norman Kantor solved the problem largely by ignoring it, a tactic derided by the academy as advocacy history. Ironically, that’s not a label applied to establishment historians – Boorstin, Berkeley’s H.H. Bancroft, and HBS’s Alfred Chandler – who were unabashed advocates of their subjects.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Stanford was being disingenuous when he complained that he couldn’t hire enough men from the “white laboring class,” on the Pacific Coast. True, the West Coast population was low, and Stanford was hiring during and shortly after the Civil War. But Stanford’s explanation is typically self-serving: white laborers, he said, preferred more, “profitable and congenial employment in mining and agricultural pursuits.”

            Congenial? Mining and agricultural work were and are backbreaking, and hard rock mining was and is exceptionally dangerous. But neither was as dangerous as constructing a RR across the Sierra Nevadas. Chinese labor was not only cheaper, better, and steadier than their white counterparts, but few in white America would know about or mourn their losses.

  13. Dizz says:

    Thank you Rayne for this post. I think the linked article is on-topic … mostly anyway. Apologies if not, but I reflected on it while reading this post/ comments. An interesting way to view the ‘Browning of America’.
    The Myth of a Majority-Minority America, The narrative that nonwhite people will soon outnumber white people is not only divisive, but also false. JUNE 13, 2021 https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/06/myth-majority-minority-america/619190/

    As much as they are competing for economic resources and political power, America’s racial groups are blending now more than ever. According to the most detailed of the Census Bureau’s projections, 52 percent of individuals included in the nonwhite majority of 2060 will also identify as white. By the same token, the white group will become much more diverse, because 40 percent of Americans who say they are white also will claim a minority racial or ethnic identity. Speculating about whether America will have a white majority by the mid-21st century makes little sense, because the social meanings of white and nonwhite are rapidly shifting. The sharp distinction between these categories will apply to many fewer Americans.

    The myth of an imminent majority-minority society revives the misconception that American ethnic and racial groups are fixed, bounded, and separate. It breathes new life into old fears that rising diversity must entail white decline. Our ailing democracy needs a narrative now that recognizes how changing demography can unite us rather than divide us. Or, as the slogan goes, “E pluribus unum.”

    • Rayne says:

      First, the article is about people like me who are mixed race. I am your future as are my kids. We are still dealing with the effects of structural racism even if we pass as white.

      Second, pay closer attention to who is writing this stuff. Did you notice the authors are three white men who may be consciously/unconsciously struggling with the U.S. becoming a non-white country? (For gods’ sake, one of the author’s last name literally means “white” in Gaelic.) Look how easy it is to produce an authoritative work rebutting the emergence of white-as-minority based on U.S. Census data by simply being three white men in academia.

  14. tinao says:

    OMG Rayne, several years back here in Pennsyltucky, a friend of mine took me to a place that had once been a camp for the Chinese that helped build the train tracks here in PA. It had been built for those who had died while completing. It was made of stone and beautiful! White amnesia causes the whole a problem. And, I am god damn tired of this bullshit on the part of the few on us all.

    • Eureka says:

      tinao do you remember if it had a name or whereabouts it was? In southeastern PA there’s a camp with a stone memorial in the woods called Duffy’s Cut (Duffy being the name of the contractor) for Irish Catholic railroad workers. It’s a mass grave of 57 known — the workers were sick with cholera and a bunch were murdered on site (besides the rest denied care).

  15. Eureka says:

    In other news, Jon Stewart chose to use his return to tv (Colbert guest) to push the Wuhan lab leak theory. Nice. Stayed tuned for H.E.R. and she didn’t perform – writing that casually attended hour off.

    Adding: anyone who’d seen his recent, ahem, “twitter game” knew he was off his form, but I never would have expected this. (In fact, figured he just wasn’t suited to social media. Well… the times are achanged.

      • Eureka says:

        Yeah and he doubled-down in the segment after a break by saying that global warming, income inequality, fascism, etc– all that wouldn’t be what kills us. Instead it would be the scientists.


        Maybe it’s his contrarian streak, what with the common gag/film reference being ‘no one listens to the scientist(s) and look what happens.’

        In the initial segment, Colbert had referenced editing Stewart’s comments out, tho to my eye that never happened — more him trying to apply some brakes to Stewart’s musings. In the return segment there was a jump cut — so perhaps they edited then, or maybe just a cable glitch as we’re having storms.

        • vvv says:

          FWIW, I took it as a failed attempt at edgy humor – “failed” because it wasn’t really clear what his stance was – I think he was trying to backdoor attack conspiracy theories involving the virus’ origin, the Wuhan lab, the “danger” of science, and got carried away being an edgy character. But do note his analogy regarding chocolate and Hershy, PA.

          I also looked forward to H.E.R. but gotta say, Jean Baptiste was really good, even to this agnostic.

          Oh, and thank you to Rayne for the original post – thought provoking.

          • Eureka says:

            Yep, Jean Baptiste was good — tho I really needed a cleansing H.E.R.-banger.

            Maybe trying to (surprise us and) “Colbert’ Colbert was too much for him to pull off and this wasn’t the best material with which to try. If that’s what he was doing.

            Dunno … I’m going back to my read of his recentish twitter debut which seemed more than rusty, like discordant with the times (welp, we have our memories…). The Trump era and characters have really expired a lot of what made the Daily Show/spinoffs so successful.

            • bmaz says:

              I did not see it, but sounds disappointing. Both for the “lab leak” nonsense, but also HER was on but did not perform? She is absolutely great, weird there were no songs by her. By the way, Cheryl Rofer has done some great work at her joint, Nuclear Diner, on how the “lab leak” bogosity is being falsely pushed by nutters. Highly recommended. Scroll down to the Steve Bannon’s Useful Idiots pair of posts.

              FWIW, I am not sure the distinction is that critical, as the answer could easily be both. The thought that it was some human manufactured bioweapon seems absurd, as Cheryl points out. But that does not leave out the possibility that the virus not just jumped from the animal to human (zoonotic) but that a human(s) in the Wuhan lab studying that, which is what they do after all, got infected and propagated it further by innocently going home or wherever. Not sure that magic moment is ever going to be totally deciphered, and it is ridiculous for the nutters and the media to obsess over it.

              • Eureka says:

                [vvv (apparently) and I aren’t Colbert regulars — *the artist was Jon Batiste, also the show’s musical director https://twitter.com/colbertlateshow/status/1404658874964058112 ]

                H.E.R. was the billed musical guest but wasn’t on in any capacity, something must’ve come up.

                There’s stuff about the origins of this disease we might not know for decades, if ever, agreed.

                The weight of the evidence *now* supports a cpz interpretation — including many molecular details, at least some of which non-experts have either misrepresented in bad faith or misunderstood, trusting other ill-advised experts. To my understanding.

                I’ve personally always leaned towards humans as a likely pre-pandemic “reservoir” (going back to the days Jim was writing about this) –certainly we are not ruled out — and some of the further molecular changes that we can see since the pandemic, how lots of the variants are cooking, support that in my view. I also think the hints of earlier disease (spread out of China to portions of Europe and the US by the late fall of or late 2019) are compelling. [Those views concord or ride with each other in a way, i.e. less-spready/ proliferative/ virulent (human-to-human) variants preceded the pandemic ones.]

                My opinions, man. Your deep thoughts set me off on a riff, bmaz.

                I’ve read Cheryl Rofer’s posts — they’re good. She’s not countenancing any BS.

                To all in the discussion, the words came to me after: Stewart was doing ~ hyperbolic incredulity (that we do not all just know and accept this), not satire. As in he actually believes that it was a lab leak (not lampooning it) and so presented the case as “certain”. That might also explain why the overwhelming majority of folks reacting felt he genuinely believed it, as I saw later online. GG, his new allies such as Meghan McCain, and plenty of others are both celebrating and excoriating tech cos’ “censorship”, for example, while fans from earlier are mostly cringing.

                Colbert’s (unscheduled) guest tonight is CNN Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta…

                • bmaz says:

                  Yeah…I do not know the answer. Not sure we ever really will, but hope so. I do think “both” is among the options, as stated above.

                  For such an important question, the answer will likely remain elusive. And, unfortunately, politicized. The one thing I do know is that the media should not be playing into this.

                  • Eureka says:

                    Colbert just confirmed that Stewart does believe that it was a lab leak FYI.

                    He’s having Gupta go over things.

                    But Gupta just fucked up in reviewing one line of evidence: he said the fact that it (seemed to) come out of the gate so fast, as opposed to initially sputtering, supported the lab leak theory. That is a false interpretation (it’s equipotential with cpz) for the reasons I just outlined above: some of the reliable bloodbank and sewage data already indicate that it was sputtering, besides the facts that (1) those data are are compatible with such a sputtering, and (2) human species reservoiring as above would cause the same outcome independent of those data which are compatible with same in any case. This is an important point because there’s already (older) evidence of humans who live in close contact with bats harboring antibodies to bat CoVs (while such CoVs not known to be disease-causing in humans– yet. Or at those time points). And in fact, some of the Shi Zhengli data which scientists want to see published is from 2012 miners’ samples (miners who worked in the same area where the closest bat sequence to SARS2 is found). See for ex: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/14/world/asia/china-covid-wuhan-lab-leak.html

                    Gupta needs to consult some evolutionary biologists before re-hashing that script.

                    • Eureka says:

                      ^ apols, tried to edit: I used abbreviation cpz for “cross-species zoonosis”, substitute that.

        • Rayne says:

          STG this pandemic has done some weird things to people’s heads whether they got COVID or not, as a result of being cooped up and not contextualizing their thinking against other people’s thinking.

  16. Mart says:

    My lifelong best friend Japanese American parent’s were in WWII concentration camps. When the bill passed to compensate them $20K each for their “troubles” during Reagan years their neighbors were horrible to them. What the fuck did you do to earn that?, and similar. $40K in the 1990 was pennies on the dollar compared to having their family farm and way of life stolen from them. Some things never change, “The bill was supported by the majority of Democrats in Congress, while the majority of Republicans voted against it. The act was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.”

    • bmaz says:

      PJ – They were bogus and have been excised.

      [That particular troll should not be back. / ~Rayne]

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