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The Birth of the Chinese-American

The United States is a country well known for its immigrant heritage. However, until the middle of the 19th century, almost all immigrants to the US were either of European origin or were African slaves. The California Gold Rush of 1849 marks the first major influx of Chinese into the US. Like all other immigrants before them, they brought with them their own distinct culture. Unfortunately, in the eyes of many Americans at the time, Chinese religions, languages, dress styles, and even appearances were seen as being unacceptably foreign. The story of the birth of the Chinese-American tells a tale of struggle against an unwelcoming public, persecution, and most of all, racial prejudice.

Despite helping construct the world’s first transcontinental railroad and establishing California’s first policies on agriculture, Chinese immigrants faced fierce racism from European-Americans. Whereas the general American public was openly bigoted towards the Chinese, the US government initially appeared welcoming. In 1868, the US and China together signed the Burlingame Treaty. This agreement guaranteed all rights as equal citizens to Chinese arrivals; on paper at least, they were to be free of persecution.

In just a short time, the hostility towards Chinese immigrants from the US government would match that of so many of its citizens. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur, banned all Chinese from entering the US for a period of ten years. With the exception of a few illegal aliens trickling in, the Chinese-American population remained roughly at 5,000 people. The Chinese Exclusion Act was renewed repeatedly until 1943.

Chinese-Americans, because of harsh governmental treatment were unable to grow their population, as such, it was impossible for them to assimilate themselves into the local culture. Being officially unwanted by the government was a problem that European immigrants to America never experienced. These conditions strengthened the bond amongst Chinese-Americans; keeping them in isolated communities allowed for the creation of booming Chinatowns; the first was in San Francisco, California. This separation from other ethnic groups helped preserve their culture; this is what gives Chinatowns their authentic appearances. Save for some violent periodical uprisings against them, the Chinese were able to keep their religions, such as Daoism and Confucianism unchanged by the surrounding Western Christian cultures. Their style of dress, languages, and cuisines were also largely preserved.

The Chinese-American population of 3.3 million people makes up only 1% of the country’s total current population. However, they are quite visible and in most major American cities. It is obvious to know when one is in a Chinatown. It is not as obvious for some to realize when one has entered into a less distinguishable ethnic district such as an Irish-American or German-American neighborhood. Through hard work and perseverance, Chinese-Americans have etched out their noticeable niche into Western society while at the same time retaining their cultural values.

The United States is a country well known for its immigrant heritage. However, until the middle of the 19th century, almost all immigrants to the US were either of European origin or were African slaves. The California Gold Rush of 1849 marks the first major influx of Chinese into the US. Like all other immigrants before them, they brought with them their own distinct culture. Unfortunately, in the eyes of many Americans at the time, Chinese religions, languages, dress styles, and even appearances were seen as being unacceptably foreign. The story of the birth of the Chinese-American tells a tale of struggle against an unwelcoming public, persecution, and most of all, racial prejudice.

Despite helping construct the world’s first transcontinental railroad and establishing California’s first policies on agriculture, Chinese immigrants faced fierce racism from European-Americans. Whereas the general American public was openly bigoted towards the Chinese, the US government initially appeared welcoming. In 1868, the US and China together signed the Burlingame Treaty. This agreement guaranteed all rights as equal citizens to Chinese arrivals; on paper at least, they were to be free of persecution.

In just a short time, the hostility towards Chinese immigrants from the US government would match that of so many of its citizens. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur, banned all Chinese from entering the US for a period of ten years. With the exception of a few illegal aliens trickling in, the Chinese-American population remained roughly at 5,000 people. The Chinese Exclusion Act was renewed repeatedly until 1943.

Chinese-Americans, because of harsh governmental treatment were unable to grow their population, as such, it was impossible for them to assimilate themselves into the local culture. Being officially unwanted by the government was a problem that European immigrants to America never experienced. These conditions strengthened the bond amongst Chinese-Americans; keeping them in isolated communities allowed for the creation of booming Chinatowns; the first was in San Francisco, California. This separation from other ethnic groups helped preserve their culture; this is what gives Chinatowns their authentic appearances. Save for some violent periodical uprisings against them, the Chinese were able to keep their religions, such as Daoism and Confucianism unchanged by the surrounding Western Christian cultures. Their style of dress, languages, and cuisines were also largely preserved.

The Chinese-American population of 3.3 million people makes up only 1% of the country’s total current population. However, they are quite visible and in most major American cities. It is obvious to know when one is in a Chinatown. It is not as obvious for some to realize when one has entered into a less distinguishable ethnic district such as an Irish-American or German-American neighborhood. Through hard work and perseverance, Chinese-Americans have etched out their noticeable niche into Western society while at the same time retaining their cultural values.

2 Responses to “The Birth of the Chinese-American”

  1. Sophie says:

    The Chinese immigrants certainly have a great potential as their whole nation is known to be very hard-working, and the prosperity of the whole nation has been much contributed to by immigrants on the whole.

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