- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press (August 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520256948
- ISBN-13: 978-0520256941
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 31 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #251,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Driven Out: The Forgotten War against Chinese Americans
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Pfaelzer, professor of American studies, reveals one of the most disgraceful chapters in American history--the purging of thousands of Chinese immigrants in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain region between 1850 and 1906. Drawing on newspaper accounts, diaries, legal pleadings, and photographs, Pfaelzer retells the story of the horrific purge of the Chinese. Testifying in their own words, Chinese businessmen recall being driven out of their shops, while women tell of being forced into prostitution; they were driven from gold mines, orchards, and small towns in the booming West. The Chinese responded with defenses from boycotts to lawsuits asking for reparations, challenges to police harassment, shipments of arms from China, and pressure on the Chinese government to intervene. Pfaelzer also catalogs the racist images of docile and dirty Chinese subject to lynchings, night raids, murder, expulsion, and deportation. She compares the expulsions to those in Nazi Germany, as well as modern Rwanda and Bosnia, and puts the Driven Out campaign into the broader context of American racism. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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What has also been benignly neglected is the role of organized labor in this legalized lynchery. Although slighted by labor and left historians, the anti-Chinese movement was the greatest organizing draw for fledgling unions and the Democratic Party throughout the West. There is much hypocrisy all around in this, too: In 400 grinding pages, Jean Pfaelzer shows an endless attack upon a vulnerable minority, instead of dealing with the powerful vested interests exploiting foreign labor and pitting it against the native-born. Much safer to burn Chinatowns than capitalist property, for that would be "anarchy." In a period when workers' strikes and riots were put down with ruthless fury - per the Chicago Haymarket - disgruntled employees were allowed by officials, police, and courts to take their full wrath upon a scapegoat of convenience: much like German conservatives used Hitler to bash the Jews instead of the Gentile rich. That Americans could embrace such demagoguery in the name of freedom shows us how self-interest triumphs over principles virtually every time.
One critique I'll make is the author's grammar. Repeated use of "the Chinese's" as a possessive clattered like a rock on a roof every time it crossed the page. "The role of the Chinese" just sounds right; "the Chinese's role" does not. Overall, though, her book remains the definitive examination of this purposely-suppressed history of the American West and the US in general. I say purposely, because nare a breath is drawn to it in popular Western literature and film, aside from the Cartwright family butler Hop Sing. (This was, btw, the name of a Chinese tong society: yet the violence of highbinder hatchet men, although alluded to, seemed never a direct cause of anti-Chinese rioting. Organized crime in Chinatown rarely touched whites.) The question remains as to why this history was swept under the bamboo mat.
It seems, ironically, due to the triumph of liberalism. Conforming to modern racial etiquette gives an out for perpetrators and apologists to hide their crimes; absolving their role to avoid negativity and divisiveness, allowing healing for later generations. There is a point here. But like suppressing the history of lynchings and race riots, it also allows popular culture to revel in American exceptionalism; and thereby launch crusades in full self-righteousness against other nations for crimes it has also perpetrated. A case in point was the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. Retaliation against Western missionaries was in direct response to the "bulldozing" of Chinese in America, and no doubt more than a few Boxers had experienced the wrong end of a fist themselves in a California mining camp. Such was beyond the comprehension of the five-power coalition of the willing that invaded China to teach it a lesson about human rights. This inspiring tradition continues.
Worth reading for anyone with an interest in Asian American history.
Got the Kindle edition too -- it's a great important re-read!
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