No Place For Your Kind
August 14, 2012 5:49 PM   Subscribe

No Place for Your Kind Photojournalist Tim Greyhavens documents sites of anti-Chinese violence in the American West around the turn of the last century. NYT blog post on the project.
posted by 6550 (11 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
His site says:

Between 1850 and 1910 at least 150 incidents of mob and group violence against Chinese immigrants were known to have happened in the western U.S.

I'm willing to bet that the number is a lot higher than that. I know of several cases local to where I live from local historical societies and archeological reports, for example, and this is just one tiny corner of the west. I'd be shocked if the total was really as low as 150 incidents.

But that said, I like the photographs a lot, but was also struck by the critique mentioned in the Times blog:
Mr. Greyhavens based much of his research on “Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans,” a 2007 book by Jean Pfaelzer, a professor of English, women’s studies and East Asian studies at the University of Delaware. And when asked to review Mr. Greyhavens’s exhibit, Ms. Pfaelzer applauded his efforts as earnest and dogged. But she noted that Mr. Greyhavens largely neglected what she felt was a crucial part of the Chinese-American experience at that time: their resistance to, and in some cases, striking legal victories as a result of, the violence.

“On the one hand, it is very powerful to bring place from the past into the present,” she said. “But the present can only hold history if it is somehow revealed. That, to me, remains his challenge.”
The photos are great, but they don't totally get at how the Chinese presence was so thoroughly eradicated from a lot of these places. In a fairly small-scale way, it was ethnic cleansing -- people who were living in a place, who had helped build it, were forced to leave by violence and the physical reminders of their presence largely erased. Photos of the places of violence are evocative, but don't show how thorough that ethnic cleansing was.
posted by Forktine at 6:21 PM on August 14, 2012

Ever wonder why Tacoma doesn't have a Chinatown, while Portland and Seattle do? Sigh. It became known as the "Tacoma Method."
posted by zjacreman at 6:31 PM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ethinc cleansing was .....
posted by Mblue at 6:32 PM on August 14, 2012

Here's the relevant part of the project.
posted by zjacreman at 6:33 PM on August 14, 2012

I recently read a book, whose name I can't remember, that detailed the fact that white-Euro-Americans actively recruited Chinese laborers to the California gold camps and Nevada silver camps because they had perfected mining systems in their home country. I never realized that. The story we're often presented with, at least by implication, is that Chinese emigrated to the US in droves because they saw opportunity. Turns out they emigrated here in droves because opportunists enticed them, then betrayed or outright enslaved them.

Also, on a recent cross-country trip, I learned that Rock Springs, WY, was the site of the largest race riot in US history, which took place between Chinese and American miners.

There's so much of our history to hate.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:50 PM on August 14, 2012

I was hoping for a Deadwood reference somewhere.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:59 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

To get a sense of how extensive and normalized this violence was, a google search for almost any railroad town in this area along the lines of "[town name] chinese violence" brings up something. Not always a big massacre, but at least a reference to racist organizing, some vigilante killings, or similar.

It took a lot of work by a lot of people over a long time to make the northwest as white as it is.
posted by Forktine at 7:12 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

This looks like the perfect place to drop this image of Chinky-Chow Bridge in deepest, darkest Tamworth, site of one of our own Chinese mining
So, that name wouldn't fly any more. Progress?
posted by Mezentian at 8:17 PM on August 14, 2012

The riot, between Chinese immigrant miners and white immigrant miners, was the result of racial tensions and an ongoing labor dispute over the Union Pacific Coal Department's policy of paying Chinese miners lower wages than white miners.

Good job on picking the right target there guys! Of course, these days we blame undocumented workers instead of the businesses that pay them crap. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was...

(And seriously, fuck the Knights of Labor.)
posted by kmz at 5:26 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's an overgrown marshy space in Port Townsend, WA, called the Chinese Gardens. It has an interesting history.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:50 AM on August 15, 2012

Some context in the form of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
posted by immlass at 10:52 AM on August 15, 2012

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