American Mosaic: Chinese Schoolboy and Grandmother

American Mosaic: Chinese Schoolboy and Grandmother

Since it's founding, the United States has been both a "melting pot", and a "cultural mosaic". The American Mosaic series of posts attempt to capture the interweave of American society.

Large scale Chinese immigration to the United States began in the late 1860's. Early Chinese immigrants remained a closed society faithful to Chinese traditions. They worked as laborers, particularly on the Transcontinental railroads. Early Chinese settlers suffered racial discrimination and hostilities. In 1882, the congress went as far as signing the Chinese Exclusion Act. Only after World War II, did anti-Asian prejudice began to decrease. Today Chinese and Asian immigration influx continues and Asian Americans enjoy higher median personal incomes than any other racial demographic.

One interesting story of Chinese workers comes from the history of the Central Pacific Railroad. Initially Chinese workers were not hired by railroads due to their frail appearance and seeming lack of skill. When the Central Pacific hired them, they were in for a surprise. The Chinese were exceptional hard workers that never seemed to get sick. It was observed that while other workers drank available water that was not always the purest, the Chinese always drank tea with boiled water and avoided water borne diseases. And since the Chinese workers stayed in their own community and had dedicated chefs, they were generally better fed. This eventually caused a backlash against the Chinese because others felt they could not compete with the "cheap labor" and were worried about their own futures.

Song of the Day: China Girl - John Cougar Mellencamp (1982)
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