<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>Chinatown, San Francisco: The First Segregated Neighborhood in America</b> <p> <p> During publisher Miriam Leslie's 1877 visit to San Francisco's Chinatown, her tour guide, a local police detective, claimed that the neighborhood's residents "reduce themselves generally to a condition of crowd, discomfort and clutter most repugnant to the American's habit of mind, but apparently the height of convenience to that of the Oriental." In the years after the Civil War, such assertions became racial "common sense" in San Francisco, where a ferociously anti-Chinese movement flourished and labeled all Chinese filthy, undesirable, and even subhuman. Anti-Chinese leaders contended that the presence of Chinese in the city and in California as a whole displaced "desirable citizens" and prevented "free immigrants who would become citizens" from coming to the state; worse yet, female workers were "degraded by association with Chinamen in the workshops during the hours of their labor." Motivated by these beliefs, anti-Chinese mobs attacked Chinese residents, boycotted products made with Chinese labor, and forced white employers to fire Chinese workers. Hundreds and then thousands of Chinese who lived outside San Francisco's "Chinese quarter" began moving to the neighborhood out of concern for their own safety. Others followed under pressure from white residents and landlords who increasingly accepted the view that any white person, including a neighbor, was "degraded by association with Chinamen." Originally an ethnic enclave and a center of Chinese business, Chinatown by the 1870s had become a community whose rigid segregation white residents demanded. <p> San Francisco's Chinatown was America's first segregated neighborhood. Few scholars today call it that, however, because they associate residential segregation in the urban United States solely with African Americans. According to historian Arnold Hirsch, the "overwhelming application of explicitly racial restrictions that reflected the desires of the dominant white majority" was something "no other group had to face" in U.S. history. Sociologists Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton agree, contending that white Americans subjected only African Americans to "a series of deliberate decisions to deny [them] access to urban housing markets and to reinforce their spatial segregation." Actually, Chinese Americans in San Francisco experienced these same types of restrictions for almost seventy-five years. By the 1870s-more than three decades before the residential segregation of African Americans became common in the urban North-the vast majority of Chinese in San Francisco lived in the compact Chinatown district north of downtown, not out of choice but because they lacked other options. <p> Scholars rarely talk about such segregation because of the recent history of Asian American urbanization and the thrust of the new urban history itself. Much contemporary urban scholarship examines the public and private decisions and actions that produced and enforced the residential segregation of African Americans. In doing so, this literature appropriately questions white privilege and government complicity in the continued segregation and marginalization of urban blacks. It also seeks to understand the roots of the nation's "urban crisis," in which white flight and black isolation played such prominent roles. Still, this sometimes teleological approach means that Asian Americans rarely appear in urban scholarship, because Asian Americans today experience lower levels of residential segregation than do blacks and Hispanics. As a result, the new urban history often tacitly supports a "model minority" myth of Asian American success by ignoring earlier Asian American struggles with housing discrimination and segregation. <p> Further complicating the issue, San Francisco's Chinatown was in many ways the product of different circumstances than the black ghettos that emerged in the early-twentieth-century urban North. Before 1910, most African Americans in Northern cities lived in integrated neighborhoods, although often in spatial proximity to other black households. A combination of factors enabled white Northerners of all classes to segregate African American residents by the 1920s, however. These factors included turn of the century public transportation improvements; zoning and the creation of single-use districts in cities; the rise of eugenics and "race science"; and the proliferation of the automobile. Chinatown emerged long before any of these developments. <p> Yet Chinatown was still segregated. In fact, no other racial or ethnic group in the city of San Francisco (or anywhere else in the country) experienced anything close to the kind of segregation the Chinese did by the 1880s. According to Massey and Denton, "the most 'ghettoized' city in 1890 was Indianapolis, where the average black person lived in a neighborhood that was 13% black." In San Francisco, the typical African American in 1890 lived in an area that was less than 2 percent black. In contrast, the average Chinese in San Francisco lived in a neighborhood that was more than 62 percent Chinese; more than 80 percent of San Francisco Chinese lived in a single assembly district. The unpublished census schedules for 1880, which included detailed descriptions of smaller enumeration districts, show a degree of isolation much higher than the official assembly district numbers suggest. Most Chinese outside Chinatown lived with other Chinese in just one or two boarding houses or laundries in an otherwise all-white neighborhood. Scores more Chinese were servants in white homes. <p> Almost a half century later, the Chinese American population was actually more segregated than it had been in 1890. A 1939 housing survey reported that 4,787 of the 4,858 Chinese American-occupied dwellings in the city were in Chinatown, with the remaining 71 largely concentrated in a few low-rent areas south of Market Street. Almost all the isolated boarding houses and laundries in which Chinese outside of Chinatown had once lived were now gone, casualties of zoning ordinances and unrelenting anti-Chinese hostility. In 1940, Chinese Americans occupied 2,226 of the 2,246 total dwelling units (more than 99 percent) in census area A-14, the heart of Chinatown. In adjacent A15, Chinese occupied 836 of the total 927 dwelling units, or more than 90 percent. Census tract A-13 combined Chinatown with part of North Beach, a white neighborhood with a large Italian American population. In 1940, Chinese lived in 1,016 of the tract's 1,589 dwellings, almost all of them in Chinatown proper. But in neighboring Nob Hill's census tracts (A-9 and A-10), Chinese occupied 33 of 2,079 dwellings (0.01 percent) and 18 of 1,981 dwellings (less than 0.01 percent), respectively. Census tracts A-3, A-4, and A-1, which consisted of North Beach proper and the waterfront, were almost as segregated: nonwhites (possibly but not necessarily Chinese) lived in only 47, or 1 percent, of the 3,858 dwelling units. <p> While Chinese Americans in San Francisco were at least as segregated as blacks in the most restricted Northern cities of the era, they lived under even worse conditions. In 1885, anti-Chinese members of the board of supervisors contended that Chinatown was "the filthiest spot inhabited by men, women, and children on the American continent." White supremacists made such statements in order to prove the supposed inferiority and baseness of the Chinese, yet Chinatown was undoubtedly a very unpleasant place to live. Although certainly not the filthiest spot on the continent, it was eerily similar to the New York City slums Jacob Riis described in his 1890 book <i>How the Other Half Lives</i>. Lacking other options, five or six Chinese immigrants routinely crowded into a single tiny room, where they often ate and worked as well. Others slept packed into the basements of the quarter's buildings. Such conditions persisted for decades, prompting 1930s housing advocate Lim P. Lee to describe Chinatown's housing history as "sixty or seventy years of an abominable situation." In 1939, federal officials reported that almost 90 percent of Chinatown dwelling units were substandard; almost 80 percent lacked heat, and most also had no private bathing or cooking facilities. <p> The segregation of Chinese Americans in San Francisco continued for so long because early in the city's history, Chinatown and its residents became crucial to ideas about whiteness there. Certainly, other factors contributed to the spatial (and economic and social) isolation of the Chinese American community. U.S. law prohibited Chinese immigrants from naturalizing, thus denying them the ability to participate in electoral politics the way so many other immigrant groups did. Like other immigrants, many Chinese also preferred to live among people who shared their language and cultural practices. By the early 1900s, Chinatown was even becoming a sort of tourist attraction, bringing needed dollars to its residents and enabling them to benefit in some ways from their spatial concentration. Still, few Chinese Americans wished to live crowded into just a few square blocks of the city's worst housing; white residents demanded it. <p> The specter of the Chinese played a crucial role for white San Francisco. The threat they allegedly posed to white labor helped bind together diverse native-born and European immigrant workers into multiethnic unions whose strength during this period was unusual. Political parties and numerous officials also embraced the Chinese issue, often using it to camouflage less appealing parts of their platforms. Many public health officials and middle-class reformers exploited anti-Chinese sentiment to gain legitimacy and respect in the city. Each of these groups cited the Chinese menace in order to justify the rigid segregation of Chinatown, and then used the poor conditions that hypersegregation created as evidence of the danger the Chinese posed. In this circular process, beliefs about Chinese undesirability, filth, labor competition, and low living standards became so ingrained in the city's traditions and in the minds of its white residents that these ideas continued to shape San Francisco's racial geography long into the twentieth century. <p> <p> THE ORIGINS OF NATIVISM IN SAN FRANCISCO <p> A onetime Spanish outpost and Mexican pueblo, San Francisco became a boomtown in 1849, when the California gold rush began. Gold fever made the city and the region the continent's most cosmopolitan; two-thirds of new arrivals came from outside the United States. Europeans, white Americans, Chinese, free blacks, Chileans, and Sonoran Mexicans all streamed into California to hunt for gold. When gold was still relatively easy to find, white miners generally tolerated the presence of the Chinese. Governor John McDougal, who served from 1851 to 1852, called them "one of the most worthy of our newly adopted citizens." But as the supply of gold petered out, whites began forcing the Chinese off mining claims. The new California state legislature also created the infamous 1852 Foreign Miners' Tax, charging foreign miners a three dollar monthly fee and allowing tax collectors to confiscate mining plots for taxes owed. Although the tax supposedly applied to all non-American miners, officials enforced it mainly against the Chinese. <p> Growing anti-Chinese sentiment also reflected the larger racial and economic issues of the time. In the 1850s, the question of slavery dominated national politics, especially whether states formed from newly-acquired Mexican territory would allow slavery within their borders. This nagging issue reflected the centrality of "free labor ideology" to the economy, culture, and society of the antebellum North. Free labor ideology stood in direct opposition to Southern slavery. Unlike a slave, a worker in a free labor system could sell his labor to the highest bidder, change employers at will, and, with hard work and frugality, perhaps become his own boss some day. Most Northerners agreed that black slavery in the South imperiled the free labor system in the North and in the West, since the "peculiar institution" required geographical expansion to survive and thrive. <p> White Americans of this era frequently conflated blackness and slavery or servility as well. Northern white workers were losing much of their independence to factory bosses and industrial discipline; as historian David Roediger has contended, many embraced the idea that "Black oppression was the result of 'slavishness' rather than slavery," making the very presence of African Americans odious to vulnerable white workers. During the early nineteenth century, a number of Northern states that established universal white male suffrage simultaneously revoked many of the rights of black men, including the franchise. When northwestern territories, such as Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, became states, their constitutions barred free blacks from entering at all. To legislators in these new states, even free blacks threatened "real" free laborers, who were necessarily <i>white</i> workers. <p> California entered the Union as a free state, but its embrace of "free labor" involved the kind of racial suppression and exclusion evident elsewhere in the nation. The white Americans who migrated to California and governed it believed the nation's Manifest Destiny was to conquer the continent for white civilization. The fluidity of Far West society also played a role in shaping white attitudes about nonwhites. Eric Foner contends that "where the social order was least stratified-as in the frontier states [like] California ... legal discrimination was most severe," and not just against blacks. In his study of white supremacy in California, Toms Almaguer describes the results: "White antipathy toward Mexicans, Native Americans, and Chinese and Japanese immigrants was typically couched within the rubric of this 'free white labor'/'unfree nonwhite labor' dichotomy." California's first constitution even denied African Americans and American Indians the right to vote or to testify against whites in court. An 1854 California State Supreme Court ruling extended these prohibitions to the Chinese and called them "a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior, and who are incapable of progress or intellectual development beyond a certain point." <p> The Chinese kept coming to California despite the escalating violence there. Some fled upheaval and unrest. In the 1850s and early 1860s, the Taiping Rebellion, a massive internal revolt, claimed twenty million lives and devastated the infrastructure and economy of central and southern China. A connected rebellion, the Red Turban uprising, convulsed Guangdong Province and created an impetus for emigration. Other Chinese, impressed by the Western wealth and power on display in Guangzhou, hoped to make a fortune at the "Gold Mountain." When the Central Pacific Railroad, desperate for labor, recruited Chinese both in California and China, the company found thousands of willing workers. After the completion of the railroad in 1869, many of the immigrants took other jobs that few whites wanted, such as cooking, washing clothes, mining, harvesting crops, and working in San Francisco factories. <p> Despite the protests of white factory workers, employers exploited the new labor source until the national depression of the 1870s enabled the anti-Chinese movement to strike back. In the wake of severe job losses and wage cuts in the eastern United States, thousands of unemployed young white men came west by rail hoping for work. Compounding the problem, eastern manufacturers after the Civil War began to dump goods cheaply in western markets. Many San Francisco factories closed, and those that remained in business sometimes fired whites and hired Chinese who were willing to work for less. The Workingmen's Party of California (WPC)emerged from this volatile situation. Party founder Dennis Kearney, an Irish immigrant turned demagogue, skillfully channeled the anger of the unemployed white men who gathered in San Francisco's vacant lots to hear his harangues. Contending that the city's rich capitalists used Chinese to drive white men's wages down to starvation levels, Kearney urged his listeners to burn Chinatown to the ground. Under Kearney's leadership, the WPC remained a statewide political force until scandals, schisms, and the end of the long depression finally destroyed it in 1881. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends</b> by <b>Charlotte Brooks</b> Copyright © 2009 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.