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The Ellis Island of the West: Angel Island - Essay Example

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The Ellis Island of the West: Angel Island 1. Historical background The story of the Angel Island as a processing station for hundreds of thousands of immigrants coming from the Pacific Ocean, is an ambiguous page of the American history that can teach a lot about the past, present and future…
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Download file to see previous pages As documented by Harper’s Weekly in the XIX century American society considered the Chinese to be unacceptable and inassimilable (Wei, par. 9). These assumptions justified the persecution, violence and discrimination perpetuated in the national legislation (Chinese Exclusion Act, foremost). In mid 1800s California due to the gold discovery and impetuous economic development became an attractive destination for the Chinese immigrants. Later as the Gold Rush diminished they were coming to seek an employment in the railroad construction, agriculture, industry, mining and in whichever other sphere making a great contribution to the foundation of the American West. Nevertheless, they faced with severe exploitation, discrimination in terms of payment and appalling working conditions. White workers, as ‘Americans’ according to the popular definition in XIX century, considered Chinese as economic competitors provoking the commission of violence under the racist slogans, such as “Chinese must go!” (Wei, par 4). One of the most abysmal act of violence demonstrating all the hatred and xenophobia in the society was the massacre at Rock Springs in Wyoming in 1885. Thomas Nast illustrating the massacre in his political cartoon “Here is a Pretty Mess!” satirically reveals the whole controversy between the slogans and actual deeds of the American society. Several of the artist’s works compare the hardships and maltreatment of Chinese immigrants with those of other minorities such as Afro and Native Americans. The economic recession in the late 1970s led to the first Chinese Exclusion Act passed by Congress in 1882, as many blamed cheep Chinese labor for the depression. The legislation prohibited entry to the workers targeting a specific ethnic group. However, there were several exceptions for the categories of teachers, children of American-born Chinese, and ‘travelers for pleasure’. In early 1900s the Bureau of Immigration as a state agency standardized and enforced the national system that regulated the Asian immigration provoking fear in the Chinese community. The restriction For instance, while the average immigrant from Japan or Korea had to wait at the processing station for two to three days, the average detention for Chinese lasted around two weeks, some had to wait for several months or even years (Wong, par. 17). 2. Education Li Keng Wong in her autobiographical book My Journey to Gold Mountain tells her family’s story of the trip to the US and compelled stop on the Angel Island before entering the country. The story raises the controversial issues over the US immigration policy, social acceptance and xenophobia towards a specific ethnic group. For the educational purposes the book giving a historical reference establishes a connection with the present and provokes reflections over the reasons why people migrate, hardships that immigrants can face during the trip and upon the arrival. I think an open discussion of these topics in class could be a good exercise for students. Starting with the discussion of the Li Keng Wong story and its historical context students can be asked to share opinions over the respective issues based on the experience of their families as immigrants and/or as receiving community in order to get the variety of the viewpoints. This idea has a lot in common with the Toy’s method to teach history at middle school based on the learning through ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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