A Bill Moyers Special - Becoming American: The Chinese Experience

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A Response to Hate

"There is a glaring contradiction here...."

By Kwang Chang Ling

In the 1870s, Denis Kearney rose from the docks of San Francisco to become the leader of the Anti-Chinese movement. His fiery speeches consisted largely of accusing Chinese of stealing jobs from white Americans — and they helped inspire attacks against the residents of Chinatowns across the country. In 1878, in a letter to The San Francisco Argonaut, a man named Kwang Chang Ling addressed the link between hate speech and acts of violence. He told Americans:

You are continually objecting to [the] morality [of the Chinese]. Your travelers say he is depraved; your missioners call him ungodly; your commissioners call him unclean... Yet your housewives permit him to wait upon them at table; they admit him to their bedchambers; they confide to him their garments and jewels; and even trust their lives to him by awarding him supreme control over their kitchens and the preparation of their food. There is a glaring contradiction here....

The slender fare of rice and the other economical habits of the peasant class [of China], which are so objectionable to your lower orders and the demagogues who trumpet their clamors, are not the result of choice to Chinamen; they follow poverty. The hard-working, patient servants that you have about you today love good fare as well as other men, but they are engaged in a work far higher than the gratification of self-indulgence; they are working to liberate their parents in China [from poverty].... When this emancipation is complete, you will find the Chinamen as prone as any human creature to fill his belly and cover his back with good things.