Friday, November 23, 2018

Grisinger AND Franklin on Chin & Ormonde, "The War Against Chinese Restaurants"

Catching up on our JOTWELL reading, we came upon Joanna Grisinger's recent review of "The War Against Chinese Restaurants," by Gabriel J. Chin (University of California, Davis) & John Ormond (independent scholar). The article appeared in Volume 67 of the Duke Law Journal (2018). Here's the first paragraph of the review:
In the The War Against Chinese Restaurants, Gabriel J. Chin and John Ormonde describe how state and local actors in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries used legal tools to try to drive Chinese restaurants out of business. Chin and Ormonde describe a wide array of legislative, regulatory, and prosecutorial activity targeting Chinese-owned restaurants—some of it successful, some not—and argue that these local (but often nationally coordinated) efforts demonstrate white Americans’ intertwined concerns about work, immigration, urbanization, gender, and ethnicity in this era. And these concerns, once moved to the national stage, motivated Congress in 1917 and 1924 to ban almost all immigration from Asia.
Read on here.

It turns out the Cary Franklin (University of Texas at Austin School of Law) is also a fan of the article. Here's a taste of her JOTWELL review (for the Constitutional Law section):
In this article, Chin and Ormonde recover the largely forgotten history of the national campaign, in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, to eradicate Chinese restaurants from the United States. Although the number of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. decreased over those years as a result of tight restrictions on Asian immigration, the number of Chinese restaurants skyrocketed. In 1870, Chinese restaurants employed 164 Chinese workers; by 1920, such restaurants employed over 11,400 Chinese workers. By that point, it had become clear that the “Chop Suey craze” was not just a fad. Americans seemed to have a limitless appetite for Chinese food. But the rapid proliferation of Chinese restaurants exacerbated powerful nativist anxieties about economic opportunity, immigration, and the racial make-up of the American polity. Unions in particular decried the diversion of jobs and money away from “the American wage-earner” and to “workers and employers from the Orient.” Union leaders feared that the low wages and low prices associated with Chinese restaurants would depress restaurant workers’ pay and deprive so-called American restaurants of much-needed revenue. Deeply intertwined with these apparently economic concerns was the widely-shared fear that Chinese immigrants constituted a threat to “traditional” American culture and that Chinese men, often portrayed as shifty opium-pushers, posed a threat to the safety of white women. Thus began a decades-long campaign, orchestrated by unions, politicians, and law enforcement officers, to eliminate Chinese restaurants from cities and towns across the country.
Read on here -- and I recommend you read to the very end, where Franklin highlights the gender dimension to the article and offers the following observation. "This piece of history helps one to see more vividly how manufactured panics about the dangers of non-white immigrant men—then and now—enable those in power to obscure where the real threats to women lie."

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