Once Upon a Time, the Wall Was for Me

As a means of crying for my beloved country, I posted these images on social media earlier this week. The response has been heartfelt. I share the pictures here in the hope that they’re useful to you as well.

I was in the 7th grade when I first learned of the Chinese Exclusion Act, signed by President Arthur in 1882 and augmented by subsequent laws. I didn’t even learn about it from my history textbook or my teacher; it was something my group project team unearthed digging through library books.

I was shocked. I couldn’t believe my beloved United States of America could do something like that to my people. (Somehow, I had conveniently forgotten about slavery, which probably had a lot to do with my own internalization of the Model Minority myth. In later years, I would learn of other race-based horrors that took place on a mass scale, like Jim Crow and segregation, the ethnic cleansing of Japanese Americans from the West Coast during World War II, and the enslavement and genocide of hundreds of native tribes across the continent, beginning with the conquistadors and “explorers” – a genocide which continued well into the 20th century.)

The several images that follow all depict anti-Chinese slogans and propaganda art from that period. We mustn’t let what happened then happen again – whether to Muslims, people from Latin America, anyone. Yet our current president has actively encouraged these kinds of sentiments, and the moral decay from his influence continues to drag our country further into sin.

To learn more, watch the new PBS American Experience documentary The Chinese Exclusion Act.

1
Sounds like quite a pep rally!
2
One of the best-known anti-Chinese images from the period.
3
Emanating from the statue’s head, from right to left, the words read: FILTH … IMMORALITY … DISEASES … RUIN TO … WHITE … LABOR. Note the opium pipe in one hand, the skull underfoot, and the crumbling base.

The Chinese are uncivilized, unclean, and filthy beyond all conception without any of the higher domestic or social relations; lustful and sensual in their dispositions; every female is a prostitute of the basest order. (Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, 1854)

4
Whatever we can do to help the world economy.
5
Y’all are just jealous of our hair, aren’t y’all?
6
We are taking over EVERYTHING. Fear the fingernails!

To my mind it is clear, that the settlement among us of an inferior race is to be discouraged by every legitimate means. Asia, with her numberless millions, sends to our shores the dregs of her population. Large numbers of this class are already here; and, unless we do something early to check their immigration, the question, which of the two tides of immigration, meeting upon the shores of the Pacific, shall be turned back, will be forced upon our consideration, when far more difficult than now of disposal. There can be no doubt but that the presence among us of numbers of degraded and distinct people must exercise a deleterious influence upon the superior race, and to a certain extent, repel desirable immigration. (California Gov. Leland Stanford, 1862)

7
Pest control. And rats aren’t the only pest in question. (Chinese folks were often portrayed as being rat-eaters.)
8
Hide your women and children.
9
If you can’t build a wall, I guess this will do.
10
Golly gee, what do you know! They built the wall after all! I can’t wait to see Mexico pay for it.
11
“Shall we have Chinese?” is not a question about where we’re going to eat dinner.