1900: San Francisco
Segregated in school and refused service in barbershops and restaurants, the Chinese find work in sweatshops, seasonal agriculture, hand laundries, restaurants, and Chinatown groceries. To honor their work as cooks and servants for affluent whites, Harper’s Bazaar praises them as “a yellow blessing.”
In the 1880s anti-Chinese riots drove the yellow blessing from Seattle, Tacoma, Rock Springs, Wyoming, and other cities. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Treaty banned their immigration to the United States. Those already living in the states were denied citizenship. Chinese fathers were separated from their families and if they couldn’t prove their residency pre-dated passage of the treaty they lived in fear of deportation.
Now with treaty renewal pending politicians and newspapers whip up fear of the “yellow peril.” Whites warn that a failure to renew will swamp the West Coast with 400 million “heathen Chinee” and their backward traditions. Alfred Mahan and Teddy Roosevelt decry “race degeneracy” and warn of “race war.” No respectable person can doubt that the Chinese are incapable of citizenship in a democracy.
Bubonic plague breaks out in the City. Mayor James Phelan blames the Chinese. A local labor paper warns of racial conspiracy: “The almond eyed Mongolian is waiting for his opportunity, waiting to assassinate you and your children with one of his many maladies.”17
1900: San Francisco
Since the annexation of Hawaii they have flocked to California’s agricultural valleys, where they work on sugar beet, bean, and hops farms, leasing and sometimes buying cropland for truck farms. Labor leaders complain they are taking what belongs to whites.
Whites see them as greedy, sneaky, and calculating, more energetic and entrepreneurial than the Chinese, which makes them seem even more of a threat to white living standards. According to one labor newspaper, the Chinese are merely a “menace to the country,” whereas “the sniveling Japanese, who swarm along the streets, is a far greater danger to the laboring portion of society than all the opium smoked pigtails.” The U.S. Industrial Commission is of the opinion that “the Japanese...have most of the vices of the Chinese and none of the virtues.”
Speaking at a large anti-Asian rally Mayor Phelan warns that social equality must not be entertained: “The Chinese and Japanese are not bonafide citizens. They are not the stuff of which American citizens can be made.” He insists that drastic action be taken, for the “Asiatic laborers will undermine our civilization.” Stanford Professor Edward Alsworth Ross adds that “it would be better for us to turn our guns upon every vessel bringing Japanese to our shore rather than permit them to land.”
The audience passes a resolution to extend the exclusion treaty to the Japanese.18
War thrills him more than life itself, especially when the “joy of battle” arrives and “the wolf begins to rise in [one’s] heart.” Long will he boast of the Spaniard he killed with his bare hands—“like a jackrabbit”—in 1898.
A passionate devotee of Nordic supremacy, he celebrates settler colonialism in the West as “the spread of the English speaking peoples over the world’s waste of space.” Never has he doubted that the indigenous peoples deserved extermination: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every ten are and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.” In
his popular book series, “The Winning of the West,” he argued against respecting Indian sovereignty on the pretext that “this great continent could not have been kept as nothing but a game preserve for squalid savages...The man who puts the soil to use must of right dispossess the man who does not, or the world will come to a standstill.”
He has no greater fondness for other non-Nordic peoples. He deems “coloreds” degenerate and looks on Latin peoples as little more than children. When a New Orleans mob lynched a number of Italian immigrants, Teddy told his sister that the lynchings were “rather a good thing,” an opinion he aired at a dinner with “various dago diplomats...all wrought up by the lynching.”
He thinks women exist to give birth, which Nordic mothers should do as often and for as many years as possible. Of serious concern is “the diminishing birth rate among the old native American stock,” so much so that Teddy expresses delight at campaign stops when proud fathers and their depleted wives show up with a huge brood of children in tow. “Did I write you of my delight,” he asked Henry Cabot Lodge the year before last, “at meeting one Hiram Tower, his wife and his seventeen children?”
In his eyes socialism is intrinsically evil and the subjugation of workers by corporations entirely legitimate, although it is “incumbent upon the man with whom things have prospered to be in a certain sense the keeper of his brother with whom life has gone hard.”
Between the captains of industry who starve workers and the unionists who insist they have a right to eat, Teddy recommends government seek a middle ground.24
The March of Progress
With the U.S. Army converting the Filipino independence movement to mounds of skulls, President Roosevelt delivers the State of the Union address to Congress.
Anglo-Saxons are entitled to direct the affairs of “savages” and “bandits,” he says, because they have evolved to a more advanced state than any other human group. “Our people are now successfully governing themselves because for more than a thousand years they have been slowly fitting themselves...toward this end.” In contrast, not much can be expected of Filipinos because they are starting “very far behind the point which our ancestors had reached even thirty generations ago . . .” Nevertheless, with proper instruction they might become useful in spite of themselves. “We hope to do for them what has never before been done for any people of the tropics—to make them fit for self-government after the fashion of the really free nations.”
The boundless generosity characteristic of such an endeavor, says TR, marks white America as the most selfless race ever: “History may safely be challenged to show a single instance in which a masterful race such as ours, having been forced by the exigencies of war to take possession of an alien land, has behaved to its inhabitants with the disinterested zeal for their progress that our people have shown in the Philippines.”25
Negroes: A White Fantasy
One of the most important books published last year was, “The Mystery Solved: The Negro a Beast.”
Anthropologists place them somewhere between the great apes and the hominids. Biologists report their average brain weight is less than Caucasians’ and substantially less than English-speaking Protestants’. Psychologists claim they are possessed of a primal sexuality and prone to irrationality, especially under stress or in situations of intimacy. Criminologists and eugenicists warn of their allegedly innate brutality and hyper-fertility. Doctors predict they will die out from disease and perversion. The expert consensus says blacks have no mental or physical energy, lack volition, and work the least they can get away with. They are bereft of civilized artifacts like architecture or literature and regard indolence and sunshine as the earthly paradise. Their capacity for thought is brutally rudimentary, though exposing them to higher learning somehow threatens to “spoil” their appetite for menial labor.
Summing up the problem Teddy Roosevelt says: “A perfectly stupid race can never rise to a very high plane...”
No one thinks he is talking about white people.27
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ALL CAPTIONS AND PULL QUOTES BY THE EDITORS NOT THE AUTHORS