Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor vs. Capital in US/China Relations: Remembering the Rock Springs Massacre

Illustration shows Uncle Sam preparing a list of places in China where "Americans [have been] killed by Chinese" and a Chinese man preparing a list of places in America where "Chinese [have been] killed by Americans" including the latest incident in "Wyoming Territory". From Loc.gov

With the threat of a US default, today relations with China appear a bit strained.Time Magazine recently reported  that Chinese state news agency Xinhua is calling for, among other things, a new reserve currency to replace the dollar. In a blistering editorial, Xinhua said:

“As U.S. politicians of both political parties are still shuffling back and forth between the White House and the Capitol Hill without striking a viable deal to bring normality to the body politic they brag about, it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world. Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated, and a new world order should be put in place.”

Well, we wouldn't want to return to the world order of 1885. The Chinese Exclusion Act had passed just three years prior, and fear of Chinese immigration permeated the United States. The Exclusion Act was initially intended to last for 10 years, but was renewed in 1892 and made permanent in 1902. It was finally repealed by the Magnuson Act on December 17, 1943

Back in 1885, open animosity for the Chinese reached fatal proportions in Rock Springs, WY. White miners accused their employer, the Union Pacific Company, of showing preferential treatment to Chinese miners because the Chinese refused to join labor unions and agreed to lower wages. But instead of striking against the company, the miners attacked the Chinese workers. By days-end, at least 28 were dead and 15 injured.

After the Rock Springs riot, many white miners freely admitted to the murders, knowing their actions were supported by their community.

A report from the Daily Astorian described the scene:

"The largest coal mine in the Union Pacific system are at Rock Springs, 250 miles west of Cheyenne. The company recently imported a large number of Chinese to take the place of the white men. This afternoon the entire force of white miners, about 150 strong, organized and armed with shotguns marched to Chinatown. 

After firing a volley into the air they reloaded and ordered the Chinamen to leave. The order was obeyed at once, the Chinamen fleeing to the hills like a drove of sheep, closely pursued by the miners, who fired several volleys after the fugitives with fatal effect. 

The Chinese quarters were then set on fire, and thirty-nine houses owned by the company destroyed along with its contents. The miners next visited various mines in the camps, unearthed all the Chinamen at work therein and told them to flee for their lives. Of 400 Chinamen here this morning none remains."

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Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.