Commemoration of Los Angeles massacre motivated by anti-Chinese racism


UCLA, in partnership with the Chinese American Museum and Scripps College, commemorated the 150th anniversary of the 1871 Chinese massacre in Los Angeles with a series of three events.

UCLA International Institute, October 28, 2021 – “Education is our most powerful weapon against racism and hatred,” said Karen Umemoto, chair of the endowed director of Helen and Morgan Chu of the Center for Asian and American Studies at UCLA, of the week-long commemoration of the 1871 Chinese massacre in Los Angeles. Uememoto is a professor of urban planning and Asian-American studies at UCLA.

UCLA’s commemoration spanned three events: a K-12 teacher training workshop, a public in-person event with live broadcast in downtown Los Angeles, and an in-depth panel discussion. . The program was led by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center (AASC) and UCLA Asia Pacific Center (APC), with support from the Chancellor’s Arts Initiative and co-sponsorship with the UCLA History-Geography Project, the Chinese American Museum and the Scripps Middle School.

One of the bloodiest attacks on Asians in U.S. history, the relatively unknown 1871 Chinese massacre in Los Angeles was the first in a series of race riots and murders that have been documented. in places like Rock Springs, Wyoming, San Francisco and other cities along the Pacific. Rating.

It was in the midst of these attacks that the United States passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prevented the emigration of all Chinese workers to the United States for 10 years (a period which was later extended to ‘in 1943) and has prohibited Chinese people from living in the country a path to naturalization for over 60 years.

A public elegy in words, music and movement

The public commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Los Angeles Chinese Massacre was held on Sunday, October 17 at the Los Angeles El Pueblo Landmark, the organizing site of the original Los Angeles Chinatown where the massacre took place. *

After remarks from a number of prominent educators and officials, including UCLA Chancellor Gene Block; Professor Umemoto; Prof. Min Zhou, director of APC; Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park); Gay Yuen, Ph.D., Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Chinese American Museum; Kevin de León, city councilor of LA; and Arturo Chavez, director of El Pueblo de Los Angeles – the Chinese Music Ensemble at UCLA provided a musical prelude to the show.

The star performance by Hao Huang (concert musician, Bessie and Cecil Frankel Chair in Music at Scripps College and creator / narrator of the “Blood on Gold Mountain” podcast) followed. Huang was accompanied by the Psychopomp Contemporary Ensemble, with original songs by the Flower Pistils. The artist of the Young-Tseng Wong movement brought the story to life.

“Music, storytelling and body movement helped us travel through time to gain visceral insight into the horrific series of murders, a tragedy that repeated itself in different forms along the Pacific coast and inland for the remainder of the 19th century, ”Umemoto said. .

“The speakers’ remarks sent a resounding message at this critical time that we will not tolerate bigotry, injustice and racist scapegoats from Asians or any group in our society.”

UCLA Block Chancellor signs event program for Guangdong Association president and supporter Cathy Choi
APC at the downtown event. UCLA Vice Provost Cindy Fan can be seen in the background. (Photo: Min Zhou / UCLA.)

Educate teachers about the massacre

The performance was preceded by a professional development workshop for educators hosted by APC and the UCLA History-Geography Project. A group of 27 teachers came together virtually to explore the 1871 massacre against the complexities of race, violence and self-defense justice that characterized early American Los Angeles, using a lesson developed for “Lost LA” From KCET.

“The presentation linked the story of the 1871 massacre to the racism and anti-Asian hatred we see today, as well as the social activism that occurs to counter it,” said Elizabeth Leicester, Executive Director from APC.

“The workshop attracted educators from high schools, community colleges and universities in the Los Angeles area, as well as from across the United States and even overseas. Teachers especially appreciated the strategies offered to guide students in discussions about race in class.

Understanding the massacre as part of a history of exclusion and anti-immigrant violence

A panel discussion, “Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the 1871 Chinese Massacre in Los Angeles: Reflecting on the Past to End Racial Violence,” moderated by Professors Umemoto and Zhou closed the week on Friday, October 22.

The panel featured Hao Huang; Eugene Moy, researcher and community activist with the California Chinese Historical Society; and Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Emeritus Professor of Law at UCLA.

The Chinese began immigrating to Los Angeles in small numbers in the mid-19th century, with numbers reaching around 270 by the 1870s, Moy said.

“There was a schizophrenic attitude towards [the] Chinese population. On the one hand, you had people welcoming Chinese people into their homes. On the other hand, there were cries to fire all Chinese or not to hire Chinese. [It] was also a very violent environment, with the conglomeration of many cultures in the region.

Physical clashes between Chinese from different parts of China were only part of this violence. A shootout between Tong groups in the neighborhood surrounding Calle de los Negros sparked a riot on October 24, 1871. Some 19 Chinese men were killed, although details of the events and the number of dead remain inconclusive.

Moy said the massacre prompted the city of Los Angeles to face decades of self-defense justice. “In this case, the city actually called [a] the coroner’s inquest, they called [a] grand jury [and] people have been arrested and charged. The convictions were later overturned, however, for a technicality.

Professor Huang noted that Chinese emigrants to America were the largest group of Asians in the country at the time and had remained the constant target of prejudice and violence for a century.

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was passed during a period of sustained violence against Chinese immigrants. “This is the first federal legislation to explicitly suspend immigration for a specific nationality… [It was] certainly the result of years of racial hostility and anti-immigrant agitation by white Americans against the Chinese, ”Huang said.

“You… have these caricatures of Irish, German, Italian, and African American citizens lynching a Chinese in 1880,” Huang said. “And I can tell you from personal experience that there is no way to make someone feel more American than to beat a Chinese.”

UCLA law professor Motomura placed 19th-century anti-China violence in the context of national and California legal history, outlining a historical pattern of crimes against people of Asian descent in the United States. . He began by citing an 1854 decision of the California Supreme Court. who ruled that people of Asian descent could not testify against a white person.

“It practically guaranteed that whites would escape punishment for the anti-Asian types of violence [we’re talking] approximately, ”he said.

The attacks of the 20th century (and more recently) echo the anti-Chinese violence of the 19th century, with perpetrators expressing a similar hatred inspired by economic fears and resentment.

Examples of this pattern, Motomura said, can be seen in the murder of Vincent Chin, 27, in Detroit in 1982 by two white men who blamed him for “the Japanese taking their jobs” and the sustained attacks on them. Vietnamese fishing boats along the Texas Gulf Coast organized by the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s.

Immigration and citizenship laws in the United States, the lawyer explained, have worked to impose quotas or racialized controls that treat some immigrants as available labor while providing them with very few opportunities. rights to work and live with their families in the United States, while encouraging others to immigrate and allowing them to bring their family members to the country as well.

Citizenship laws in particular, whether they concern Chinese people or immigrants from other parts of the world, “memorize attitudes in a way that licenses vigilantes and state and local governments,” he said. he points out.

“It really is a very corrosive myth that immigration laws separate people on the outside from people on the inside,” he concluded. “What immigration laws actually do is (…) favor some people who are already here and disadvantage some people who are already here. So immigration laws in this sense allow discrimination. .

* The event and performance were made possible by the UCLA Chancellor’s Initiative on the Arts, with support from the UCLA Chair Endowment Fund Walter & Shirley Wang, Xiangli Chen China and Beyond Forum, Helen & Morgan Chu Chair’s Fund and Stanley Kwok Lau and Dora Wong Lau Foundation.

Additional resources on the Chinese massacre of 1871:
> “Anti-Asian Racism in American History», By Professor Cecilia Tsu (UC Davis)
> KCET Study Program for the episode “Lost LA” on the anti-Chinese massacre of 1871
> Padlet for educators prepared by Miguel Sandoval De La Torre, history teacher, Ánimo Pat Brown
Charter secondary school; and lead teacher for the K-12 workshop

Media coverage of the downtown LA event:
> NBC News

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