Monday, April 23, 2012

Who is the Enemy?

A run on the Stock Exchange

  The Panic of 1873 was a severe worldwide financial depression caused by a fall in demand for silver (Germany's decision to abandon silver as the basis for monetary worth set off the panic). The plummeting value of silver was one of the reasons for closing the Comstock Lode in Virgina City in Shaketown. Economic fears on the west coast caused racial tensions in San Francisco to boil over into full-blown race riots focusing on Chinese Americans, who were thought to be stealing jobs from whites. The Consolidated Chinese Benevolent Association (known as The Six Companies) evolved out of labor recruiting organizations that brought immigrants from different areas of Guangdong since the gold rush; the organization attempted to quell the violence. The heads of the Six Companies were leading Chinese merchants; they sought to represent the Chinese community in front of the business community as a whole and San Francisco city government. The organization proved powerless to stop the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and further restrictive immigration laws such as the Geary Act, which required all Chinese residents of the United States to carry a "US Resident Card", a sort of internal passport. Failure to carry the permit at all times was punishable by deportation back to China or a year of hard labor. In addition, Chinese were not allowed to bear witness in court (which is why Wo Sam couldn't testify for Cayley). From 1882 on, Chinese Americans were confined to segregated ghettos and suffered the worst forms of racial oppression.

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