Reflecting On L.A.’s Chinese Massacre After Atlanta Shootings

The Los Angeles of 1871 was a violent, lawless place.

Historians have described it as one of the last cities to establish civil law enforcement institutions, relying instead on vigilante justice and mob rule.

It also was a place notorious for its mistreatment and exploitation of Black, Asian, Latino and Native Californians at the hands of white settlers. But the venom against Chinese Americans was particularly poisonous, fueled by editorials in the Los Angeles News that attacked them as “barbarians taking jobs away from whites.”

“Los Angeles in 1871 was a dirty, violent city of nearly 6,000 people. Though the city had a higher homicide rate than New York or Chicago, it employed only six police officers to maintain law and order. Lynchings and mob justice were commonplace,” the Los Angeles Public Library wrote.

It was this world 150 years ago that spawned the Chinese Massacre, a bloody siege that brought shame to Los Angeles and widespread changes in the way the city operated. But it did little to alter the core racism that Asians and other groups would continue to endure.

Oct. 24, 1871

The violence of this day was on a scale that even a city known for its brutality and racial attacks had never seen. In 1999, Cecila Rasmussen of The Times provided this narrative of the chain of events:

Gunfire erupted at 4 p.m., just as former city assessor-turned-patrolman Jesus Bilderrain was polishing off a whiskey at Higby’s saloon. Most of the barroom patrons shrugged off the commotion, but Bilderrain — pistol in hand — dutifully went out the swinging doors into the street. A short distance away, he found a man named Ah Choy shot through the neck (it was later determined this shooting was related to a feud between two Chinese gangs). As Bilderrain blew his whistle to summon help, bullets struck him in the shoulder and wrist.

Running to his rescue, saloon-owner-turned-rancher Robert Thompson was killed, shot through the heart by the same unseen gunmen, who also wounded some of the bystanders.

The rioters, meanwhile, rampaged on. Some climbed to the rooftops and used pickaxes to chop holes, firing through them at the immigrants inside. Two men who ran out into the street were cut down by gunmen on the roofs.

One by one, more victims were hauled from their hiding places, kicked, beaten, stabbed, shot and tortured by their captors. Some were dragged through the streets with ropes around their necks and hanged from a wooden awning over a sidewalk, a covered wagon or the crossbeam of a corral gate. Finally, 15 corpses — including those of a 14-year-old boy and the Chinese community’s only physician, Chee Long Tong — dangled in the City of the Angels. Four others died from gunshot wounds, bringing the death toll at the hands of the mob to 19 — 10% of the city’s tiny Chinese population.

Then, every rickety shanty in Chinatown was looted. “Boys, help yourselves,” was the cry. One lynching victim’s finger was cut off for the diamond ring he wore.

The leaders of the massacre paraded through the streets, displaying their booty, to the laughter and praise of the mob. An estimated $40,000 in cash, gold and jewels was stolen.

The next day’s local newspapers called the riot a “victory of the patriots over the heathens.”

The aftermath

In the end, 19 people died in the attacks.

“Ten percent of the Chinese population had been killed. One of the Chinese caught up in the mob violence was the respected Dr. Gene Tong. In fact, of the killed, only one is thought to have participated in the original gunfight,” the library wrote in its history of the massacre.

Bringing justice for the massacre was going to be a tall order for a city with such weak government institutions and little inclination to hold those who killed accountable. As Rasmussen wrote:

During the subsequent coroner’s inquest and grand jury hearings, police and other city officials — fearful of being labeled “Chinese lovers” — shielded the guilty. “I didn’t recognize anyone” was the recurring statement.

There were no other witnesses, since discriminatory state legislation then prohibited Chinese from testifying in California courts. Still, 37 rioters were indicted, 15 tried and eight convicted of manslaughter. A little more than a year later, however, the California Supreme Court reversed the convictions on the grounds that the original indictment had failed to establish that the Chinese physician had been murdered.

An embarrassed U.S. government subsequently paid imperial China an indemnity to settle the whole affair.

The massacre was a black mark for Los Angeles, and city leaders responded by building up the Police Department and criminal justice system. Vigilante rule began to fade. But the racism endured by Chinese and other minority groups actually worsened.

“The massacre did not result in racial tolerance, in fact, anti-Chinese sentiment increased in the following years. The Anti-Coolie club was formed in 1876, counting many prominent citizens among its members, and the newspapers resumed their editorial attacks against the Chinese,” the library said in its account.

The massacre was largely forgotten for generations. But the history was revived in recent decades, in part by Chinese American activists. It was the subject of two history books: “Eternity Street” by John Mack Faragher and “The Chinatown War” by Scott Zesch.

Michael Woo, the first Chinese American councilman in Los Angeles, ended his review of “The Chinatown War” this way:

“Zesch asks whether the right lessons have been learned. He argues that the 1871 massacre may have marked the end of mob justice in Los Angeles. But Zesch attributes this milestone primarily to improved law enforcement, not to the better angels of our nature taming our impulse to scapegoat, pander and pick up a gun.”

Source: LA Times

As France Entered A Second Lockdown, A Call To Attack Every Chinese Person On The Street Gained Momentum On Twitter; Garnering A Thousand Likes And Getting Shared In Equal Numbers

An angry, hate-filled Twitter call to attack Chinese people in the streets of France after the country went into a second COVID lockdown has been followed by a dozen assaults on Asians and fuelled the flames of anti-Asian sentiment.

The first time anti-Asian racism surfaced in France at the start of the pandemic earlier this year, it was characterised as xenophobia. 

It was a fear and distrust of the “other,” with people of East Asian descent lumped together as presumed carriers of the coronavirus that had started in Wuhan, China, says Sun-Lay Tan, spokesperson for Safety for All, a collective of 46 Franco-Asian associations in France. 

This time, it’s taken a much darker and angrier tone. “It’s no longer just xenophobia. It’s hate,” he said.

Immediately following President Emmanuel Macron’s televised address to the nation at the end of October announcing a second lockdown across the country, a Twitter call to attack every Chinese person on the street began gaining momentum, garnering about a thousand likes and getting shared in equal numbers. 

Replies to the original tweet, which has since been flagged and taken down, were also laced with violence and venom: 

“Hitler should have killed all the Chinese, not the Jews.”

“Put me in a cage with a Chinese I’ll have fun with them. I want to watch all their hope fade from their eyes.”

“It’s a hunt for Asians, for slanted eyes and yellow dog-eaters.”

“You’re only good for bringing back disease.”

What concerns Tan and other anti-racism activists is that these Twitter calls have gone offline and manifested in brutal attacks on Asians of all backgrounds in Paris. The day after the tweet was posted, a male Asian student was assaulted in an unprovoked attack while playing table tennis in the park with a friend (permanent ping pong tables are fixtures in some Parisian parks). According to Le Parisien, his attackers shouted “dirty Chinese” while assaulting him with pepper spray.

Asians are no stranger to being singled out by thieves and pickpockets in the Paris region as it’s mistakenly believed that they carry bundles of cash and are easy targets. But the most recent spate of attacks are driven by something more sinister, Tan said. “Previously, Asians were targeted for their money and were victims of robberies and muggings. Now, it’s not even money. It’s just out of hate.”

In another incident, a 37-year-old Asian woman identified as Françoise was attacked by a young couple who followed her off the city bus. Prior to the attack, a few words were exchanged about the young woman’s coughing fit and mask. The couple got off at the same bus stop as Françoise and attacked, pulling her hair, spitting and punching her in the face, yelling, “It’s because of you, you ch**k that we have coronavirus” and “Go back to China and eat dog,” reports Le Parisien.

“There’s been a crescendo of hate since the second lockdown, and a call to violence that we didn’t see before,” said Laetitia Chhiv, president of the Association of Chinese Youth of France. 

Along with the coronavirus, the collapse of Asian businesses in Chinatown, and the threat of another terror attack – France is on its highest terror alert following the beheading of high school teacher Samuel Paty and an attack in Nice that killed three people – Asians in France now have to worry about being targeted in hate-related assaults. 

“Safety has become their number one preoccupation lately,” Tan said.

Along with fear and anxiety, there’s a feeling of anger and disbelief at the misplaced hate, added Chhiv.

“They don’t understand why there’s so much hate. We are not responsible for the coronavirus and yet we’re insulted, assaulted and held responsible.”

Since the spike in assaults, Tan and Chhiv have launched a joint campaign through their groups warning Asians to be vigilant of their surroundings and to file a police report in the event of an attack. Because more often than not, Asian victims – particularly immigrants and the elderly – are less likely to go to the police, for reasons ranging from language barriers to shame, or lack of faith in the judicial system.

But it’s hoped a recent legal victory will change that. On the 12th of November, the French courts sentenced a trio of men two to seven years in prison for targeting, violently assaulting and robbing exclusively Asian women – believed to be easy targets – in the Paris region in 2019. Of the 28 victims identified, only six took part in the legal proceedings. But it’s a major victory that Chhiv hopes will encourage the community to trust the legal system. 

Meanwhile, the Paris prosecutor’s office has launched a formal investigation into the original Twitter call to attack Chinese “for inciting public provocation to carry out a physical attack of a racist nature.”

“We want to send the message that no, you can’t say whatever you want on social media and call for attacks on an entire population for no reason,” Chhiv said.

She also points out that social media played a big role as a vehicle for hate in both the assassination of Paty and the anti-Asian discrimination currently playing out across France. During a lesson on free speech, Paty showed his class a cover from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which depicted a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad naked on all fours. One outraged Muslim parent waged a social media campaign against the teacher, which caught the attention of the killer who had no prior connection to the school or teacher.

“Social media can be a conduit for hate,” Chhiv said. “The fury on social media is nefarious for society. All it takes is for one person with bad intentions to stumble on a hateful post and use it to justify their violent behaviour.”

Source: Vice

Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans Are at an ‘Alarming Level’, UN Says

Experts from the United Nations (UN) formally expressed concerns about the growing number of attacks against Asian Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the alleged lack of measures from authorities to combat them.

The experts, appointed by the Human Rights Council (HRC), serve as rapporteurs on (1) contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; (2) human rights of migrants; and (3) discrimination against women and girls.

“Racially motivated violence and other incidents against Asian-Americans have reached an alarming level across the United States since the outbreak of COVID19,” experts continued.

These included vandalism, verbal harassment, physical attacks, and refusal of service and access.

Verbal harassment comprised the majority of the incidents. Victims reportedly heard profanities such as “f**ing Chinese,” “die ch*nk die,” “yellow n*****” and “go back to China, b**ch!”

The group also cited the alleged link between President Donald Trump’s anti-China rhetoric and the surge in hate incidents. They noted that his actions have been “seemingly legitimizing” the phenomenon.

Trump has used controversial terms to refer to COVID-19, including “Chinese Virus,” “China Virus,” “China Plague,” “Wuhan Virus,” “Kung Flu.” The World Health Organization (WHO), a specialized agency of the UN, has long opposed the use of such terms.

“Don’t attach locations or ethnicity to the disease, this is not a ‘Wuhan Virus,’ ‘Chinese Virus’ or ‘Asian Virus.’ The official name for the disease [COVID-19] was deliberately chosen to avoid stigmatization,” the agency said in March.

Congress has since introduced bills (House of RepresentativesSenate) condemning all forms of anti-Asian sentiment. The House passed its version by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) last month, which led to attacks against the official herself.

Why People Gaslight Asian American Struggles

You don’t have to scroll too far to see comments like these on articles about hate crimes or xenophobia. People seem quick to dismiss news reports of Asian Americans being verbally and physically assaulted, or even use the comment section as a stage to continue the attack from the comfort of their keyboard.

This behavior of denial and gaslighting of crimes against Asians is overwhelming and, frankly, perplexing.

Source: NextShark