The War against Chinese Restaurants

63 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2017  

Gabriel "Jack" Chin

University of California, Davis - School of Law

John Ormonde

Independent

Date Written: April 6, 2017

Abstract

Chinese restaurants are now a cultural fixture, as American as cherry pie. Startlingly, however, there was once a national movement to eliminate Chinese restaurants, using innovative legal methods to drive them out. Chinese restaurants were objectionable for two reasons. First, they threatened white women, who were subject to seduction by Chinese men, through intrinsic female weakness, or employment of nefarious techniques such as opium addiction. In addition, Chinese restaurants competed with “American” restaurants, thus threatening the livelihoods of white owners, cooks and servers; unions were the driving force behind the movement.

The effort was creative; Chicago used anti-Chinese zoning, Los Angeles restricted restaurant jobs to citizens, Boston authorities decreed Chinese restaurants would be denied licenses, the New York Police Department simply ordered whites out of Chinatown. Perhaps the most interesting technique was a law, endorsed by the American Federation of Labor for adoption in all jurisdictions, prohibiting white women from working in Asian restaurants. Most measures failed or were struck down. However, Asians still lost; the unions did not eliminate Chinese restaurants, but they achieved their more important goal, extending the federal policy of racial exclusion in immigration from Chinese to all Asians. The campaign is of more than historical interest. As current anti-immigration sentiments and efforts show, even today the idea that white Americans should have a privileged place in the economy, or that non-whites are culturally incongruous, persists among some.

Keywords: Chinese Restaurants, Chinese Exclusion, Jim Crow

Suggested Citation

Chin, Gabriel "Jack" and Ormonde, John, The War against Chinese Restaurants (April 6, 2017). Duke Law Journal, Vol. 67, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2948030

Gabriel Jackson Chin (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
400 Mrak Hall Dr.
Davis, CA 95616-5201
United States
520-401-6586 (Phone)
530-754-5311 (Fax)

John Ormonde

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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