Thursday, September 21, 2006

Not a Pretty Moment

Sept. 21, 1907
Los Angeles

It is one thing to know in the abstract about racial intolerance at the turn of the 20th century and quite another to have to read it in the daily paper. I will spare you the long quotes in pidgin Chinese dialect, but trust me, they make the Charlie Chan movies look like models of multiculturalism.

The Times is covering the deportation of 26 men to China, 11 of them from Los Angeles: Ah Lee, Chin Toy, Gee Kay, Jew Sang, Jung Sing, Lee Fan, Lee Sing, Lui Fat, Lum Chong, Ng Ngai and Wong How. The rest were from San Diego.

All the men, except for Ah Lee, who was arrested in the recent tong wars, were unhappy about being deported, the paper said, adding that guards would be watching closely for friends trying to slip the men a departing gift of opium for the long journey to China aboard the ship Korea.

Immigration official A.C. Ridgway said that for some reason, most Chinese men in Los Angeles have the proper paperwork to be in the United States. “Naturally a few illegally in this country will now and then slip into Chinatown, but they are soon detected by our men,” he said. “We have not made any arrests of Japanese for the past two months. No doubt they are brought to this district, but it is very difficult to locate the fellows who do not have proper passports.”

The Times noted that in recent weeks, the Japanese immigrants have been heading to British Columbia and Washington State.

I feel compelled to salute one of the prime figures of film noir: James Wong Howe (born Wong Tung Jim in 1899), who emigrated to Pasco, Wash., about 1904.

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