Guarding the Golden Door by Roger Daniels

An essay I wrote today about a book, Guarding the Golden Door by Roger Daniels,  we are reading for a history class at OSU called Immigration to America from 1880. I wasn’t going to post it here, but I mention a little bit about Douglas County in it. If you would like to know more about where the Chinese worked in Douglas County I can tell you about the landmarks that are out on Cow Creek out past Riddle and before you get to Glendale. China Ditch is mentioned and that’s out North Myrtle Creek. I know a tiny bit about China Sam who lived in Roseburg. And I love to research this stuff!! Hope you enjoy!

There is an image at the link below.  Off white people are holding a sign saying that, “Immigrants make America Great”.   Truth is without Immigrants there would be no America at all.  They are what made and continue to make America great!  And yet, they are perceived to this day as secondary citizens, not much more in the hierarchy than legalized slavery.    We owe immigrants a debt of thanks, for they take the ‘dirty jobs’ that most of us snub our noses at.  Thank an immigrant for being willing to work in unsafe, unsanitary environments getting a sub standard wage doing the things we would not lower ourselves to do.  Thank them and be grateful. 



In chapter 1 of Roger Daniels book, “Guarding the Golden Door” gives us an introduction to a subject that he feels is vastly under studied [pg. 6], Immigration Policy in America. He makes is quite clear from the very first sentences of the chapter that American Immigration policy is often “…. conceived in ignorance, …falsely presented to the public, and had consequences never undreamt about by its creators.” The author goes on to introduce the idea of nativism and how the policies themselves along with attitudes of Americans have been non-consistent, except perhaps in terms of racism, along with other unkind treatment given to immigrants who do not live up to an American’s view of what “white” in America is. [pg. 7] He starts his book and his argument with the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act by saying that pointing out that this Act be, “…a nodal point in the history of American Immigration Policy.” By using the term “nodal point” the author points out that this 1882 policy was a focus point, a very good example of Immigration policy along with political, social, and cultural drama of an American bipolar response to immigration and immigrants. Or as he puts it on page 6 where he introduces the idea of one theme in the book, the “dualistic attitude that most Americans have developed towards immigration and immigrants, on the one hand reveling in the nation’s immigrant past and on the other rejecting much of its immigrant present.”

 This theme he writes about the dualistic nature of American attitude is voiced in modern America. Growing up in California one of the most diverse populations in the country in terms of immigrants I often heard Mexican Americans talked about in despicable terms growing up. “They need to go back where they came from.” As if they were not here before the rest of us. And if the source produce at the grocery store dried up and the products were no longer available, most of the family members who voiced such a horrible attitude would have been begging for those underpaid agricultural workers to come back. The pay for picking produce is below what most American’s consider necessary to keep up their standard of living.

Yet, those same family members – were proud to be Scotch, Irish, Welsh, English, Dutch, German, and Danish. Not of a one of those named ethnicities originate in North America. Perhaps it was we, who should have gone back to where we belonged. Daniels has this “attitude” of the American people completely right. Go to another place in the country, as I have, and you will hear of another group of people who is being abused in the very exact same way. In the Midwest, at least with some, the disrespect was for the black population. Yet, if we are white, and have long roots on this continent our very own ancestors probably had something to do with bringing some of their ancestors here. It is not like they came over on a cruise ship looking for Fantasy Island. So, I can verify with my own examples of that “dualistic attitude.” Therefore, I feel he is completely right. American have in general wanted the cake and to eat it too!

IF those two examples are not enough, listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck on their radio programs.

Mr. Daniels points out Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington knew that immigration was key to growing our nation. [pg. 6, & 7] It was considered necessary. George Washington even voiced our countries eagerness to have immigrants come to America to live. Yet, John Adams another Founding Father, led an administration that put into place the Alien Sedition Acts in the 1790s. Mr. Daniels points out that this was anti-immigration policy that aimed to keep people out of the country who might vote Jeffersonian rather than for the Federalists. Not only were American’s attitude dualistic but from the beginning of our country we celebrated and invited in the immigrants with one face and cursed them and worked to keep them out with the other.

The author then seqways back to the Chinese Exclusion Act. The author points out that until the Chinese Exclusion law immigration law was “minimal” and that to be naturalized a person need only be a “free white person”, while qualifying that further, the truth was that a person needed to be white. It was the fact that these prior laws were minimal that made the Chinese Exclusion law such a focal point. At this juncture in history America had become blatantly racist in terms of Asians and who they were. Asians were a people that needed to be controlled. We would gladly take advantage of their very cheap labor but as a country we were also very happy to tell them to, “go back to where they belong.”

Here in Oregon, and specifically in Douglas County where I live, I could take you to several spots where the Chinese were instrumental in laying down railroad track through this mountainous landscape. The work was dangerous, and it was hard. Their labor was also used on other projects around here, one of the bigger projects is today called, “China Ditch”. It is way out of the way, in the “boonies” one might say. But, the scar on the mountain side still shows the mark of the labor that these men put in to get water from one side of the mountain to the other so that men of means could take gold from the Umpqua Basin and lift up their standard of living. The West probably might not have been “won” had it not been for hard working Chinese and the white men who were so willing to exploit them.

Chapter 1 is an introduction to several ideas: Nativism, America’s consistent two faced attitude towards immigrants that includes the racism along with the ability to take advantage of another people and the inconsistent way in which America immigration policies have been set forth over the years.

Side note:  In fifth grade It think it was, I had to do a report.  I don’t remember just what the report could be about.  I only remember that I settled on researching and reporting on the Chinese and their labors on the California railroads.  It amazes me how much I am using knowledge gleaned all those years ago today.  I remember from way back then that the treatment of Asians in America was unforgivable.    Today American’s enjoy a life that was built upon the backs of others that our ancestors really wanted nothing to do with, and thought were below “their dignity.”  With their assumptions of just who these “others” were,  American’s used their notions to justify looking down on others and abusing them in anyway they saw fit.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again, and again)—  American’s have a pitifully poor history when it comes to the treatment of anyone deemed not white, and that was the majority of the rest of the world, including a lot of “white” people who were early on defined as other than white. It mattered not — if you were white or black if you were Jewish, Catholic, German, or Asian. All were deemed to be 2nd class citizens, all were seen as nothing more than labor.  Most were forced into a life of misery barely above the life of slavery.  We American’s have very little from our past to be truly proud of.  We are a very arrogant people.

IF you think me wrong, look at what the attitudes of our forbearers and how they affect today’s history in the making.  Trump’s nativists attitudes could not be more blatant.  Nor can his racism.  He is a man who soaked up his parents attitudes like a sponge, and lives the attitude to this day.  Present example with him that comes to mind is him hiring illegal immigrants for low wages at his high prices exclusive clubs, and then turning around and politicalizing the fact that they are here at all, and accusing them all of being criminals, or secondary citizens.  He has made it clear that if you don’t have something to offer America then you are not welcome here.  I’d love to point out to him that when those people come here to labor in our strawberry and artichoke fields, when they pick our grapes, and our walnuts, as they pack our melons in the fields — they are giving us something.  They are giving us their blood, and sweat, their labor and their youth,  their living and often their very lives.  

About PeggyAnn

Professional PC Consultant, Researcher, & avid people watcher, Peggy Ann Rowe started into her genealogical quest at age 15 after watching the mini-series, "Roots" with her parents. This new obsession has fueled her love of history, & study of cultures & societies in every epoch. Today she is 57 years old with four kids who are all grown up (& all have flown the coop). In between her 'gigs' with clients she volunteered at many different non-profits. Former President, Secretary, and Director at Large on the board of the Douglas County Historical Society for 10+ years, and former Secretary at the Cloverdale Historical Society (Sonoma County) for nearly 10 years. This website is an attempt to share the knowledge she has gained about her family ties with others who may be interested in the same things. She does not guarantee 100% accuracy and does hope that you will send corrections. To learn more about her, click the "about" button in the page menu. Thanks! Another goal of this website is to disseminate a message (i.e. education) about domestic violence, child abuse, and all forms of sexual abuse to society at large. The message comes from real experience from the whole spectrum of the violence from sexual abuse by a perpetrator to sexual abuse perpetrated by a husband, to the abuse of children within the family. Peggy has seen it, lived it, and been hurt by it. There will on occasion be details that might be hard for some people to read, and a warning is usually posted at the beginning of the essay so that those who want to turn and not read may do so. The only way to teach and to let others learn what to avoid is to SHARE what happened with every detail necessary to make the point. Thank you.
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