Murtaza Hussain writes: On May 6, 1882, U.S. President Chester Arthur signed into law the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first in a series of discriminatory legal measures aimed at curbing immigration from Asia. Speaking at the time of its passage, California Sen. John F. Miller, a leading proponent of the law, declared that the Chinese were “an inferior sort of men” and that “Chinese civilization in its pure essence appears as a rival to American civilization. It is a product of a people alien in every characteristic to our people, and it has never yet produced and can never evolve any form of government other than an imperial despotism. Free government is incompatible with it, and both cannot exist together.”
There are echoes of Miller’s demagoguery, and of contemporaneous warnings about the supposed “Yellow Peril” posed by East Asians, in the warnings politicians and prominent media figures issue today about allegedly unassimilable immigrants and refugees from Muslim countries.
“The type of rhetoric we’re seeing today about Muslims is both very similar and also slightly different from that which was used to describe Asian immigrants in the past,” said University of Minnesota professor Erika Lee. A specialist in immigration studies, Lee is also author of the 2015 book The Making of Asian America, which chronicles in part the anti-Asian sentiment that new arrivals often had to contend with. “Like Muslims, Asian immigrants were characterized as a slowly creeping civilizational threat to the security and integrity of the United States, but today, with Muslims, there is also the additional allegation that they have a violent intent to overthrow the existing order.” [Continue reading…]