The readings we have to read before class is the introduction from Orientalism by Edward Said and “Public Health and the Mapping of Chinatown” by Nyan Shah. These two readings shared the ideas of how Asians or Chinese were viewed by the Europeans and White Caucasians during the 19th century. Medias and literature were being used to portray negative image of Asians in the western world, and that created discriminations and against the east side.
Said stated his point of view of how the Europeans declare themselves as orientalism and separated themselves from the East. They think the West which represents them is more civilized and exotic than the East, and also see the East as a lower class compares to them. They described the East as orientals because their culture is different from them, which makes the Europeans see them as a cruel, uncivilized, uneducated group of people. Said also mentioned that the Europeans have the idea to educate this group of uncivilized people (orientals) into a civilized group (orientalisms) like them. Different countries have different culture and the cultural difference made the Europeans to classify themselves as the higher class just because the east side has a different way of living. The other point Said mentioned in the introduction is the westerners started to portray Asians as uncivilized group into Medias, literatures, etc… That created a wide spread negative image of the east in the western society.
Shah is trying to tell us the same idea, but the difference between him and Said is he used references to support his idea. This is including the investigations done by Logan, Anti- Coolie (group against Chinese immigrants in San Francisco) and the acts by government were used against the Chinese immigrants. During the late 1800, the rapid growth of Chinese immigrants brought the Caucasians’ attention. White workers started to lose their job because of the Chinese workers and the cholera and smallpox epidemic in San Francisco built discriminations toward the Chinese immigrants. The Caucasians started to blame Chinese immigrants for making them unemployed and the crowded living spaces in Chinatown created the spread of cholera and smallpox. Groups like Anti- Coolie were formed to against the Chinese immigrants and wanted to kick them out of the state, investigations on the real side of Chinatown also portrayed negative image of Chinese immigrants to the public. One of the example is being used by Shah is Logan’s investigation, Shah stated Logan’s ignorance of the good side of Chinatown like the merchant’s homes, drug goods stores, temples, meeting rooms, and Chinese opera theatre. Logan only focused on gambling house, opium dens, and brothel which brought more attentions from the public on the Chinese immigrants and made the public wanted to explore more negative facts from Chinatown, San Francisco. This is just like Said’s point of view from the Europeans, because of the cultural differences between the east and west, Chinese/ Asians have an extreme negative image in the Caucasians world during the 19th century. Although there were assumptions on the dirty and crowded environment created by the Chinese immigrants cause harms to others’ health issues, but Shah stated that there were no legal or extralegal action on the Board of Health’s condemnation of Chinatown ever occurred. The other interesting fact Shah used to support the research is the U.S. congress actually passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 to disallow the Chinese workers to immigrate, so this will decrease the white workers’ unemployment rate and also a discrimination act made by the congress.