He had never felt he belonged here, even though he’d been born on American soil, even though he had never set foot anywhere else. His father had come to California under a false name, pretending to be the son of a neighbor who had emigrated there some years earlier. America was a melting pot, but Congress, terrified that the molten mixture was becoming a shade too yellow, had banned all immigrants from China. Only the children of those already in the States could enter. So James’s father had taken the name of his neighbor’s son, who had drowned in the river the year before, and come to join his “father” in San Francisco. It was the story of nearly every Chinese immigrant from the time of Chester A. Arthur to the end of the Second World War. While the Irish and the Germans and the Swedes crowded onto steamship decks, waving as the pale green torch of the Statue of Liberty came into view, the coolies had to find other means to reach the land where all men were created equal.
Artist: Hi Sue Yun