How are you all this morning? Enjoying yourselves? Well, that’s nice and all, but let’s change the mood by delving into the legacy of American racism. Here is the 1908 pamphlet by American Federation of Labor president Samuel Gompers and Herman Gutstadt, “Meat vs. Rice: American Manhood against Asiatic Coolieism, Which Will Survive.” And really, the title says most of what you need to know. And the pamphlet has most everything you need to teach about anti-Asian racism. You have the Chinese compared to cancer, pretending like Americans care about Filipinos by comparing them favorably to the Chinese horde, fears of the Chinese outcompeting whites, comparing the Chinese to African-American slaves, fears of the Chinaman and his horrible living standards, not to mention his sweet, sweet opium; sections of the pamphlet titled “Do Asiatics Have Morals?” (short answer, no!), etc. Not to mention the utterly bizarre although expected to the historian of the period equation of food and race.
And of course, the most important person in the American labor movement being involved with this (I don’t know to what extent Gompers wrote this as opposed to signed his name to it, I’d guess he wrote none but endorsed all) is just wonderful. Worth remembering yet again the the American labor movement’s first national legislative victory was the Chinese Exclusion Act. White solidarity almost always trumps class solidarity in the United States, then and now.
Starting next year, I am finally going to get to teach U.S. Labor History since the (quite great) individual teaching it forever is retiring). I am wondering to what extent to expose them to this kind of thing. Not sure.