Monday, April 16, 2007

The Bachelor Society

The first and largest groups of immigrants to enter the United States were the Chinese. The Chinese immigrants began to enter the United States during the mid-18th century. Many of these immigrants came to avoid the civil war and dictatorial rule going on in china that contributed to endless cases of hunger, poverty, and economic instability. The Chinese immigrants were victims, natural disasters, and political and economic oppression who were attracted to California by the promise of gold and opportunity or laborers, framers, merchants, craftsmen and students in search of opportunities. These Chinese immigrants sought to return to China after making enough money to support their families. Their initial objective in coming to America was to dig gold, strike rich, and return to China to spend the rest of their lives with their family in wealth.

In 1882, the United States passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which banned Chinese from entering the country. This law prohibited wives and children from entering the country. Consequently, the Chinese and Chinese Americans could not have families. This created a society made up of men who were bachelors only because of the law prohibiting their wives and children to enter the United States. The law stopped the population of the Chinese community, unbalancing the sex ratio; the ratio of males to females widened from 18:1 to 27:1. The Exclusion Act of 1882 also only prevented them from establishing families and it caused the Chinese to lose hope in their dreams. These men lived in poor neighborhoods in major cities also known as “Chinatown” or a “bachelor society.” In a bachelor society, the elderly men greatly outnumber the young.

Chinatowns are where Chinese Americans lived, worked, shopped, and socialized. Because many of these men lost touch with their families and could not find a way to return to China, they remained in these ethnic enclaves and communities. Also, they were limited to a few opportunities which included difficult and unrewarding jobs and careers. They took on jobs that nobody else wanted or that were considered too filthy. They worked in operating hand laundries, restaurants, domestic servant jobs and held other service jobs. Also, during this time period, Chinatowns were overcrowded and were known as places of crime and drugs. However, by the 1900's, Chinatowns were considered to be quiet and colorful tourist attractions.

Eventually, the demographics of the Chinatowns slowly began to become balanced with the help of the “paper sons and paper daughters.” The paper sons and paper daughters legally made all children of U.S. citizens automatic citizens, regardless of their place of birth. This made it possible for the Chinese community to finally have children.

The relationship between the Chinese immigrants and Americans changed over time. At first, when the first immigrants arrived, they were widely received by Americans because they were wealthy, successful merchants. However, when the unskilled laborers who worked for little pay arrived, the American attitudes became hostile. As decades passed, the relationship between the Chinese and the Americans improved. China became allies with the United States during World War II, which led to the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Immigration from China resumed, and female immigrants began to arrive; many of them were the wives of the Chinese men in the U.S. and were reunited after spending decades apart.