The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America
Book by Beth Lew-Williams
Review by Fredy González
Fredy González of the University of Illinois at Chicago reviews The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America by Beth Lew-Williams. This book locates the origins of the modern American “alien” in anti-Chinese violence in the American West in 1885. Beth Lew-Williams shows how American immigration policies incited this violence and how the violence, in turn, provoked new exclusionary policies. The Chinese Must Go begins in the 1850s, before federal border control established strict divisions between citizens and aliens. Across decades of felling trees and laying tracks in the American West, Chinese workers faced escalating racial conflict and unrest. In response, Congress passed the Chinese Restriction Act of 1882 and made its first attempt to bar immigrants based on race and class. When this unprecedented experiment in federal border control failed to slow Chinese migration, vigilantes attempted to take the matter into their own hands. Fearing the spread of mob violence, US policymakers redoubled their efforts to keep the Chinese out, overhauling US immigration law and transforming diplomatic relations with China. The book makes clear, anti-Chinese law and violence continue to have consequences for today’s immigrants.
Read the book review at https://doi.org/10.1177/0197918319855067.