Ethnic Groups in America Term Paper

Pages: 9 (2672 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: American History

Ethnic Groups in America


Origins / History: The Chinese probably were persecuted as an ethnic culture arriving in America far more than were the Irish and Polish; this is not to say the Polish and Irish avoided discrimination and social bias, but neither of the latter two were actually banned from immigrating to the U.S. As were the Chinese at one point. In fact, the Chinese were officially excluded from entering America (Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882), but they also had earned respect when they served as hard-working low-paid laborers who helped build the first transcontinental railroad in the middle of the 19th Century. But "once the railroads connected the frontier, Westerners had little use for the Chinese" (De Leon 42), and hence the exclusion act.

In the book Chinese Immigrants, African-Americans and Racial Anxiety in the United States, 1848-82, reviewed by Benson Tong (Journal of American History) (EBSCO) the author (Najia Aaim-Heriot) asserts that Euro-Americans, in particular politicians and others whose mission was to create policy, "relied on existing black-white relations to define the treatment..." Of Chinese (Tong's quote). In fact, Tong paraphrases, from the "beginning" the Chinese underwent "Negroization" and like blacks, were seen as "undesirable" and were excluded from "free labor ideology." And eventually, while blacks pressed for their civil rights, the Chinese "did not," Tong states in reference to the book.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Ethnic Groups in America Assignment

Unlike Irish women or Polish women entering the United States as immigrants, many of the first Chinese women arriving in San Francisco in the late 1880s came in bondage. The author of Unbound Feet - Judy Yung - writes that most Chinese women "...were kidnapped, lured, or purchased from poor parents" in China for about $50 and then they were "resold" in the U.S. For as much as $1,000. As many as 97% of Chinese women in San Francisco in the 1860s were prostitutes, Yung explains. That percentage went down to 72% in 1870 and to 50% by 1880. Prettier Chinese women were often sold to wealthy Chinese in San Francisco and served in concubines or as mistresses "and sequestered in comfortable quarters" (Yung 28). Chinese women who were not so attractive were basically enslaved in San Francisco and housed in filthy "cribs" where life was degrading and dangerous. The image of Chinese as somehow deviant was given legal clout when the California legislature passed a constitutional amendment restricting Chinese-white intermarriage in 1878.

Meanwhile, an article in the Journal of Psychology (Hulei, et al., 2006) presents good information on the Chinese-American experience. The three main schools of philosophical and religious thought that have the greatest influence on Chinese behavior are: Confucianism (emphasizing harmony, humanism, order, hierarchy, moderation, self-discipline and obligation); Taoism; and Buddhism; both Taoism and Buddhism "deemphasize competitiveness and sense of self," Hulei explains (p. 460).

How do Chinese-American families raise their children? The cultural expectations from parents to children include "strong cultural control," an expectation of "child obedience," family duty and obligation, "filial piety" and participation in a harmonious family experience (p. 461). In a survey with 31 Chinese-American mothers, 90% of those mothers said the most important thing was, they wanted their children to foster good relationships with peers, to be "respectful to teachers" and "obey parents." When immigrant Chinese woman noticed their children were sky or sensitive, they fully accepted that fact. Chinese adolescents surveyed by the authors of this article indicated that although their parents may be authoritarian, the teens had "positive attitudes" towards their parents.

Chinese immigrant mothers reported that "it is important to be verbal with children" and the mothers stressed that it is important to be verbal with children so they (children) may understand "why their behavior is problematic" and also understand "why [certain] behaviors are not desirable... [which] helps prevent children from repeating mistakes," Hulei writes. Moreover, Chinese-American mothers believe that if "children are punished too often, they will lose motivation for behaving well."

Additional Information on Chinese-Americans: The unsophisticated attitude that all Chinese living in big cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles reside in "Chinatown" is an inaccurate stereotype, according to the "community-based" journal Chinese America: History and Perspective. In Chicago's suburb Bridgeport, for example, Chinese-Americans (along with other Asian-Americans) make up 26% of the population; Latinos constitute 30% and 41% are white, according to an article by Shanshan Lan (Lan 2007). And even though Chinese are seen (stereotypically) as the "model minority in opposition to both Latinos and African-Americans" (Lan), their social life in Bridgeport, a typical working class / middle class community, is "heavily confined to public places such as schools, parks, and libraries." The "hardcore white ethnic spaces" like pubs, private social clubs, ethnic churches tend to "exclude Chinese-Americans," Lan writes.

Who lives in Chinatowns around the country? Lan explains that it is the "Downtown Chinese" who live there. They are "mainly new, working-class immigrants who barely speak English and who are working at the lowest tier of the service industry" like restaurant kitchens and fast-food venues. The "Uptown Chinese" are normally middle-class professionals with college degrees. Some new immigrants do live in Bridgeport, Illinois, but work in suburban restaurants and are given rides by restaurant owners "so the workers do not need to learn to drive." The more successful and educated Chinese-Americans "function as community leaders and cultural brokers between working-class immigrants and mainstream white society."

Chinese-Americans are known as a "model minority," which many Chinese-Americans resent. The success of Chinese-Americans is seen in their above-average income, education, "and related factors such as low crime rate and high family stability" ( Chinese-Americans are alluded to as "model minority" people, it can bee seen as "an example of leveraging majority power dynamics to provoke ill sentiments between minority groups."

According to the U.S. Census 2000, there are roughly 2.9 million persons of Chinese ancestry in the U.S. (the largest number of Chinese-Americans currently reside in California, followed by New York, Hawaii, and Texas). San Francisco is 19.6% Chinese (152,620 people); Honolulu, Hawaii is 10.7% Chinese (39,600); Oakland, California, is 8% Chinese (31,834).

The Chinese-Americans from Mainland China mostly speak Mandarin Chinese; those from Taiwan speak either Mandarin or Taiwanese; Chinese from Hong Kong speak Cantonese for the most part. There are also ethnic Chinese in America from Vietnam, and they tend to speak Cantonese or Chaozhou Chinese, according to


Origins / History: While not suffering the human rights violations and social indignities of the early Chinese immigrants, the first Irish immigrants to American shores were subjected to a degree of prejudice simply because they were Roman Catholics (hence the title, "Irish Catholics"). The Puritans in New England had a "deeply entrenched nativism and anti-Catholicism," writes Peter C. Holloran in a review (published in the Journal of American Culture) of the Michael Quinlin book, Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston's Colorful Irish Past. There were actually riots in the streets of Boston on "Pope's Day" when the Irish put on public displays of loyalty to their faith. Those negatives notwithstanding, the Irish-American community produced leaders in the arts (Peter Palham was Boston's first artist in 1726), and politics (Henry Knox, a Boston Irish bookseller, became the first secretary of war), Holloran explains.

Quinlin's book points out that "thousands" of Irish-Americans fought in the American Revolution (both for and against the patriots), but at the same time and shortly after the war many colonists were reacting ("sometimes violently") to the growing Irish Catholic population. The Potato Famine in the 1840s in Ireland (a major environmental disaster) "sent more than a million" Irish immigrants to the U.S. And in the process caused severe "...crowding in Boston (and New York, Philadelphia, and other East Coast seaports) with poor, sick, desperate Irish exiles," Holloran reports.

As a result of the famine in Ireland, ships were sent from Boston and New York carrying food to the starving Irish. But for those Irish and their children who immigrated during that period, Quinlin's book explains that they "would expand American cities, provide labor for new industries, and serve bravely" in both armies during the Civil War. They would also help populate the western frontier, and, "to a remarkable extent, create modern American culture," Holloran writes.

Historian Richard F. Welch writes that "only a smattering" of Irish Catholics were in America prior to the Potato Famine (1845-1853), and that the Irish faced "both religious and ethnic prejudice" from the mostly Anglo-Saxon population. In fact the anti-Irish Catholic bias evolved into a movement called "American" or "Know-Nothing Party" in the early 1850s. Many in the Know-Nothing Party looked down on the Irish-Americans and accused them of being "superstitious, ignorant and volatile people who had to be kept under control, if not barred from the nation's door," Welch writes in Civil War Times (Welch 2006). Things got out of control in Charlestown, Mass, and in Philadelphia when Irish Catholic convents were burned there; and in Boston, the Know-Nothing Party took control of Massachusetts's government (1854) and passed legislation "forbidding the raising of militia units" that were made… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Ethnic Groups in America.  (2007, May 27).  Retrieved December 1, 2021, from

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"Ethnic Groups in America."  27 May 2007.  Web.  1 December 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Ethnic Groups in America."  May 27, 2007.  Accessed December 1, 2021.