1/12/14

Two Quite Different Cases, But Both Had Bad Outcomes for Chinese

Strong anti-Chinese sentiments were prevalent throughout the U. S. and Canada from the mid 19th to mid 20th century. Two examples illustrate the variety of contexts where Chinese faced unfair barriers to opportunities that were afforded to non-Chinese.

In 1892 the Chief of Public Safety in Pittsburgh, confronted by the problems of policing criminals of different nationalities, decided to appoint Yee Din, a Chinese as a policeman. Having a Chinese police officer, he thought, might be more effective in dealing with the Chinese population. Known as Jim Blaine, Yee was prepared to renounce his citizenship and allegiance to China and become a naturalized citizen of the United States, a condition for being a policeman.




Although Yee was deemed qualified to serve as a policemen, a judge, not ready to accept a Chinese in this capacity, denied his application.  Thus, "Chief Brown's idea to get at the Chinamen who violate the law ended and Yee Din did not become Pittsburgh's first Chinese policeman.

A second example comes from Canada over a quarter of a century later during Prohibition in 1935.
Suffering financially from the depression, the hotels in Saskatchewan lobbied successfully to get the right to sell beer by the glass.  Historian Joan Champ noted there were Catch-22 legal barriers against Chinese during Prohibition that excluded Chinese hotel owners because the law called for liquor license applicants to be restricted to people who were entitled to vote, a right that was denied to Saskatchewan Chinese until 1947. Thus, being unable to vote, Chinese hotel owners could not apply for a liquor license.

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