This California town ran its Chinese residents out. Now the story is finally being told.
Tens of thousands of state residents, plus many millions of Americans, live in California. The region’s economy is a mainstay for the state, generating $300 billion a year in spending and supporting over 300,000 jobs. But California also has a long history of race relations. From the gold rush of the 1850s to the civil rights era of the ’60s, the state was a hotbed of racial strife. In recent weeks, those tensions have manifested themselves on a national scale as protests against police brutality took to the streets in various cities. The latest flare-up centers on the shooting of an unarmed black man last weekend in Ferguson, Missouri: An alleged police officer has been charged with murder after shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparking renewed calls for change in policing and the criminal justice system. But as the racial divides in the American south were becoming more visible through the rise of civil rights, so too have they come to California. The state’s Chinese community has seen the most dramatic changes. In the decades that California has been under Republican rule, the Chinese population has fallen from about one million to about 100,000. Today, that number is about one-sixth of what it was a century ago. In a recent report about California’s Chinese history, the U.S. Geological Survey pointed to the recent drop in the state’s Chinese population as one of the key reasons. But the main reason may be that many Chinese Americans have left the state, moving to Texas or Florida for a better version of California. The state Department of Justice has also taken notice. It released an official report in March that detailed how the Chinese community in California has been a victim of its own success. The study concluded that the state’s Chinese-American population began dropping well before Asian immigration to California began. Those who moved out for a better life left behind more crime, such as the illegal selling of drugs, than immigrants. At