Photography Documents Forgotten Century-old Violence Against Chinese Americans

When I first thought of writing my little novel series COWBOY NINJA about a young Chinese American boy growing up in the American Old West, I had no idea that it was going to start me on this journey into Asian Pacific Islander American history, specifically Chinese American history. What has continued to astonish me is how prevalent the API presence was in the Great American West, and it astonishes me because I have unfortunately grown up quite ignorant, learning about American history with the API in it largely left out. The genre of westerns, for example leave out Chinese Americans and other API about 99% of the time, their stories so marginalized that it takes conscious effort on the part of the average American to remember that they were in fact here, and here in great numbers. Forgotten are not just the API people themselves but the horrendous acts of violence that have been committed against them. More after the jump.

Driven by my research and learning about this dark side of American history, in one of the next installments in my COWBOY NINJA series, I plan to integrate massacres of Chinese in America into the plot, so when I was sent this New York Times article about forgotten anti-Chinese violence on the 8Asians internal mailing list, I voraciously devoured it. Photojournalist Tim Greyhavens worked on an online photography exhibit project “No Place for Your Kind” to photograph the locations of the anti-Chinese violence from over 100 years ago. His journey spans the whole of the West Coast, from Vancouver to Los Angeles, and digs deep into the mainland west as well, covering 8 states with sites where Chinese Americans faced violent hate crimes from the burning of their homes, the stealing of their property, to murder and lynchings, such as in the case of the Los Angeles Chinatown Massacre of 1971 where not even innocent young boys were safe from mob torture, mutilations, and lynchings. What is most striking about Greyhaven’s photographs is how mundane and uninteresting the locations of these violent acts are today, picturing unremarkable street corners, old buildings, and alley ways, highlighting just how forgotten these acts of racial hate are.

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