10.29.2007

"the chinese must go" cap gun on ebay


Spotted over at Boing Boing... this old, racist cap gun is being sold on eBay. As I write this, the current bid is $645. It's a mechanical cast iron pistol with "The Chinese Must Go" written on the side. Crazy, right? I'm really curious about the historical context of this thing. Chances are, it has something to do with the widespread anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States during the late nineteenth century. If so, this is a pretty amazing relic—a twisted reminder of America's not-so-long-ago racist past. Even scarier, the thought that this was probably a toy intended for kids. Ah, instilling the values of hate at a young age. This is America.

While we're on this topic, I should recommend a really interesting, worthwhile book, Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans by Jean Pfaelzer. I've meaning to write about it for months since it was published back in May, but I actually haven't gotten around to finishing it (I'm kind of a slow reader). But it's absolutely fascinating, an examination of the brutal and systematic "ethnic cleansing" of Chinese Americans in California and the Pacific Northwest during the late nineteenth century. People (and politicians) basically rounded up and purged dozens of communities of thousands of Chinese residents. And the Chinese fought. It's largely a forgotten, unknown chapter of American history, chronicled here in vivid detail. I highly recommend reading it. Here's a book review from the San Francisco Chronicle: REIGN OF TERROR AGAINST CHINESE. One from the Washington Post: Not Without a Fight. And one from the New York Times: Witnesses to Persecution