The War on Chinese Restaurants with Gabriel Chin

Here’s a fun fact: there are more Chinese restaurants in the United States than there are McDonald’s, KFC’s and Burger Kings combined. No doubt this is partly a result of the dedicated entrepreneurship of Chinese immigrants and the American appetite for sweet and sour pork, but there is also a story of economic discrimination behind the flourishing of dim sum dens, chop suey canteens, and Szechuan saloons. Because of the prejudicial hiring environment at the turn of the 20th century, restaurants and launderettes were among the only sectors in which Chinese immigrants to the United States could get a foothold. Even as self-employed restaurateurs, Chinese Americans faced fierce resistance from unionized competition, who hid behind a smokescreen of moral panic and virulently racist propaganda. Gabriel “Jack” Chin is a legal scholar and Law Professor at UC Davis, where he teaches Immigration Law, Criminal Procedure, and Race and Law. Chin recently co-authored an eye-opening article titled “The War on Chinese Restaurants” for Cato’s quarterly journal Regulation. He documents this sorry episode in American history, in which states and local governments persistently discriminated against Chinese immigrants – including bans on white women entering their restaurants – even after the courts declared such policies unconstitutional. The market demand for Chinese food eventually won out, but only after two pieces of federal legislation excluding Chinese immigrants. Listen in and call in with your questions for Bob and Jack at any time during the show: (424) BOB-SHOW.

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