A Perfect Storm Post

And with that title, I’ve made this two-fer a three-fer by adding an allusion to the recent stormy skies to a post alerting you to an article linking the age old struggle for the keys to the American kingdom with the Great Quake.

Today, the Chron’s continuing series on the 1906 earthquake that leveled everything but the Little Shamrock (in the Inner Sunset, bless it, go grab a pint there today!), looks at the earthquake’s unexpected consequences in Chinatown:

The earth dragon has awakened, Chinatown residents are said to have screamed as the 1906 earthquake and fire flattened their neighborhood and killed untold numbers.

But San Francisco’s Chinatown was already under siege. White leaders considered the Chinese an economic threat, filthy and dangerous, and were trying to push them out. The Chinese Exclusion Act, barring most Chinese from entering the United States since 1882, had slowed the flow of newcomers to a trickle of teachers, students and merchants.

Yet when government buildings were destroyed a century ago, so were the birth and immigration records inside. Scores of Chinese recognized the serendipity, claiming citizenship and bringing in their children.

So there you have it – the Great Quake and the Great Immigration Debate together at last. We’re much better, as a city and as a country, at remembering the quake than we are at remembering that throughout American history, each new migrant group has faced the same kind of prejudice and hate. Chinatown faced it. Years before and in different parts of the country, North Beach wouldn’t have been so popular either. The common theme: change happens – geologic and demographic.

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