Jaideep Singh, Scholar/Activist, Formerly of University of California, Berkeley

Jaideep Singh, scholar
November, 2005
Cap Public Radio Studio
By Rupa Marya
Transcribed by C Stifter

My name is Jaideep Singh I’m currently
Visiting Lecturer at UC Davis, and a Doctoral Candidate in the Dept of Comparative Ethnic Studies University of California Berkeley.

:45 US historian intersections of race class gender

Punjab 2/3 Pakistan 1/34 in India, agricultural heartland of India Language spoken is Punjab, demarcated along geographic lines. Far older than both of those nations with are only about 55 years old.

Food, dress, Sikh faith

2:34 Sikh faith founder, monotheistic religion, egalitarianism, gender race, class, etc.

3:09 first Punjabi’s came to US late 1800s, large group migration in first years of 1900s. Initially executive restrictions put on migration by president, 1907 a few thousand total by 1917 limited strictly all people from Asia. 4:07 cut off all migration from the Asian world. 1924 Act made clear if not eligible for citizenship, then couldn’t migrate. In place until 1952.

4:49 economic dislocation, famine struck the region, under British colonialism, …(question) late 1800, early 1900s repeated famine, main issues that pushed were the British, revenues (taxes) continued to go up finite amount of arable land, oldest sons inherited land, multiple sons, younger sons find other ways to support, join army or go abroad.

6:30 the first SA that came to US primarily Punjabis, primarily Sikh, smaller # Muslims, Hindus, found themselves migrate with Chinese, created West Coast ag, created agricultural economy for the West Coast, irrigation, farm labor, constant cycle 1870 depression, Chinese blamed for economic problems. A little over 120,000 only migrated. More migrated from Italy. 1880 over 95% of Chinese located in 3 states WA, OR CA. Congress passed a law excluding Chinese despite fact few Americans had ever seen Chinese. Overwhelming majority of congress. Racial hysteria, exacerbated by depression. 1882 Chinese cut off. Japanese were brought in 1907 Japanese migration cut of by racist reaction of middle class. 9:04 Koreans and SA, came at tail end of racist hysteria, legislation, white working class rising up 1917 all immigration from Asia cut off…

9:43 first Chinese were different, celestials, first Chinese welcomed, later excluded. SA looked even more queer and different, dark skin, turbans, beards, didn’t speak English. Rustics as Joan Jensen describes them. Weren’t taking on US culture. Here to work, make $ help families. 10:40 all Asian groups, white employers favored them over white working class, far harder workers according to early documents. Makes sense, can’t afford to get drunk and waste $ Asians across the board, praised for reliable workers, more than white, contributed to race hysteria. SA part of dual wage system, paid less than whites. White working class perceived a threat. Targeted not employers, directed at Asian migrants, desperate situation, working hard to keep jobs.

12:13 Balsara and a few dozen were naturalized. 1790 naturalization act, free whites naturalized. In effect 162 years, legalized racist exclusion. 1913, 1920 alien land laws, not a citizen, couldn’t own land, directed at Asians. Asians found ways to evade. 1913 loophole place land in name of children or friend’s American born children. 1920 second law closed loophole. Throughout the country including Kansas, racist hysteria, legalized racism codified.

14:06 results of Balsara, all changed at Supreme Court. Asian American 1922 Ozawa Case came before Supreme Court, Berkley High, UC, Christians in every way. My skin whiter than southern Europeans granted citizenship. Supreme court said you may be white, but not caucausian.

Bagat Singh Thind 1923 Anthropologists classified SA as Caucasian. I’m Caucasian, should be granted citizenship. Citizenship = land. Numerous other basic realities, voting important, but more basic need to be citizens. So many SA filed lawsuits trying to become citizens. I’m Caucasian, Supreme Court says, yes, but opinion of common man you are not white. Pretty remarkable. Mental gymnastics in order to justify racism. Since when does Supreme Court care what common man thinks.

17:12 as a result of Thing several dozen lost citizenship retroactively. A small number of people 4-6000 people primarily in CA, scattered in small pockets throughout the West. Sikh man who “made desert bloom”. SA as far east as SLC.

18:12 community very fluid. Migrant workers. Fundamental reality of laws passed was that women prevented from migrating, US wanted labor, but not communities. Gender bias. Asian groups, Chinese, Japanese, etc. bachelor societies for years, women intentionally excluded. SA by far most acute <1% female.

19:22 no recourse in many ways. Thind educated. Rest are Punjabi rustics, didn’t speak language. No recourse to Supreme Court. White supremacy codified into law. No recourse in many ways.

20:13 no reliable evidence as to what percentage were married. Assumed many had families in SA. Fact women were excluded, sexual torture in preventing families, no access to white women either. Supremacy controls who has access to women. Against law, misogynation with white women. Imperial Valley Punjabi married MexAm community. Bicultural community Punjabi Mexicans.

21:49 he kinda goes off. If you think of words start with mis- interracial sex, prefix mis, race is socially constructed fiction, attaches baggage to sexuality. El Centro, CA mayor David Singh Tinlom. Grandfathers Punjabi Sikhs, grandmas were Chicanos. Well aware of the history. Scholarship has failed to recognize unique culture of the area. “Punjabis blended in”. Joan Jensen looks at mixed culture that had arisen.

24: I don’t think you can generalize. Warm people, agricultural. Um hum, like most Asians family has primary role in Punjabi culture. Tantamount to sexual torture, prevent families from forming, for men laborers to not let them have their lives as well.

Migrants came from Canada. Unlike most other groups, history is linked to history of Canada. 25:24 1898 Silver Jubilee, came to US, chose to stay on. Canada was part of commonwealth; they should be able to migrate within commonwealth. Canada white man’s land. Many pushed out of Canada into North America. Agricultural people from region known for ag. Relatively uneducated formal education. WA OR, got into lumber industry, Vancouver to an extent. Bellingham WA in 1913?? not include…(he’s looking it up)
27:16 in first decade of 20th century Bellingham race riot, SA expelled from Bellingham. Racial violence common feature in early American west. Chinese Japanese SA lynched with impunity. Several 100 ran out of town. Wide scale racial violence against Asians. Chinese not allowed to testify in court, not even in own defense. No rights other than what a white man was willing to give them. Powerful encoding of legalized racism. Various racial incidents, SA tended to congregate in rural areas. No Chinatown, Japan town, one of ways to avoid xenophobia to locate in rural area.
Local of Punjabi away from centers, fear of white violence and racism.

All the way from Yuba City to Imperial Valley. Just when regions burgeoning ag heartlands for American West. 29:48