Barbed Wire

Yes, it has been a while since contributing to my blog.  Life is my excuse.

What’s worse is that this post seemingly has nothing to do with the theme of my blog.  But in truth I have always had an interest in the history of any minority group with a largely undocumented history of being the victims of discrimination, segregation, and hatred.  What segments of society have done and why they’ve done them confound me.

Perhaps it has been the recent reported issues of immigration that has sparked my interest, or maybe simply me having more time on my hands.  And perhaps it was a post from my Barbedwirefriend Mike Dixon, relaying the Delmar DustPan‘s website post about early Chinese in the small Eastern Shore towns at a time of nationwide political exclusion of Chinese seeking to immigrate to this country.  Perhaps it was all sorts of things, including the book I recently read, Lisa See’s On Gold Mountain.

LOC Chinese in CaliforniaThe Library of Congress has an interesting website entitled “The Chinese in California 1850-1925.” and includes a lot of information and online resources.

I was drawn to the website when I had run across an online article showing one of the Library of Congress photographs of barbed Chinatown barbed wirewire around San Francisco’s old Chinatown at a time with the community was “quarantined” both for feared medical reasons but also as an extreme form of segregation which was in reality house arrest.

Think about the concept of barbed wire.  It is not only used as a barrier, of both entry and exit.  It is designed also to inflict pain and injury if challenged. But barbed wire is also a symbol, used as a warning to anyone who sees it.  Certainly barbed wire, as used against humans, is penetrable, easily cut and removable.  Usually with barbed wire used on humans, there are other systems in place to reinforce the barriers — armed guards, high impenetrable fences, electrification, and more.  Barbed wire is a hurtful and shameful symbol of how humans can be corralled into submission.  How has this method been used in our history?  Something to think about. So perhaps the topic is not so far afield afterall.

— Linda Duyer

Some images from the Library of Congress worth clicking on:

Wave chinatown quarantineAngel Island SF




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