In the wake of a nationwide surge of anti-Asian hate crimes, writer Bonnie Tsui reflects on the resiliency of Chinatowns:
Chinatown is a place of contradiction. It serves as scapegoat and sanctuary. The first Chinatowns were ghettos for male Chinese laborers, who were forced to live among, and yet apart from, whites; Chinese women were barred from immigrating to prevent those laborers from starting families. And yet a Chinatown like San Francisco’s is now celebrated as a historic neighborhood, a gateway, an example of the American dream made good. Many Chinatowns have been shrinking for years under pressures of gentrification and remain reliant on a fickle tourism economy. The questions around what Chinatown means—why its existence is important, and how its future should be stewarded —are familiar ones, but they have been made even more acute by the pandemic.