future: portland

The deed to the house I mostly grew up in Portland (in the Hollywood district of NE) had a clause that stated if any owner sold it to an African American or Chinese (paraphrasing the original language), the property was supposed to revert back to the previous owner. The clause wasn′t enforced because such restrictive covenants are no longer constitutional (luckily!), but learning about it in high school was revelatory, an eye-opening experience that helped explain the feeling we had, both of being the only Asian household in our neighborhood and of living next to the only Black household in our neighborhood. That past informs Portland′s present and its future. Here’s a documentary that raises questions about that future:

(as does this Washington Post article)

mixing history and place

On my way to do research at the SF regional branch of the National Archives, I realized the odd historical juxtaposition of its immediate geography. To get to the archives – to do research on Asian American history – I’ve been walking through a mall that is built on the site of the former Tanforan racetrack, which was both an assembly center during the Japanese American internment and the home of Seabiscuit, the racehorse.

Here are the plaques commemorating the two (and sideways perspective of the JA plaque showing it in its commercial context):

Ozawa’s notebooks

And a surprising find in the archives: a set of composition books that have Takao Ozawa’s handwritten research notes for his 1914 naturalization petition. The first notebook begins: “The first time I came here, I was not prepared, but to day I am. However, because I am not a lawyer, I do not know how to speak in the Court. Besides that, English is not my native language, so I can not speak as well as Americans do. I will, however, do my best in defending my case.”

The notes were transcribed by the federal district court and used as “briefs” in his hearing before the court.

ABZ and APT redux

I’ve posted about the Asiatic Barred Zone and Asia-Pacific Triangle recently. I’ve also been looking into ways to display them interactively. After a bit of digging, I learned about KML (Keyhole Markup Language), an extension of XML for geographic annotation and visualization that has become the standard for the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). I put together a small KML file to display both the ABZ and the APT. I’ve embedded a map view below using the file that allows you to view and interact with it using Google Maps. The file can also be downloaded and used independently with Google Earth.

View Larger Map

Unfortunately, Google Maps/Earth only displays contemporary political boundaries in its standard view. I’m looking into finding or develop an overlay that displays political boundaries in the region from 1917-1965. If anyone knows of one or would like to assist, please contact me by e-mail.

The “Asiatic Barred Zone”

As I’ve occasionally posted, I’m researching the “Asiatic Barred Zone” created by Congress in 1917 for an article and book project on race, geography, and territoriality. Recently I’ve been going over the Congressional Record and other government documents to retrace the specific details of its origin and formulation and found some interesting material.

Continue reading The “Asiatic Barred Zone”

yet more on “chink”

In a previous post, I wrote about my searches on Google’s ngram viewer on the relative historical use of the terms “chink” and “Chink.” Ngram viewer’s dataset only goes to 2008/9, but another Google web tool, trends, tracks the text of web searches (at Google, obviously) since 2004 – yes, trends is a text search of text searches, so for those folks who love self-referentiality, it is in effect a meta-search engine. Since they draw on different data, actual print usage versus web search text, the two tools aren’t directly comparable. Nevertheless, a quick check on Google trends for the term “chink” was interesting.

Continue reading yet more on “chink”

more on “chink”

[Classes ended yesterday so I’m in the process of updating and publishing posts I wrote this fall.]

In May, in the aftermath of the controversy over the use of the phrase “chink in the armor” as a ESPN headline for an article about Jeremy Lin, I wrote a post about the term “chink” and its historical use and origin. This fall I’ve been thinking about the digital humanities and data visualization for my courses and I remembered Google’s ngram viewer. It’s an online tool that draws on the digitalization of books and other print materials that are the basis for Google Books. It allows you to can chart the frequency with which a word (or words) occurs in that database. Because the database includes historical works, in effect the ngram viewer charts the historical use of words in print. I decided to use it to check the arguments I made in my previous post.

Continue reading more on “chink”

election racial demographics

Much of the media coverage in the wake of President Obama’s reelection on Tuesday has focused on the United States’ changing racial demographics, their impact on the election, and their implications for the future. These results, however, shouldn’t surprise people who have been observing and writing about these demographic shifts for years.

Continue reading election racial demographics