Why Chinese and Filipino immigrants lived in radicalized spatial boundaries

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During the periods of the 1800s and the 1900s, China town and Little Manila territories were partly the effect of gender imbalanced immigration for the Filipinos and the Chinese. The main cause of these immigrations were the labor demands of social capitalism.  Most importantly, although the racialized spatial boundary was characterized by racial oppression and economic control, the Filipinos and the Chinese found these places to be better homes for them. This paper discusses why the Chinese and Filipino immigrants lived in racialized spatial boundaries and how the segregated spaces reflect how these migrants were radicalized. In particular, the main argument of this paper is that the need for social support and cohesion was the main reason for the immigrants living in Chinatown and Little Manila, and the primary cause of radicalization in these segregated places.

Definition of a Racialized Spatial Boundary

Racialized spatial boundaries are ethnic based places linked with racial minorities, and moral panics surface that demonstrate beliefs concerning and belonging to a specific ethnic community. Additionally, Lee (2014) clarify that systems of racial domination and economic control are prevalent in these settings.

Processes that Create Racialized Spatial Boundary

Lee (2014) illustrate the fact that the important processes that create the racialized spatial boundaries include social cohesion and support among members of the same community. However, prostitution, taxi dances, and gambling activities are common in these places.  Besides, these places were believed to be unstable. For example, Lee (2014) states that Little Manila did not have permanent inhabitants and constructions rests. Exploitation of people as individual units of labor is also a common process in these communities.

Why Most Chinese and Filipino Immigrants Lived in Racialized Spatial Boundaries

The racialized spatial boundaries inspired many Filipino’s and Chinese in the periods of 19th and 20th century. Due to ethnic differences, most men living in America were unable to find co-ethnic women and thereby tuned to the racialized communities in order to ensure that their practical, sexual, and social needs were met (Lee, 2014). In addition, the migrants who included the Japanese, Filipinos and the Chinese interacted with their corresponding ethnic groups by recreating and changing traditional practices, and developing new tactics for their emotional, material and spiritual support. In particular, Chinatown comprised of ethnic organizations that offered social support to its members. Therefore, the spatial boundaries served as places of social cohesion among migrants.

Considering the regional affiliation common at Chinatown, the Chinese were stimulated to live in the racialized boundaries due to the fact that ethnic establishments offered important material and support to the Chinese merchants and other immigrants belonging to the community. For instance, Lee (2014) state that in the early 20th century, eight ethnic organizations in San Francisco provided help to the Chinese men.

KVIEvideo (2013) shows that Little Manila was the only closest place the Filipinos had to a hometown since they did not occupy the upper-level social economic sector. Therefore, they needed to settle in these places in order to carry out their agricultural work and sustain themselves. The need for social and material help encouraged them to stay in these places.

Another reason why Filipinos stayed in these places was because the Filipino laborers needed to establish a life that concurred with their migrant patterns, and thereby wanted a community that was flexible and functional (Lee, 2014). Since the immigrants were committed to achieving the American dream and a supportive community, they gambled in gambling dens and partied in dance halls (KVIEvideo, 2013).

The Way in Which the Segregated Spaces Reflect How the Immigrants Were Racialized

Following the fact that both the Chinese and Filipino immigrants had certain ethnic identities that connected them with their homelands, they were organized within the lines of regional affiliation (Lee, 2014). In fact, they had the habit of emphasizing on ethnic harmony and identity.

In spite of acquiring a home in the Little Manila a society that was highly structured along lines of race, the Americans perceived the Filipino’s as agricultural and domestic service workers. Therefore, the Filipinos were forced to work as laborers in agricultural sectors with low wages (KVIEvideo, 2013). These Filipino laborers highly contributed to the current agricultural advancement in California.  In addition, racialization is portrayed at China town when the municipal officials of San Francisco racially discriminated the Chinatown residents by pulling them out the public health and ordering the burning of their houses (Lee, 2014). This caused the death of many Chine and destruction of Chinatown.

Racial discrimination was evident in the segregated places, since the Filipinos were not permitted in certain places. For example, in the Fox theatre, which is the main theatre in Stockton, the Filipinos were not allowed to sit in the Centre part of the theater and were demoted to the sides (KVIEvideo, 2013). This depicts how the Americans racially discriminated the immigrants.

With men being the majority of the immigrants, inequality was common in these spaces as women lived under male-controlled gender customs that disempowered and limited their movements.


The social cohesion among the Filipinos and the Chinese, the ethnic organizations that provided social and material support to the immigrants, the immigrant’s perception of the segregated places as better homes, and the need for flexible communities encouraged the immigrants to live in racialized spatial boundaries. In addition, to symbolize how the immigrants were racialized in these places, the immigrants were organized in terms of their ethnic and regional affiliation, the Asian American immigrants were racially discriminated by the Americans, and women were oppressed by males.

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  1. Lee, S. (2014). A New History of Asian America. New York, NY: Routledge
  2. KVIEvideo (2013, Oct 1). Little Manila: Filipinos in California’s Heartland-KVIE. [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNCZ8sGJs8I
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