By Roger Dong
For Northwest Asian Weekly
For anyone not familiar with the non-profit organization Chinese American Heroes, Wong Chin Foo was our first Chinese American hero. Right after Wong Chin Foo came, the 12,000 Chinese Railroad workers built the most difficult and dangerous part of the greatest infrastructure project of the 19th Century — our Transcontinental Railroad. Since we only knew the identities of a few of the 12,000 workers, we have honored and recognized the entire group as heroes. <!–more–>
Even though none of the Chinese RR workers were citizens due to the racist Chinese Exclusion Act (CEA), we consider the group as Chinese Americans and as heroes. Wong Chin Foo was not an American citizen either due to the CEA.
My grandfather, born in 1889 in San Francisco was also not an American citizen.
When these early Chinese born in America who were not US citizens traveled abroad, they did not hold US passports.
My father who traveled to China in the 1930s to study, was interrogated aboard ship when he returned. He had to convince immigration authorities he was born in San Francisco. Mr Dong, how many steps are there in Coit Tower? Where is St. Mary’s Church? Had he not been able to answer these types of questions, he would have been been shipped back to China, not married to my Mother who lived in SF, and I would not be here to write this. (end)
Roger Dong is a Chairman/Founder at Chinese American Heroes (chineseamericanheroes.org)