Vicente L. Rafael: Review of Rick Baldoz's "The Third Asiatic Invasion: Empire and Migration in Filipino America, 1898-1946"
Vicente L. Rafael is a professor of Southeast Asian history at the University of Washington.
Following on the heels of Chinese and Japanese exclusion, Filipino immigration to the United States in the first half of the twentieth century was often referred to by American nativists as the “third Asiatic invasion.” Rick Baldoz’s book explores the ramifications of Filipino immigration understood as a kind of ongoing war on white society. The US invasion and occupation of the Philippines from 1898-1941 opened up the pathways for Filipino labor migration to Hawai’i and the United States between 1906 to 1934. But the increasing number of largely male migrants—at one point, estimated to be near 50,000 in the West Coast alone—was seen by nativist groups as a kind of invasion and colonization of the United States by its colonial subjects. Educated in the colonial public school system to think of America as a democratic society, Filipino migrants were stunned and dismayed at the racial discrimination and harsh working conditions they were subjected to in the metropole. However, rather than accept the terms of their marginalization, Baldoz shows how Filipinos pushed back, refusing to stay on their side of the color line. He traces in great detail the history of this other Filipino-American war as it set in motion a series of conflicts: between nativists seeking the exclusion of Filipinos and Filipino immigrants insisting on their right to civil recognition; and between local officials and Federal judges struggling to parse and clarify the profoundly ambiguous status of Filipinos as “nationals.” As Baldoz points out, such conflicts highlighted the irresolvable contradictions between domestic fears of non-white immigrants contaminating white society and the imperial project of territorial expansion and the colonial uplift of racially heterogeneous populations....
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