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Blog Post 10/05- Kayla O’Connell

When reading How The Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis, I was immediately appalled by the way he spoke of both Italian and Chinese immigrants. In “Chapter V”, Riis outlines his different opinions on Italian immigrants. He characterizes them as attention cravers, illiterate and hot-headed. He claims that the slums welcome them as tenants and Italians will “eat his meals under the dump, on the edge of slimy depths and amidst surroundings full of unutterable horror”(52). Throughout the entire chapter Riis only listed out a variety of stereotypes, insults, and back-handed compliments. In “Chapter IX”, Riis once again outlines his unwanted opinions on the Chinese in Chinatown. He claims that the Chinese lack a handle of strong faith, are weak, and both stealthy and secretive. Riis even goes so far to say that Chinese immigrants serve no useful purpose to the United States and therefore we “must make the best of them”. I was disgusted to read the utter amount of disrespect that he had for these Chinese immigrants. 

 It’s truly sad to see that these immigrants were treated differently all because they wanted new and better opportunities for themselves and their families. They shouldn’t have to deal with the alienation and rude insults from other citizens in the United States. To this day, a large percentage of the United States population refuses to accept immigrants. We ignore the fact that they are humans and are craving a better life. We are so quick to judge individuals who are not like us. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and equality. Although the general perspective on immigration has improved, I wonder when this concept will be accepted by all. The topic of immigration continues to be a touchy subject for the U.S. and I wonder how policy will change in the future.


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  1. Madeline Orr Madeline Orr

    I was also shocked while reading these chapters and how Riis really had nothing good to say about Italian or Chinese immigrants. He focused on the bad aspects that he sees from the outside without really knowing what they really do, think, or feel. I think your point is important about how we are so quick to judge people who are not like us is an issue that has existed among human beings for an extremely long time. It creates unfair biases and impressions that ignore any sort of positive attributes or characteristics that are really more important in the larger scale of life.

  2. Olivia Cosco Olivia Cosco

    Your point about how to this day, a lot of Americans still don’t accept immigrants. This also stuck out to me, and I like that you said they are just humans craving a better life, because we are all human and want the best for ourselves. It’s really upsetting that American still doesn’t treat immigrants with respect and equal treatment. It’s like what professor Bezio said in her podcast: “when will we look in the mirror and blame ourselves” for what we blame immigrants for.

  3. Olivia Cranshaw Olivia Cranshaw

    I also worry about the trajectory of immigration in this country especially depending on the future election and the effects of COVID on the perception of immigrants in the US. I wonder what our immigration system would be like if we enabled immigration rather than shut it down?

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