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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Defining the Chinese other : White supremacy, schooling and social structure in British Columbia before 1923 Stanley, Timothy John


During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, racism, in the form of white supremacy, shaped relations between whites and Chinese British Columbians. In resisting and accommodating to white supremacy, the Chinese were active participants, along with the members of the dominant society, in shaping these relations. White supremacy was consequently a dynamic system, one whose many parts were continually in flux, and whose central constructs—notions of "race" and British Columbia as "a White Man's province"—were largely political in nature. The thesis argues that white supremacy, as both ideology and organization, was deeply imbedded in British Columbia society. Exclusion based on "race" was incorporated into government institutions as they were remade at Confederation in an effort to enhance the power of white male property-owners. By the early twentieth century, ideological constructs of "the Chinaman" and "the Oriental" were used as foils in the creation of identities as "whites" and as "Canadians." The official public school curriculum transmitted these notions, while schools themselves organized supremacy in practice by imposing racial segregation on many Chinese students. In reaction, the Chinese created their own institutions and ideologies. While these institutions often had continuities with the culture of South China, the place of origin of most B.C. Chinese, they were primarily adaptations to the conditions of British Columbia, including the realities of racism. Chinese language schools played an especially important role in helping to create a Chinese merchant public separate from the dominant society. This public was at once the consequence of exclusion and the greatest community resource in resisting white supremacy. The study concludes by questioning the workability of contemporary anti-racist strategies which treat racism as a marginal phenomenon, or as merely a set of mistaken ideas. Instead, it suggests that such strategies must recognize that racism is one of the major structures of Canadian society.

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