Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Liberty and Justice for All...Eventually

After our disappointing lunch at momofuku ssam bar, we ventured to Battery Park to board a ferry. Our lunch letdown dampened our spirits a bit, but we didn't allow the weather do the same.
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Unlike many people around us, we were prepared for intermittent precipitation.

And then we saw her.
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She was smaller than I'd remembered.

But just as beautiful and wondrous.
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The gray skies lent a degree of solemnity.

As the clouds parted, a new feeling emerged.
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Vibrancy. Hope. Opportunity.

In my romanticized mental version of history, this is what many immigrants felt as they saw the Statue of Liberty.

Our visit to Ellis Island, however, was educational and rather sobering.
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The horrors immigrants had to endure back then were really something.

Among other things, I reeducated myself about the Chinese Exclusion Act and various quota laws. Did you know that, between 1943 and 1965, our country only allowed 105 Chinese immigrants a year?
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Anti-miscegenation statutes also prohibited Chinese people from marrying whites up until 1948. Crazy, right?

And have you ever wondered how Asian-Americans became the "model minority"? I'll tell you my hypothesis.

The 1965 Immigration Act allowed seven categories of immigrants, one of which was professionals, scientists, and artists "of exceptional ability." If you're only letting in these folks, well, then your pool of Asian peeps is essentially the intellectual elite. And then, when these peeps procreate, their kids would be pretty bright, too, no?

Ok, maybe it's a stretch. But these are the weird things I ponder sometimes.

I appreciated that there were a few sections at Ellis Island devoted to Asian immigration issues, even though most Asian immigrants at that time came through San Francisco. Needless to say, I found these displays the most interesting because my public school textbooks glossed over all of this and focused predominantly on European immigration.

Stupid books.

Next: Awesome stadium, awful food.


  1. Great pictures, as always. I still can't believe this stuff all happened not too long ago. It's embarrassing.

  2. It's been years and years and years since I've been to the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island. And I don't even remember there being an Asian section at all. I wonder if it's new or I'm just super white and ignorant. I spent most of the time trying to find my peeps since we actually came through Ellis.

  3. I remember just seeing it from afar before. I wish I had taken that chance to venture out and get photos like this and visit Ellis Island. Great photos. I got the chills reading about the exhibit/museum.

  4. Yeah, I forget all the stuff I learned in Asian Am Studies classes but I'll never forget the scenes from The Godfather where the OG himself was at Ellis Island in a dingy yellow tank top looking sickly. After he escaped the mafioso that killed his mom and bro in cold blood. Remember that? No? Okay.

  5. That's why I've encountered Gosei (Fifth generation Japanese Americans) but rarely any Chinese Americans who have been around that long. Well, also because Japanese Americans were allowed by bring wives and children so they could procreate. The Chinese were a bachelor society for quite a long time.

    I remember the Asian American stuff being there during my last visit in 2001, but don't remember or maybe wasn't looking when I was there in 1991. That first visit, I got all the way up to Lady Liberty's crown. I don't think they let people up anymore?

  6. Those posters remind me of those dreadful Abercrombie shirts from a few years ago.

  7. lol - I was just going to say that about A&F!

    Love that first black and white shot of the Statue of Lib - really nice.

    I've never been to Ellis Island... cool post!

  8. Great photos of Lady Liberty, Rivers! The next time I'm in NYC, I'll be sure to hit up Ellis Island. I've always just looked on from afar in Battery Park, but it seems like I'm missing out.

  9. I'm sad to say I've never been to NYC and thus, never seen "her" in person. :( We really must remedy that soon.

    I read a book by Lisa See earlier this year, which was a fictional story that dealt with Chinese immigration through Angels Island. Many historical facts were included and it was very sobering. She also touched on the Chinese Exclusion Act and the impact that had on families both here and in China. I feel like I need to visit Angels Island the next time I'm in SF - another location where I've never been. :/

    Also, fabulous pictures!

  10. I think your photography keeps getting better and better. Great photos!

  11. You two are quite the tourists - Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island? I hope you brought your fanny packs.

    Last time I was at Ellis Island I think I was 8 but I found it very interesting. I was the little dorky girl who insisted on reading every sign because I'd read some books about immigration at school.

  12. First of all, you are really making me want to go to NYC! Second of all, if your hypothesis regarding Asian-Americans is not true, I have personally witnessed a cultural difference in work ethic and what is expected from children. Certainly a work ethic that more Americans should adopt. We are a lazy, lazy nation.

  13. Beautiful pictures and recap.

  14. i wonder if the French are pissed they gave Lady Liberty up.

    I think that your theory definitely holds water.

    Super cool post, WeeMo.

  15. P.S. I'm glad you took a photo of that quote from the Polish girl (maybe she's my ancestor!). See, we aren't all dumb!

  16. Beautiful photos! I've been to NYC a few times but never actually made the trek to Ellis Island... it sounds so interesting when you describe it, so next time I'm out there I might have to go.

  17. My father used to "commute" weekly to Battery Park City from Wisconsin when I was in high school. I love love love that area. Sadly his (our?) apartment was destroyed on 9/11, but it was two months after he "sold out" ("cashed in"?) and was on his way out of The City. NYC will always hold a special place in my heart. I LOVE IT!

    Fantastic photos of Lady Liberty.

  18. crazy stories, even crazier that it really wasn't all that long ago. :/

  19. Do they let people go up the Statue of Liberty anymore? I like the B&W photos. Very pretty.


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