Once in a while, a fast food restaurant will create some interesting content for their customers to enjoy. Panda Express has created something that family historians with Chinese heritage may want to see. It is called “Originality” and it focuses on Chinese American creative thought leaders.
The full title of the Panda Express content is “This is American Chinese Originality”. It features seven creative thought leaders who are Americans with Chinese heritage. Each was interviewed and their stories were broken up and presented in pieces.
It is hard to say how long this content will be available on the Panda Express website. Sometimes, this type of project stays available forever, and other times it only lasts for a certain amount of time.
The Chinese American creative thought leaders who were interviewed for this project include:
* Andrea Cherng – Chief Marketing Officer, Panda Express
* Alvin Huang – AIA, Design Principal/Architect
* Jennifer 8 Lee – Author/Producer of “The Search for General Tso”
* Lisa Ling – Host of CNN’s “This is Life”
* Melvin March – TV/Film Producer
* Steven Wong – Artist and Curator of the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles
* Gene Luen Yang – Cartoonist
Steven Wong points out that early Chinese immigrants came into the United States starting in the 1850’s. He notes that there was a lot of discrimination against people of color and Asian immigrants through the 1950’s.
He reminds us that Chinese immigrants weren’t allowed to work outside of their own ethnic communities. They were only able to take certain kinds of jobs such as laundrymen, cooks, agricultural work, and factory work. Some worked in gold mines and to build railroads. Lisa Ling shares that her grandfather came to America in the 1940’s with an MBA in business, but was not allowed to work in business.
This situation is what led to so many Chinese immigrants opening up Chinese restaurants. They became entrepreneurs. Today, there are over 40,000 Chinese restaurants across the United States.
One of the people who shares their story in “Originality” mentions Paper sons. The Chinese American Museum states that in 1906, an earthquake and fire destroyed local public records. Many Chinese immigrants claimed to have been born in San Francisco. After gaining citizenship, a Chinese American would take several trips to China and report the birth of an offspring or two upon his return.
Sometimes, the sons that were reported didn’t actually exist. This created a “slot” that could be available for sale to boys in China who had no family relationships in the United States. They were a son “on paper only” – hence the term “paper son”. The Paper Son system was established in 1882 after the Chinese Exclusion Act went into affect.
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