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The little Indian sewer crawled little rusty Eskimo little Turk our Japanese. Oh don't you wish that you were me for the longest time we think the United States of America is only for Western European and now would begin to see that we are going to survive in this country we must be what we are. Little black or red or brown or yellow child of Chinatown. Oh don't you wish. An American is not a white person it is any person who. Gives his allegiance to this form of democracy.
But. Don't you wish that you were me. Let me say this. If you were to be funny if you had like a dog and bark like a dog or if you were an alligator it would be funny if you acted like a cat. You know. We have to be ourselves you know that. And when we are you know we feel so good. We are the other people. A Wisconsin School of the Earth series produced by W.H. a radio a service of University of Wisconsin Extension. I am a creative person. I have. Painted. Pictures and I still am a painter. I'm also an actor. I used to be on stage and
sometimes now I'm on television as an actor. And and I write short stories. And I find it being a creative person. One cannot deny any part of himself. I cannot look into the mirror and say I'm a white person and pass as a white person I am what I am I was born of Chinese parents. I have. Been influenced. Of very much by the television media by them by watching movies by looking at magazines by being in in all the school in the schools but the fact is when I look in the mirror I have Chinese features and. In my formative period. I was with. All Chinese people and therefore I. Begin to realize that as a creative person I must. Be proud of where I came from.
I grew up in the garment factory I'm speaking only of the time my mother worked in a factory when I was a baby and a small boy. You know I heard a brother American speaks through his writings and in his own voice of self-discovery and self acceptance. Program title. What a miracle. Garment factory in Chinatown in early thirties my mother tied me to her back and sewed sister was in early grade school father away and working a constant drum of sewing machines. The chatter of Cantonese rolling and rumbling from somewhere through Stockton Street near the tunnel stop screeching in ding ding off again to somewhere not trying to tell me that the cable car straining uphill and the sewing machine stopped I would wake up and cry when I was walking I played with the owners. Boy. He had a harmonica and a Chinese drum.
I had nothing it seems. Then on sunny days I would play outside on the sidewalk by the corner where the cable cars come uphill in the street car rumbled to and fro. No balls or throwing objects. There are always the WHO streets of Chinatown which so many toys are lost forever. Goodbye red ball. Once only once. The gentle wind blew by. I chased after it slipped by my fingers and sailed onto the pavement. The Thistle came to rest in a crack. And from the way out crawled a black dog with the leg doing what. When I was in grammar school my parents would say. In the United States is not a place for you. The white people. Treat is all very badly. So.
When you go to school and you learn all you can but you're all going to go back to China. Because that's really our country. The white people won is here. And. As a little boy I. Begin to be afraid. Of the white world. You know we all lived in Chinatown and everything around us was Chinese the language was Chinese the faces were all Chinese. The food was Chinese but because of the law in the United States we all had to go to school in a like all of you kids have to go to school every day. We had to go to school. It was the law you have to go to school to English school every day so. I was always frightened to go to English grammar school because that's where the white teacher was that I learned to be afraid of. That the principal was what swayed the janitor. And they didn't help very much to make things any easier because. In
those days it was part of. The scene part of the social scene for the white teachers to say to Chinese kids we want you to learn the English language we don't want you to speak Chinese You United States now you shouldn't speak Chinese. And you you must learn the American way of life which means that you must. Try to be as white as possible that is Western European as possible. But when we were when home that our folks would say we want you to be Chinese you know. And of course you know a child listens. The old folks were constantly trying to make that child a Chinese. They tried to force us to go to a Chinese school tried to force us to speak Chinese to read Chinese learn Chinese manners toward the elders Chinese manners toward one another. Everything Chinese the older people they were always talking about going back home
all the time. When we go back to China we'll have this and we'll have that. There won't be any more discrimination and all that and they would be very vocal about praising the Chinese culture. They would refer to the white person as the red haired or red beard man or white devil. Everybody would always be some kind of devil and always with an inferior culture. Chinese oranges were always better than American oranges. Chinese eggs were always better. Everything was always better. The Chinese invented paper and we invented this and we invented them. The Chinese first came to this country in 1850. The reason they came here. Was suddenly. Near to San Francisco near the port of San Francisco. Gold was discovered.
And the news that went around the world not just throughout the United States was a goal was discovered the size of big rocks straight from the ground you could pick them up you know well around that time 1850 things were going very badly in China. It was economic depression it was social upheavals. There were civil wars. So then in 1850 the Chinese decided that they would come here to get rich in some fast way because their idea in coming to the United States was not to settle. Was not to come here with wives and to raise children and eventually become citizens of the United States. The Chinese had no intentions of having anything to do with with the with the with the United States and the white culture except to come here and make money and to return to China with as much money as possible as fast as possible. Then that's why when they came here they kept their own language they kept their own
culture. They had their own food. They had their own little sedum ones wherever they lived. When the Chinese first came to this country. They were accepted. Very well. Because even though they were kind of where that is they had different kind of. Faces than what people used in this country the language was different their. Customs were different. They were very clean efficient orderly people you know they didn't break the law. But it soon became apparent that they were very they were. Extremely good workers. The Chinese became such efficient workers children said to be such efficient workers that they threaten the livelihood of many other immigrants. And what happened was that. Did begin to be resentment that people would say well we better stop them from coming in because they going to take all our jobs away. And they were just too good. And so what happened was that the
laws were beginning to be made to limit the number of Chinese region coming into this country in falling age and 80 to laws were passed called the Chinese Exclusion Act which prevented the Chinese from coming in at all and the only way they could come in was illegally and the Chinese found ways of doing that with false papers. So after a while half of the people in the United States. Which Chinese had come in illegally. And what happens then in order to protect themselves they. Came into. Little China towns in which everybody protected each other. The city idea was not to come in here illegally in the stay forever they just wanted to come here and make enough money and go back to China. But what it means. Can you imagine as a. Town within the town all of Chinese half of whom come in illegally.
They would be had to be many things secret they would have to keep from people in so. Especially the children would have to be kept in order. You know we we were taught not never to ask too many questions. We see things around as which weren't quite right but we were told Woods is just for a little while we just our parents would constantly say we're just going to be here for a little while we just make enough money and will all go back to China. You know my father my mother all of us Jews. So we were all immigrants in those days no matter where we were or. Between the Chinese and the English education we had no idea where we were but it was very very hard to grow up. White teachers say You must learn the American way of life. Little red are black or brown yellow child in Chinatown.
Our folks say we want you to be Chinese. Don't you wish that you were me. Truth. You must. Try to be as white as possible. Like. The. Chinese. Like. Chinese. Like me me the way they do it this. White. White. Official. I chased after. This teenager began to see that it wasn't quite right to be constantly talking can see American culture. You know the American way of life and so I left and went away to college. But actually in my mind I had left China before.
In 1949 the communists took over in China. And the Chinese who had come over to the nine states were not the kind that looked upon communism favorably. Therefore the Chinese who were here found that they could not return to China. Wouldn't they couldn't live under the communist regime. This was just not their way of living. And so what happens then. Stranded here. They suddenly. Were left in a state of confusion. They never intended to stay and now they have to. So slowly they begin to make changes. But the thing is that in the minds of the parents. There was great confusion. They never prepared themselves to stay in this country and suddenly they have to and they don't know what to do about it. And they don't know how to teach to children you know. How to. It's not that they don't want to have the children have a happy time growing up
they just don't know what to do about it. Even now as a grown up. Some of the things that I learned when I was a child remains with me. I've been grown up now for something like 20 years. In my first year in college I nearly had a nervous breakdown because I certainly was in the place with hardly anyone Chinese and really had to think this thing over and suddenly begin to realize well now it's safe it's all right even though your parents tell you you know that not to trust the white man. Things are beginning to change now. I had to teach myself. I remember one day I was at the conference in which we stayed for two three days you know and with other people at the kitchen doing it was our time to wash dishes and prepared them the tables for the meals for the people. And one of the girls says well right Victor I want you to take all the silverware and set the table. I went out with all the silverware
ready to put it down and I suddenly realized that I do not know how to set a table. I didn't know where to put the fork with put the spoon with the put the knife. Parents use chopsticks at home or a porcelain spoon or a one we used tonight fork and spoon just instead of we just laid it down on the table and ate. I remember many times recently I would be in a room full of all white people and I would suddenly have a feeling of terror inside and I had to just calm myself it's all right it's all right you know it's all right. It's going to be all right and of course it was but then I was taught for so long a time as a child to you know be. Fraid of the white people suspicious of them that I had to retrain myself over and over.
Finally in recent years. I have begun to realize that I really can't find a place as a human being by just constantly knocking Chinese. So in a very deliberate way I have decided to come back into the Chinese culture. The china town of today is a New Chinatown. There's a lot of confusion because. This. Secret seething that came from having to enter this country legally because of a kind of behavior kind of way of living that has lasted for a hundred years or suddenly or the laws of change. But people don't change that fast so they're still this reluctant to speak to a white man and is reluctant to leave China Town this reluctant to be open. But things are beginning to change now. Many of us who have graduated from college have come back beginning to teach to
people you know that. We can now join and become American. And to be an American simply means someone who pledges allegiance to this to the United States of America. He can be of any kind of dissent. But the funny thing is that after I consented to return to the culture. I felt much better as a person. And much easier to live with. Much more quiet inside myself since I returned. The this. Interesting. Much more quiet inside myself since I returned. For the white hairs are called a black box. Quickly don't do a what. Mirror. What America will.
Wisconsin school of the air
We are the other people
What a miracle!
Producing Organization
WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Contributing Organization
Wisconsin Public Radio (Madison, Wisconsin)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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"The series WE ARE THE OTHER PEOPLE provides a basis for classroom discussions of what it is like to live with minority status in our society. Programs are constructed from taped interviews. In 'What a Miracle' a young man describes growing up in Chinatown."--1973 Peabody Awards entry form.
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Content provided from the media collection of Wisconsin Public Broadcasting, a service of the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board. All rights reserved by the particular owner of content provided. For more information, please contact 1-800-422-9707
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Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
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Wisconsin Public Radio
Identifier: WPR1.14.74.1972.10_MA2 (WPR)
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:19:45
Wisconsin Public Radio
Identifier: watop_10 (Filename)
Format: audio/wav
Duration: 00:19:45
Wisconsin Public Radio
Identifier: WPR1.14.74.1972.10_MA1 (WPR)
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:19:45
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: 73006edr-arch (Peabody Object Identifier)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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Chicago: “10; Wisconsin school of the air; We are the other people; What a miracle!,” 1972-04-20, Wisconsin Public Radio, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “10; Wisconsin school of the air; We are the other people; What a miracle!.” 1972-04-20. Wisconsin Public Radio, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: 10; Wisconsin school of the air; We are the other people; What a miracle!. Boston, MA: Wisconsin Public Radio, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from