The reporter of an Atlantic Cities story has backtracked on an offensive article about San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Responding to criticism from a blog posted on AsAmNews earlier today, report John Metcalfe wrote “I somehow missed the all-important context explaining why this map was made in the first place, for which AsAmNews is justifiably ripping me a new one.”
The map he is referring to is from 1885 and was produced for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors with the intent of whipping up anti-Chinese hysteria.
The map listed brothels, opium dens and gambling houses scattered throughout Chinatown. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 made it impossible for Chinese immigrants to bring their wives and family, and the walls of racism made it difficult for Chinese to leave Chinatown for entertainment.
The red light district character of Chinatown at the time sprang up to fill the void of entertainment facing a largely bachelor society.
Cara, an Atlantic Cities reader responding to the original article wrote: “I would have liked more context from the Virtual Museum, or just some thoughtful writing on what the density, land uses, and restricted opportunities meant for residents then, and how they’ve shifted to shape Chinatown today.”
Whimsical wrote: “There’s nothing “cool” about the sorts of exploitation that defined much of the immigrant experience for many in San Francisco’s Chinatown for generations… Nothing cool about that, just a lot of misery as desperate people pulled themselves up by their bootstraps in a world in which few options for survival existed.”
While I am pleased Metcalf is now acknowledging the lack of context in his article, and that Atlantic Cities changed the article’s headline, it is unfortunate the article was corrected by merely writing a note at the end of his article, instead of changing the article altogether.
It would have been much better if more of the historical context had been sprinkled throughout the article instead of just acknowledging it was missing.