Macaulay Honors College Seminar 2, IDC 3001H

Author: Ban Chung

The Work Ethics

On early Wednesday morning when I was walking to Baruch College from the 6 train subway station, I saw many New Yorkers lining up to buy Halal food. The most noticeable Halal cart, however, was located right near the entrance of the 6 train subway station, and immediately after leaving the station I laid my eyes on that cart. However, I’ve also noticed recently that there would be a morning Halal cart that would serve breakfast to New Yorkers, such as bread and coffee. I have been eating at Halal carts for as long as I can ever remember, and I’ve always thought that the Halal cooks and workers only sell their food during lunch time and dinner time because they would use the early morning to prepare the ingredients and check over the functionality of the cart. However, now that I see these Halal cooks and workers begin to sell breakfast I begin to really appreciate the work ethics of these immigrants. In order to earn more money to support themselves and their families, they’re willing to work all the busiest times of the day. From then I thought that the entire Halal cart project is very meaningful, because it not only educates us about the New York City and its people, but it also somehow makes us realize that owner and operating a food cart/restaurant isn’t as easy as it seems.

The Middle

On Monday Professor Rosenberg brought up a quote that appeared in Nancy Foner’s famous book From Ellis Island to JFK: New York’s two great waves of immigration: New York City is increasingly becoming “hollow in the middle”. I found this quote to be quite interesting, because it clearly contradicts with what I’ve previously learned. New York City’s middle class was gradually becoming smaller and smaller as the economy was recovering.

The middle class first made its appearance during the Industrial Revolution, which was a transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy, and manufacturing processes were facilitated by technology and machines. As a result of this Revolution America’s economy was increasingly expanding and becoming better. The middle class included people that had “white-collar” jobs, such as lawyers, doctors, bank clerks and shopkeepers. Some middle-class individuals even contributed to the expansion of the economy by buying and constructing factories for manufacturing goods/products.

It’s really interesting how the things are so different in the two eras. I’ve learned that during the Industrial Revolution, as the economy was improving and more and more jobs were created thanks to the advancement of technologies; the middle class was unrelentingly thriving. Yet, in the 20th century when the economy was recovering and improving, the same middle class was becoming more and more “hollow”. Many jobs were also created thanks to the advancement of technology in the 20th century. For instance, Foner claimed that many jobs that had never existed before were created, such as computer programming. Both epochs certainly share many similarities, notably the economic improvement and technological advancement, yet the middle class of the industrial era was thriving and the middle class of the contemporary era is dwindling.

The Controversial Question

On Monday Professor Rosenberg discussed certain controversial issues regarding how the immigrants were viewed by the natives in America, and one of these issues was the crime and drug brought over by them. I would like to say that while it may be true that the immigrants brought crime and drug with them to America upon their arrivals, the natives were also responsible for the spread of these iniquities. One example would be the Chinese immigrants’ arrival in the late 19th century. At the time the native-born Americans were blaming the Chinese for the increase in corruptions in the society, including the adoption of gambling and opium practices. However, the native-born Americans also indulged themselves in these corrupting activities. According to Rachel G. Shuen’s honor thesis “The Abomination of Mankind”: Anti-Chinese Sentiment and the Borders of Belonging in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Chinatown, the congregation of Chinese immigrants, was “painted as a place of vice: opium smoking and prostitutions; immorality; gambling and joss houses; and mystery”. Many native-born Americans, as it turned out, were “patrons of [these] operations of vice”. In short, it would be wrong to place the entire blame on the Chinese immigrants, as the native-born Americans were also “supporters” of these immoralities as well.

I think that the native-born Americans should not “judge a book by its cover”, and instead conduct a more profound analysis by looking at the surrounding social factors and conditions which played a role in the immigrants’ infamy. In this specific case, the native-born Americans, while criticizing the Chinese immigrants for the corruptions they had brought about, were also simultaneously endorsing these corruptions. Since these corruptions were brought over by the Chinese to their land, the native-born Americans would naturally frown upon the Chinese immigrants’ negative influence, and refuse to castigate the other native-born Americans for their indulgence in these corruptions. Thus, the prevailing “hypocrisy” played a larger role than the immoralities and corruptions in branding the immigrants as a negative influence in the American society.


Sources consulted: Shuen, Rachel G. “The Abomination of Mankind”: Anti-Chinese Sentiment and the Borders of Belonging in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Honors Thesis, Wellesley College, 2012. Web. 8 Mar. 2017