(PDF) [Fit to Be Citizens? Public Health and Race in Los Angeles 1879 1939]
Molina s book is a close look at health policies in California in the arly 20th century but also ways of looking at institutionalized the The Facial Nerve early 20th century but also ways of looking at institutionalized as it becomesnacted through public health policies In this moment of Surgery for Cochlear and Other Auditory Implants emerging scientific authority around concepts of disease and germ theory the scapegoating of immigrants first Chinese then Mexicans and Japanese meant the production of racialized geographies and pathologizing ofntire population groups first along uncertainties of hygiene and presumptions of deviant behavior then along public logics of threats of contagion and overpopulation Those logics allow Molina to look at these public health policies as ways of attempting to survey and contain racialized bodies along numerous perceptions of danger her reading of the threat of women s bodies in infant and maternal health issues is Uncommon Leadership: How to Build Competitive Advantage by Thinking Differently especially strong as it connects both to general indices of poverty infant mortality rates and national anxieties around white supremacy ie race suicide The book could have benefited from a deeper reading of the logics of Western geography as made for white people a subject Molina only briefly touches on It would alos have been interesting to see if there were any records that would facilitate a discussion of how the various immigrant groups of Los Angeles sawach other were they all ually targeted in ach other s yes or did one group struggle than another when being policed for hygiene and health Natalia Molina s Fit to Be Citizens Public Health and Race in Los Angeles 1879 1939 traces the connection between the rise of public health policies in Los Angeles and their connection to the racialization of immigrant groups including the Chinese and Japanese but most specially Mexicans Molina argues that the history of public health in Los Angeles demonstrates how race demarcates the boundaries of social membership By systematically associating dirt disease and disorder with immigrant status late nineteenth and arly twentieth century city and county public health officials redefined citizenship in racialized and medicalized terms Specifically Molina contends that by xamining public health as a site of racialization we will see how public health workers at the local level contributed to the construction of racial categories Molina shows how public health in Los Angeles came to affect national perceptions of and responses to non white citizens and residentsFor a detailed look at Molina s argument click the spoiler sectionview spoilerMolina organizes her argument in largely chronological terms in five chapters showing in tandem the growth of the office of public health in Los Angeles and its impact on immigrant and minority populations being first the Chinese and then the Japanese and lastly MexicansMexican Americans In the first chapter Molina argues that as a fledgling institution public health in Los Angeles had a dual mission promoting and preserving the biological health of the citizens and promoting and preserving the conomic and cultural health of the city This latter mission however resulted in officials seeking to preserve the dominance of white citizens and casting policies aimed to deliver crushing blows to Chinese competitors particularly launderers The shared vision for white officials of a rapidly growing Los Angeles xcluded thnic populations and city ordinances helped sustain segregation in business community Public health policies contributed to Chinese discrimination labelling the Chinese as disease carriers who could never become Because the board of health members were doctors and health xperts who had approval by the mayor the public viewed their actions as motivated objectively by science though fears of yellow peril xplain their motivations purely Chinese were smeared as unhygienic disease carriers and Chinatown s filth was blamed on its residents yet conditions were in actuality beyond Chinese control the unfinished city sewage line nded and Wish You Were Here: An Essential Guide to Your Favorite Music Scenes—from Punk to Indie and Everything in Between emptied there the Chinese did not own the buildings it was absentee landlords who did not upkeep the properties the Chinese had no legal recourse to address concerns and nowherelse to go in the city and structural improvements bypassed them In a case of blaming the victim the Chinese were held responsible for the unfortunate conditions which were the only options available to them In a blatant attempt to cripple Chinese launderers city zoning laws targ. Meticulously researched and beautifully written Fit to Be Citizens demonstrates how both science and public health shaped the meaning of race in the The Day Christ Was Born early twentieth century Through a carefulxamination of the xperiences of Mexican Japanese and Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles Natalia Molina illustrates the many ways local health officials used complexly constructed concerns about public health to demean diminish discipline and ultimately define racial groups She shows how the racialization. .
Uthorities viewed Chinese Japanese and Mexican communities as dirty rotten and diseased Using the fallacy of scientific objectivity city authorities and public health officials attributed the very real health problems that these communities faced to biological deficiencies and cultural practices Rather than addressing the severe racial disparity in public health services and sanitary infrastructure which caused pidemics to occur the city simply further discriminated against these communities and sought ultimately to racially cleanse the city of LA as demonstrated by the xplicit reuest of the city s public health officer to the city council to radicate Chinatown Molina goes on to argue that public health officials also acted as gatekeepers who were And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake effectively given the power to determine who had the right to citizenship and full civicngagement Using the language of health and cleanliness public health departments had the power to decide who could Trickle Down Tyranny: Crushing Obama's Dream of the Socialist States of America enter public schools who couldstablish businesses and ultimately who was American Informed by deeply racialized health and hygiene norms public health officials thereby nforced their own measures of Americanness and acted as the gatekeepers to the body politic Further in a national context of shifting and solidifying racial boundaries public health officials played an important role in defining race Molina notes that in the industrial cities of the East and Midwest public health programs played a role in Americanizing and whitening European migrant populations by nforcing American hygiene norms and cleansing The Color of Our Sky ethnic communities contributing to the consolidation of what came to be known as the Caucasian race However in the far west racial boundaries were blurred and Molina argues that Mexican and Asian migrants did not fitasily into the increasingly dichotomized racial hierarchy By determining social membership public health officials played a key role in defining racial boundaries in cities like LA and defining what it meant to be American in the west Molina argues tangentially that the people of LA thus saw race differently to the rest of the nation While ideas of race dichotomized into a blackwhite divide across the country in Los Angeles the racial order was actually further graded and a broader racial hierarchy developed much like the arlier conception of European racial hierarchies of Slavs Celts tc In the pilogue to her book Molina offers perhaps her most interesting point framing racialized public health discourse as a precedent for the later New Deal policies of the HOLC and the resultant redlining which would serve to ntrench and bolster segregation and systemic racism in the urban space creating racial disparities which severely limited conomic and SOCIAL OPPORTUNITY AND WHOSE LEGACY CONTINUES opportunity and whose legacy continues plague non white populations today This situates the topic of public health as an important chapter in the long and unfinished story of racism in the United States marking it as a key tool of discrimination Molina contributes not only to the history of public health but to the history of racialization and the construction of race in the United States By looking at how race and public health were mobilized to fit the needs of society ie the initial assimilation fforts directed at Mexican populations when the city needed cheap labor followed by the later racist ugenic policies that sought to limit their reproduction once that need had been satisfied and xploring how these populations xecuted agency mobilized ideas of race and the language of public health their own advantage she highlights the fallacy of racial thinking and the constructed nature of race through a lens that widens the discourse beyond the traditional whitenon white dichotomy This book xamines the intersection of public health and racial formation in Los Angeles from the 1880s 1939 Great Depression It is an important book for anyone interested in science studies and fits well with Nayan Shah s Contagious Divides The book takes a comparative approach including discussions of Japanese Chinese and Mexican Americans I wish it had discussed Filipino All Roads Lead Home experiences The bookxamines the ways in which Public Health institutions understood and racialized diseases how these understandings and applications changed over time the ffect of these discourses and interventions on Latino and Asian communities and in the final chapter the way Mex. L positions of Asian Americans African Americans and whites Its rich archival grounding provides a valuable history of public health in Los Angeles living conditions among Mexican immigrants and the ways in which regional racial categories influence national laws and practices Molina’s compelling study advances our understanding of the complexity of racial politics attesting that racism is not static and that different groups can occupy different places in the racial order at different time.