Is SF Chinatown A Dinosaur?


Yoda, I can’t tell you how many times this happened to me early in my career. You think someone will do xyz, but they turn out doing abc or nothing at all.


Sounds like we share a lot of things in common. I agree with you that perhaps the “infrastructure” of Chinatown, compounded by rent control, makes it easy for some folks to just coast along and not improve and get better. No different from Section 8, where it would be quite easy to want to just stay mostly unemployed or working part-time since your rent is mostly paid for you. Why work harder and earn more to only see your gov’t subsidy reduced accordingly, right? I still say though that the vast majority of people who come through Chinatown eventually come out into the world and do fine (hopefully). And, let’s be honest, it is not like every building in Chinatown has clothes hanging out of windows. My understanding is that Chinatown proper is about 20 sq blocks so even though it is considered one of the most densely populated neighborhoods around, are we really talking about that much people? Not really. And let’s be honest, a lot of them are elderly. Sure, they may be replaced with younger folks who then coast or decide to better themselves and get out. I just happen to be the crazy one wanting to move back in to shake things up some.

One thing we haven’t mentioned, which is set in stone somewhat, is the presence of many government public housing buildings in Chinatown. They aren’t leaving even if prosperity rose all around them with the subway going online one day.


I think @aalj’s parents probably came to America in their 30s the latest. If they were to immigrate in their 40s or later they probably would’ve gotten stuck in Chinatown and became the type of people that @aalj is disgusted with… unless they’ve already made their fortune before they immigrated to America…


Honestly I think @aalj is too harsh on old people. How productive does he expect seniors to be? Most of them are probably enjoying retirement or taking care of their grandkids; definitely not trying to figure out how to adapt to the American culture and mingle with people outside of their ethnicity. Priorities are different at that age group. I see his point if he meant it towards the younger folks, but condemning old people for not trying hard enough is nonsensical.


They came here in their 30s - but as indicated, they went to the midwest and were forced to assimilate as there was no Chinese support network in the midwest like we have here in Chinatown in SF. I’m not pointing that out to indicate that I expect that others do the same — I’m pointing that out because there’s more than one immigrant path into the USA ---- the immigration experience of the Chinese is not just solely limited to the Chinatown experience.

That really is the issue that I have with Chinatown — Chinatown was created 100+ years ago as a response the way the USA was back then — the USA was so racist that there really wasn’t any way to really “make it” unless an inward-oriented ethnic enclave was created.

These days, one doesn’t need an inward-oriented ethnic enclave anymore to survive. However, folks still cling to the inward-orientation of Chinatown and find a way to combat change as some kind of “threat” to their ethnic identity. I find that argument to be disingenuous and entitled. And, I think it reflects poorly on Chinese immigrants as whole.


Personally, I love Chinatown the way it is. It essentially has come full circle. What was deemed to be a ghetto if you want to call it that, to keep Chinese down, well, it is thriving and a middle finger to outsiders. Yeah, we here and we ain’t moving!!! Love it and I want in!!! Anybody want my 4/4 Sunset corner house? Cheap…


Honestly I think @aalj is too harsh on old people. How productive does he expect seniors to be? Most of them are probably enjoying retirement or taking care of their grandkids; definitely not trying to figure out how to adapt to the American culture and mingle with people outside of their ethnicity. Priorities are different at that age group. I see his point if he meant it towards the younger folks, but condemning old people for not trying hard enough is nonsensical.

Well the discussion really isn’t about old people - my observations are about a group of people (many who live in Chinatown) who are inward oriented, refuse to adapt to American society, and then feel entitled to protect their place here by wrapping their arguments in ethnic identity.

The fact that many of them are old then begs 2 questions -

  1. How is it that they have lived here so many years – enough years to get old, and yet have not adapted to American society at all? This is supposed to be a melting pot, not a salad bowl.


  1. If they came here to the USA when they are already old ---- then why is the USA allowing this kind of immigration to take place? How does their existence here benefit the USA?

These are unpopular observations, particularly here on the liberal west coast, but I find them worthy of discussion.


I’m a big supporter of the BLM movement — structural racism against Blacks in this country is everywhere. As an American, I do not wish to generalize Black people as “violent and running around vandalizing” I find the insinuation that all Black people do that to be unsavory, and not inline with the general principle of the USA being a melting pot.


Not sure if you ever saw my personal comments in the past when Asians, especially Chinese, did something heinous like commit serial killings, etc. I personally feel utter embarrassment that a Chinese person did it. I take it real personally.

One thing I would like African American folks really do is, sit down,and have a frank discussion about what their people are doing out there. Stop asking for handouts. Asians especially Chinese were picked on and put down yet fought through and even though we sometimes still feel like 2nd citizens we do at least have done well for ourselves over the years. Hey, I have said this before: if they won’t open the door for you, you go buy the freaking house that that door belongs to!!! Don’t cry about how The Man is always putting you down. Do something about it. Let’s be honest, a lot of these incidents happened when African Americans were in the process of committing crimes for the most part. Yes, if someone was literally walking down the street and a cop shoots him for absolutely no reason that is a crime that should be fully punished. One of my classmates from Lowell was sent in to Ferguson when it went down. I am simply tired of people not willing to take responsibility for the actions of their own people. Parents need to be there to teach their kids the right and wrong ways to do things. Not let them be on the streets at 2am when bad things happen.


Thanks for sharing your experiences. I 100% agree with the embarrassment that you feel when someone else from the Chinese-American community does something horribly wrong to society – I also take it personally.

I don’t really want to debate Black/Chinese-American race relations here though, unless there’s a separate forum for that. My personal opinion is that the Chinese-American community - in SF particularly - are super biased against the Black community. The “if we can suck it up then why can’t you?” argument. I feel this argument is a fallacy and neglects the (worse) experience that Blacks have had in this country — and then falls into the trap of “the man” conquering minorities by pitting them against each other. Anyways, I didn’t always feel that much empathy towards the Black community — it took a family marriage into a Black family, and then 20 years of integrating into that family — for me to feel this way.


I am sorry, respect and empathy is earned. No one gets a hall pass in my book. Why can’t I simply go with my own family tree experiences, where my ancestors came with nothing, and with only blood and sweat made it somewhat happen here in America? If we can do it, why can’t everyone else? And frankly, when crime is being perpetrated by the same people, well, what do you expect people to do or think?


The same construct that allows for stereotypes being applied to the Black community (crime, laziness) I find can equally be used to allow for stereotypes against the Chinese-American community to fester (inscrutability, perpetual-otherness, greediness, dirty, not-true-Americans, etc.).

Of course there is always some truth to stereotypes, which is why those stereotypes exist!

And that’s why I believe SF Chinatown is a dinosaur and needs to change. I wish for those stereotypes to be dispelled — and I posit that the way to start is to promote integration with the rest of US society.


I think you would agree that Chinatown (SF) on the grand stage is not exactly a big ticket item for real scrutiny, is it? Despite what it is to you, I could easily argue that Chinatown actually provided the launching pad for folks to get a footing to then take off outside. Too many people, many posters here, have originated from there or grew up there and have succeeded in life and became integrated with the rest of the world. Besides, I would hate for SF to lose a tourist attraction and resort to crap like this in San Jose to bring people in…



That’s kind of hyprocritical of you, wouldn’t you say? You support black people stuck in their enclaves in Ferguson, but you don’t support Chinese people stuck in their enclave in Chinatown. The fact that you are ethnically Chinese makes that 10 times worse. At least black people support their own race.

And the fact that you are trying to accuse me of insinuating that all black people are “violent and vandalizing” is just absurd and shows very poor judgement on your part. If you looked at my original statement I was only referring to the people who rioted at Ferguson. I firmly believe there are many black people who are non-violent and great contributors to society.


Black supports black unconditionally.

Hispanics supports Hispanics strongly.

White supports white secretly.

Asian fights other Asians publicly?

Is this a fair stereotype?


Not a fair stereotype. There are many Asians who support other Asians (such as me). There are people like @aalj in every race… he only happens to be Asian.


Well I think you have probably misinterpreted what the BLM movement is supposed to represent. The BLM movement is about protesting structural inequality and structural racism. It has nothing to do with supporting people stuck in enclaves.

And my beef with Chinatown has nothing to do with supporting people or not supporting people — it has to do with a prevailing attitude that seemingly celebrates a refusal to integrate with US society and wraps it with an ethnic argument.

BTW - there are more effective ways for presenting a discussion than calling someone a race traitor.


There are also more effective ways for presenting a discussion than calling someone a racist.


Hah! :slight_smile:
Well, frankly, I think the different communities have different tolerance levels for one of their own calling out collective bad behavior. Like the “our sh*t doesn’t stink” syndrome.

You know, really this isn’t an ethnic conversation. At the heart of it is a discussion about class ---- but we like to conflate it with ethnicity. One of the fundamental issues with American society is that class discussion are verboten — Class is “not supposed to exist” in the States, as opposed to say, the UK.


Okay. When you typed “So, as a Chinese person I fully support the entitlement attitude of the Chinatowners!!! At least they are not violent and running around vandalizing… :rofl:” I read that as a generalization of Black people, and I found that to be distasteful.

That’s not what you meant, so I stand corrected. Gotcha.