Transcontinental train has another untold story

As the Alameda Sun accurately reported, (“Transcontinental Train Arrived 150 Years Ago,” Sept. 5) Friday, Sept. 6, marked the 150th anniversary of “a train with Leland Stanford aboard” rolling into what became the City of Alameda.

Five months prior to his arrival in Alameda, Stanford drove the “Last Spike” or the “Golden Spike” of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869. The photo of this historic event is famous for several reasons, the principal one being it recorded one giant step in U.S. expansionism as justified by Manifest Destiny.

It is equally infamous because no Chinese laborers are depicted in the photo, despite the fact that the Chinese worked the hardest, were assigned the most dangerous job of blasting and were paid the least.
As if to say that Chinese labor was no longer appreciated nor required, lackluster President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act on May 6, 1882, with the concurrence of both chambers of Congress. The act was not totally eradicated until the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

The spirit of the Exclusion Act presently reverberates in the admissions policies of East Coast Ivy League schools, most notably, Harvard, and also on the West Coast, ironically at Stanford University — the school indirectly built on Chinese labor.

An attempt to reactivate Affirmative Action within the U.C. System was marginally thwarted in 2016. Affirmative Action at any school only negatively or adversely impacts Asian students, who for cultural reasons that must remain unmentioned, exceed all other ethnicities in academic performance and are, in my opinion, demographically over-represented at every U.C.


Jeffrey R Smith

Editor’s note: To learn about the transcontiental railroad from the Chinese perspective, we recommend reading The Ghosts of Gold Mountain by Gordon Chang.