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Posted inRemember When

How anti-Asian racism proved deadly at the 19th century Hercules dynamite plant

Today’s ultra-heated political rhetoric, particularly regarding the coronavirus pandemic, has resulted in increasingly overt expressions of racism, and outright physical violence, toward the Bay Area’s Asian American community in the last two years. While the recent increase in these attacks has been making headlines, a more insidious form of anti-Asian prejudice has been embedded in the fabric of Bay Area political and economic systems since the 19th century. As the new state of California became industrialized in the late 1800s, factories depended on Chinese laborers — who often lived in subpar housing — to do the most dangerous jobs. To the white men in power, their lives were considered disposable. Hercules, today an East Bay suburb of about 25,000 people on the shores of San Pablo Bay, was no exception.