The Origin of Asian and Chinese Gangs in
Chicago's Chinatown

by Hannah Kim
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Gang violence is not isolated in America alone nor is it isolated to one race or ethnicity. Gang violence is a prevalent problem in many, if not all, countries and also occurs just as violently. However, in America, there are hundreds of cultures living together simultaneously, and gangs that abide by their own cultural values; values that often clash with one another and also with law officials. Asian gangs have existed long in the past and still exist today, although they may be structured and run differently, they originated in the same ways many other gangs have: in social isolation. When thinking of gang violence, however, one usually pictures blacks, Hispanics, maybe even whites; Asians hardly appear to be a threat. However, Asians as well as Asian gangs have long been a part of American history and especially a part of Chicago’s. For my paper, I chose to delve into the topic of Asian gangs and most of what they encompass. I would like to focus the majority of my paper on the origin of Asian gangs in Chicago, and the earliest history of Asian gangs begins in Chinatown. I would like to cover the history of Chinatown and the people that first occupied the area, and also the two most notorious gangs that are known to have emerged from that area. Other topics I would like to discuss are the rackets that these gangs were and are involved with, the structure of gangs, where these gangs are today, second-generation gangs, and also why the police find the Asian community so difficult to deal with.

In early Chicago, the majority of Asians were comprised of Chinese. The Chinese were the first, in comparison to other Asian races, to have established their own visible community as well as begin gang activity in Chicago particularly Chinatown. It is impossible to simply discuss the origin of gangs from when they began in Chicago. The realization that there are many social, economic, and political factors as to why the Chinese emigrated from China to America is of great importance. They brought with them their people, traditions, and cultures; but also their gangs, the gangs’ values, and structure. The history is very important to discuss because it gives reason behind many of the gang cultures as well as the manner in which the Chinese deal with law officials and vice versa. The history of China spans over vast eras and decades of Dynasties; however, one particular event fueled the spark that made the Chinese consider leaving their homeland to start a new life in another. The first group of Chinese to immigrate to America was in the early 1900’s. Many left China due to the downfall of the powerful Ming Dynasty, overthrown by the Ch’ing Dynasty, which ruled the northern half of China and also made many attempts throughout their term to takeover the southern half (Potter 1). This did not only spark emigration to the states, but also had an adverse side affect: secret societies known as the Triad Societies, which I will discuss in much greater detail later in my paper. The Ch’ing Dynasty, ruled by the Manchurians, declare these Triad societies unlawful because they were originally formed to overthrow the government. After a period of time, Triads eventually evolved into one of the most notorious and violent Chinese gangs in China, America, and Chicago (Fuk 4). It was not long after the Ch’ing Dynasty when people began to immigrate to America, particularly in the west.


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