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Pacific Rim Report No. 39, June 2006
Beyond Gump’s: The Unfolding Asian Identity of San Francisco

by Kevin Starr


This issue of Pacific Rim Report records the Kiriyama Distinguished Lecture in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the University of San Francisco delivered by Kevin Starr on October 24, 2005 on USF’s Lone Mountain campus.

Kevin Starr was born in San Francisco in 1962, He served two years as lieutenant in a tank battalion in Germany. Upon release from the service, Starr entered Harvard University where he took his M.A. degree in 1965 and his Ph.D. in 1969 in American Literature. He also holds a Master of Library Science degree from UC Berkeley and has done post-doctoral work at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Starr has served as Allston Burr Senior Tutor in Eliot House at Harvard, executive assistant to the Mayor of San Francisco, the City Librarian of San Francisco, a daily columnist for the
San Francisco Examiner, and a contributing editor to the Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times.

The author of numerous newspaper and magazine articles, Starr has written and/or edited fourteen books, six of which are part of his America and the California Dream series. His writing has won him a Guggenheim Fellowship, membership in the Society of American Historians, and the Gold Medal of the Commonwealth Club of California. His most recent book is Coast of Dreams: California on the Edge, 1990-2003 published by Alfred A. Knopf.

Starr is the California State Librarian Emeritus.

We gratefully acknowledge The Kiriyama Chair for Pacific Rim Studies at the USF Center for the Pacific Rim for underwriting the publication of this issue of
Pacific Rim Report.

I would like to speak this evening about San Francisco and Asia. By San Francisco, I mean both the city and its extended metropolitan region, the Bay Area. By Asia, I mean to suggest the entire Asia Pacific region.

If only indirectly, this city was founded by Spain within an Asia Pacific Basin context. One cannot understand the history of Spain in the New World—specifically the vice-royalty of New Spain headquartered in Mexico City—without reference to the Asia Pacific Basin. Indeed, it can be claimed that the fundamental dynamic of New Spain was its drive towards, then across, the Pacific Ocean: the evocation of California as an island in a far-flung ocean in Ordóñez de Montalvo’s 1510 prose romance Las Sergas de Esplandián; the discovery of the Pacific Ocean itself by Vasco Núñez de Balboa in 1513; the crossing of the Pacific by Magellan in 1520-1521; the push westward to the Baja Peninsula in 1532; the reconnaissance up the California coast by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542; and then, astonishingly, the crossing of the Pacific to the Philippines by Miguel López de Legazpi in 1564, followed by the first Manila galleon across the Pacific from the Philippines to Mexico in 1565.

As myth-makers, then, as explorers and settlers, as imperial entrepreneurs, the Spanish can even be said to have been obsessed by the Pacific: a Pacific, we must always remember, linked from earliest times to the California coast because the voyages of the Manila galleons were so long (more than 200 days) and so dangerous (scurvy, dysentery, beriberi, vermin, shipboard accidents, even lightening), Spaniards were ever on the lookout for a port on the Alta California coast, especially after 1584 when a galleon commanded by Francisco de Gali discovered that the best way to get from the Philippines to New Spain was to follow the Japanese current westward, head directly toward the coast of Alta California off Cape Mendocino, then sail down the coast of California (Alta and Baja) and round Cape San Lucas to Acapulco. From the mid-1580s onward, Pedro de Moya y Contreras, Viceroy of New Spain and Archbishop of Mexico, had as his goal the discovery of a port on the coast of Alta California where the Manila galleons could land before continuing south. In November 1595, the Portuguese merchant adventurer Sebastian Ródriquez Cermeño, sailing on behalf of the viceroy, almost found such a port when, following the usual horrible voyage across the Pacific, he anchored his San Agustín in the same bay where the Golden Hinde of Francis Drake had found safe harbor in 1579. Cermeño named the harbor the Bay of San Francisco. Today, we call it Drake’s Bay. Cermeño missed the great bay itself, and to add insult to injury, a sudden storm drove the San Agustín aground at Point Reyes, scattering its treasure on the shore.

For the next 180 years, Spain would continue to sail past the fog-shrouded Golden Gate, as it later came to be called. Sebastian Vizcaíno sailed past it in early 1603. Not until August 1775 did the Spaniards at long last sail into San Francisco Bay, under the command of Juan de Ayala; and even then the civilian settlement that eventually formed on the San Francisco peninsula was not given civic status by Mexico until the mid-1830s.
Here, then, is a paradox. Spain embraced the Pacific, crossed the Pacific, explored the Pacific, but for various reasons could never fully establish a civil settlement on the Pacific in Alta California to anchor its Pacific aspirations on the north coast of its New World empire. From the beginning, San Francisco was delayed, delayed, delayed in its Asia Pacific identity. At the deepest point of its identity, this was a city that had been first envisioned—even before its exact site was discovered—as a Pacific Basin capital, the exit and entry port for the Manila trade, but this goal could somehow never be achieved by either Spain or Mexico. This failure, however, does not mean that the Pacific Basin was not energizing the Bay Area from the very beginning of the Spanish and English presence in the Pacific, however delayed the actual founding of the City of San Francisco might be. Pacific Basin energies can even be said to have been stored in this region awaiting the patterning and release of urbanism that came during the American era.

And it came swiftly! The Bay of San Francisco—if not yet the city—was very much on the minds of the French, the Russians, and the English as they began to stake their claims in the South Pacific and look to the North Pacific, starting in the late 18th century. In 1541 Comte Eugène Duflot De Mofras, exploring the possibilities of establishing a new French colony, a Louisiana on the Pacific, stood on the shores of San Francisco Bay and, extending his arms with Gallic panache, rhapsodized as to the great city that would one day arise on the shores of this harbor, in which all the navies of the world might find anchor. One might very well write the entire history of the American acquisition of California in terms of the Asia Pacific impulse of the United States, whether in reference to the New England trade with China, the New England-based whaling industry, the hide and tallow trade with California by such New England-based companies as Bryant & Sturgis, one of whose employees, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., would upon his return to Massachusetts in 1840 write a best-seller, Two Years Before the Mast, calling for the Americanization of the California coast. No wonder that, a few short years later, the Reverend Timothy Dwight Hunt of the First Congregational Church in the newly established city of San Francisco would be telling his parishioners that it was their destiny to transform their state into the Massachusetts of the Pacific, with San Francisco serving as a second Boston.

When Commodore Matthew Perry sailed his four ships into Tokyo Bay in July 1853, he brought a letter with him from President Millard Fillmore suggesting to the Emperor and Shogun that now that California was a state, the United States had entered the community of Asia Pacific nations and was hence anxious to open dialogue with Japan. A delegation of Japanese envoys arrived in San Francisco in the early 1860s, en route to Washington to open formal negotiations with the American government. Within the decade, steam-sail ships were crossing the Pacific between San Francisco and Yokahama twice monthly. Mark Twain took one of them and wrote about it in Innocents Abroad (1869), and so did the Army captain played by Tom Cruise in the film The Last Samurai (2003), whose depiction of Nob Hill by night in the year 1876, with a recently invented cable car climbing up California Street, briefly but brilliantly suggest the rapidly achieved urbanism of San Francisco: a city long delayed in its foundation but, once founded, pushing forward, as the contemporary historian Hubert Howe Bancroft phrased it, into a rapid, monstrous maturity: a maturity already inextricably bound up with Asia Pacific peoples, commerce, and cultural concerns.

Chinese workers, among other things, had entered California through San Francisco by the thousands, brought to California by Charles Crocker, construction manager of the Big Four, to achieve an epic of construction engineering, the Trans-Sierran Railroad, comparable to the Great Wall of China itself. By the mid-1870s two San Franciscans—Anson C. Burlingame and Benjamin Parke Avery—had served as United States minister to the Chinese Empire. Avery, a journalist and essayist—editor of the San Francisco Bulletin and the Overland Monthly magazine—had written numerous articles suggesting the importance of San Francisco’s Asia Pacific connection. The San Francisco-based poet Charles Warren Stoddard, meanwhile, was exploring the South Pacific, and writing about it in his South Sea Idylls, published in 1873. Stoddard would later introduce the temporary San Franciscan Robert Louis Stevenson to the South Pacific as a place to live and write.

Like the rest of the nation, San Francisco found itself attracted to the aesthetics of China and Japan, starting with the success of the Japanese Pavilion at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 and the introduction of Japanese colors, techniques, and motifs into American painting by James MacNeil Whistler, William Merritt Chase, and other artists of the era. San Francisco painter Theodore Wores spent practically the entire decade of the 1890s in Japan, paintings its places and people, and was decorated by the Japanese government for his efforts. The president of the newly established Stanford University, meanwhile, David Starr Jordan, an ardent Japanophile, traveled from Palo Alto to Japan in 1900 and 1911, making a special effort to recruit Japanese students. Thanks to Jordan’s efforts, Stanford ranked second only to Harvard as the university of choice for Meiji-era students eager to sharpen their professional and technical skills. Ever since the American acquisition of the Philippines, Jordan had been outspoken in his evocation of the United States as an Asia Pacific power with the San Francisco Bay Area, including Palo Alto, as its Asia Pacific capital. In October 1905, Jordan joined San Mateo attorney Henry Pike Bowie to form the Japan Society of Northern California, which launched a busy schedule of lectures, exhibitions, study-travels, and other cultural activities.

As of now, I know what you are thinking. What about the exclusion of Chinese immigrants from the courts, you are asking, or the anti-Chinese rallies of Dennis Kearny during the 1870s, or the two Oriental Exclusion Acts of the 1880s, cutting off Asian immigration? How do such attitudes square with the esthetic and commercial appreciation of the Asia Pacific Basin by San Franciscans also so evident in this period?

The talented geologist Clarence King, a graduate of the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale, saw such contradictions in terms of class. The upper classes of San Francisco, indeed of all California, King was arguing in The Atlantic Monthly by the early 1870s, were not those persecuting the Chinese; indeed, the upper classes, King argued, tended to create symbiotic relationships with the Chinese retainers whom they brought into their family circle as household help. The anti-Chinese agitation of California, King argued, came from the embattled working classes, who saw the Chinese as economic competitors: a condition that was only intensified after the publication of King’s essays in book form in 1873 as Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada.

Yet if that were the case, how do we explain the virulent anti-Japanese attitudes of upper-class professionals in the Progressive era, including the virulence of James Duval Phelan, who in so many other respects was such an admirable figure? A certain kind of San Franciscan, in short, starting perhaps in 1900 when the United States formally declared Hawaii a territory and hence incorporated en bloc its large resident Japanese population, saw the Japanese—now approaching the 100,000 mark between Hawaii and California—as a threat to the American way of life. In 1905 San Francisco ordered its Japanese students into segregated public schools, precipitating a diplomatic crisis between the United States and Japan. The Alien Land Act of 1913 prohibited non-citizen issei residents from owning property in the state.

The complexities of racial animosity are difficult to disentangle and analyze; and one approaches this topic only reluctantly in such a figure as James Duval Phelan—a graduate of this university, a mayor of this city, one of the founders of its Hetch Hetchy system, a United States senator, a patron of art and culture. We are likewise baffled by similar attitudes in San Franciscan Hiram Johnson, the first Progressive governor of California in this period, or the San Francisco novelist Peter B. Kyne. Should we merely chalk such attitudes up to Original Sin, or to various psychological and/or social pathologies, or to mere questions of economic competition; or was there something else involved as well: a fear, that is, of the Asia Pacific nature of San Francisco on the part of Progressives such as Phelan who perhaps understood the inevitable—namely, that San Francisco had within its DNA code a compelling Asia Pacific destiny—but were unwilling to accept that fact because of a cultural bias? For Phelan, the paradigm for San Francisco was the Mediterranean civilizations of Europe. At Montalvo, his ex-urban retreat in Saratoga, Phelan created a theme park of Mediterranean architecture and landscaping, which he considered suggestive of the best possibilities for California. Did Phelan perhaps understand at some subliminal level the competitive coherence and strength of Japanese culture in particular and Asian culture in general? And did he also understand—and fear—in the same subliminal way San Francisco’s foundational relationship to these cultures and other Asia Pacific cultures as well? And did he consider what he understood to be a threat, even an affront, of his daydream of California as a neo-Mediterranean littoral, a reprise of southern Catholic Europe? Or am I pushing it, stretching it too far, trying to find some level of cultural significance in Phelan’s disdain and the disdain of so many of his fellow Progressives for the peoples and cultures of Japan?

Paradoxes abound from this period, 1890 forward, the era in which San Francisco began to take itself seriously, self-consciously, as an Asia Pacific city, meaning, of course, an Anglo-American imperial capital on the Asia Pacific Basin, if we are to judge from the speeches of the period, from the historical scholarship of Henry Morse Stephens of UC Berkeley, the pro-Japanese program of David Starr Jordan, the integration of the San Francisco economy with the economies of Australia, Hawaii, China, Japan, and the Philippines. And how are we to integrate the anti-Orientalism of Phelan and others in the Progressive period with the simultaneous strength of Asian aesthetics in, among other things, the architecture of Bernard Maybeck and the other architects of the Bay Region style, together with the popularity of Asian art, especially the art and furniture of China and Japan?

Which brings us to Gump’s. Founded in the mid-1860s by Solomon Gump, a German-Jewish immigrant, the son of a cultured Heidelberg linen merchant, Gump’s—first in a small shop on Clay and Leidesdorf, later on Sansome, still later on Post Street—had played a major role across the decades in informing the taste of the high provincial city and evolving its signature style. Solomon Gump brought art to a city emerging from its first frontier phase into provincial self-consciousness. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the store began to specialize in Asian furniture, jewelry, and object d’art. By the 1920s a distinctive style of blended European and Asian furniture and art characterized upscale interior design in San Francisco. Gump’s longtime owner and chief executive, Abraham Livingston Gump, was a learned connoisseur with a specialty in jade. Even Edmund Wilson, who in general refused to be taken in by San Francisco during his 1947 visit, found in Gump’s store a wonderland of exquisite objects.

The mere mention of Gump’s launches us into the 1940s, for this signature style, this preference for an interface of Asian and European aesthetics, so suggestive of deeper San Francisco realities, persisted through the 1920s and 1930s. San Francisco strengthened and expanded its Asia Pacific connections through such enterprises as the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company (its president Roger Lapham would eventually become the mayor of the city), the trans-Pacific freight and passenger traffic of the Dollar and Matson lines, the trans-Pacific flights of the Pan-Am Clippers, the Asian spice import trade of Schilling and company, the Asia Pacific import-export business of Wilbur-Ellis, the overseas banking operations of the Bank of America. The Second World War only increased the awareness of San Franciscans that their city was an Asia Pacific depot as more than a million servicemen and women departed from and—not all of them, however—returned to this city as part of their Pacific service.

The highpoint of this awareness was the effort of San Francisco to become the permanent home of the United Nations, founded in this city toward the conclusion of the war. During the proceedings that led to the formation of the United Nations, elite San Francisco experienced the thrill of socially supporting people and events of world importance. The public buildings and private places of San Francisco and its environs in these heady weeks of UN formation buzzed with the excitement of momentous event. In the aftermath of this euphoria, the San Francisco establishment made every effort to win the UN to San Francisco as its permanent headquarters. Longtime Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham, the grandson of Mayor Roger Lapham who led this effort, once told me that he personally believes that the failure to win the UN away from New York City, where the Rockefellers had donated a dramatic site, represented a turning point—more, a crisis—in the unfolding identity of this city. And the crisis was more than what could be written about in the society pages. The crisis was a crisis of leveraging San Francisco as a fulfillment of its best idea of itself, which is to say, a city of global significance. The San Francisco establishment, Lapham argued, never fully recovered from this blow to its self-esteem, especially given the fact that it had always been so internationally oriented as was evident in its flourishing World Affairs Council, the proceedings of its Commonwealth Club, and the multiplicities of overseas Asia business being orchestrated from its downtown.

In the 1980s, this dream, this metaphor, of San Francisco resurfaced when developer Walter Shorenstein and others began to call for the development of the Presidio, relinquished by the Army, into an international center for Asia-oriented research and conferences, stimulated, in part, by the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation, the universities of the region, foundations and corporations, all of them cooperating to transform San Francisco into the Geneva of the Pacific, which is to say, the crossroads of the Asia Pacific Basin.

For the time being at least, that Geneva of the Pacific has failed to materialize, despite the fact that the City and County of San Francisco expanded its international airport terminals to world-class capacity. The dominant enterprise of the Presidio is today the enterprises swirling around George Lucas and digital entertainment, not the comings and goings of Asian diplomats and business men and women or the flourishing of an Asian Pacific-oriented think tank, with the conspicuous exception—not in the Presidio!—of the University of San Francisco’s Center for the Pacific Rim and its Ricci Institute, which, together with The Asia Foundation, constitutes the cutting edge of such inquiry in the city these days.

Not that Anglo San Francisco lost its interest in Asian aesthetics. Far from it. Which brings us back to Gump’s. In 1947, Abraham Livingston Gump—who along with actor-retailer Ching Wah Lee of Chinatown was the most learned Asian connoisseur of his generation in San Francisco—passed on, and the store came under the ownership and management of his son Richard Gump, forty-two, who soon revealed himself as an enthusiastic citizen of Baghdad by the Bay sprung from the loins of high provincial San Francisco. An accomplished Orientalist like his father, Richard Gump’s monograph Jade – Stone of Heaven, earned him the respect of experts in his field. Like his father, Richard Gump kept his store as a museum of Asian art and a destination-clearinghouse for people throughout the world interested in the field as either collectors or academics. Whereas Abraham Livingston Gump was cautious and conservative, however, and oriented toward the sale of individual objects at impressive prices, Richard Gump was convinced—and this made him a leading citizen of Baghdad—as he wrote in Good Taste Costs No More (1951), that an entire generation of postwar Americans was eager to improve its taste and lifestyle and that Gump’s could play a role in this evolution through catalog sales as well as San Francisco-based retail. Commissioning agents to fan throughout Asia in search of art and furniture, Gump projected through his books, store, and catalogs an image of Baghdad San Francisco as a city of taste, catering to a worldwide clientele. Throughout the 1950s, the State Department put Gump’s on its must-see list for visiting dignitaries. Asian art collector Avery Brundage, president of the International Olympic Games Committee, who would eventually present his collection to San Francisco for an Asian Art Museum, was a frequent visitor. The splendid Asian Art Museum of San Francisco is a direct result, then, of an aesthetic and imaginative legacy characteristic of this city that goes back to the 19th century and was intricately interwoven with numerous business and personal connections across the past century.

As important as art and interior design are, however, as signs of an Asian orientation in this city, they cannot in and of themselves bear the full burden of civic destiny. From this perspective, San Francisco is in a situation of moving beyond Gump’s: of moving beyond, that is, an aesthetic and intellectual appreciation of Asian civilization by various elites, as important as such appreciation is for the cultural life of the city, to a more humanly-based, demographically based, re-creation of San Francisco as an Asian-American capital in terms of its people and economy.

By implication during the Spanish and Mexican eras, when it hardly existed, and overtly since the American era, San Francisco has been destined to be an Asian Pacific city of one sort or another. The argument can be made that the Asian Pacific connection of San Francisco was in its first 100 years imperial, economic, and aesthetic, with the peoples of Asia playing a secondary, even tertiary and frequently suppressed role. No one would argue that this is the condition of San Francisco today. The reform of American immigration law in the mid-1960s has populated San Francisco not only with the art and restaurants of Asia, or its ghettoized populations, but with the full spectrum of Asian peoples, investment, and talent.

San Francisco has become the most Asian-American city in the nation, where, as Vietnamese-American writer Andrew Lam was pointing out by August 2001, one in three residents of the city had an Asian face. By 2017, or even earlier, San Francisco would become the first major city in the nation to have an Asian majority. “The Far East has come very near San Francisco,” Lam wrote, “and is beginning to subvert the age-old black-white dialogue about identity and race, in fusing it with an even more complex model, one informed by a transpacific sensibility.” Non-Asian architects and interior designers in San Francisco, Lam noted, “were careful to master feng shui, the Chinese art of spatial arrangement. HMOs accepted acupuncture as legitimate therapy, and, Vietnamese fish sauce was being stocked on Aisle Three at Safeway.”

Already, the Chinese-American community, which accounted for 60 percent of all Asians living in San Francisco, was exercising decisive political clout. No one was riding the wave of this influence more successfully than the Fang family. Arriving in San Francisco from Taiwan in 1960, John Ta Chuan and Florence Fang initially supported themselves as publishers of a newspaper supported by Taiwan’s then-ruling party, the Kuomintang. Expanding into job printing and the restaurant business, the Fangs created a business and publishing empire that included, among other properties, AsianWeek magazine and a chain of free community-oriented independent newspapers. Then Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr., and other political connections helped the Fangs obtain from the Hearst Corporation a sweetheart deal when the Corporation, purchasing the San Francisco Chronicle for some $660 million, literally gave the Examiner to the Fangs, together with a three-year $66 million subsidy. Hearst considered it worth its while to make such a donation, since the Justice Department saw such a move as the only fair way it could extract itself from a joint operating agreement entered into in 1965 that had allowed the Chronicle and the Examiner to combine facilities, even their Sunday edition, exempt from anti-trust laws so long as the editorial pages maintained their distinctive identities. Political consultant Clint Reilly tried to prevent the acquisition of the Examiner by the Fangs but lost his case in federal court, despite the skeptical attitude of federal judge Vaughn Walker, who heard the case without a jury. Even if the Examiner failed to make it as a newspaper, the Fangs stood to make, at minimum, $10 million in exit subsidies.
All this added to the glamour and colorfulness of San Francisco as an Asian-American city. The Fangs, it had to be remembered, had bested the Hearst Corporation, whose founder, William Randolph Hearst, had been tireless in his campaign against the so-called "Yellow Peril" abroad and the growing presence of Asians on the home front. Matriarch Florence Fang (her husband had passed away in 1992) explicitly described the acquisition of the Examiner from Hearst as an ironic payback for decades of anti-Asian prejudice.

How all this boded for the civic spirit of San Francisco only time could tell. Could it be expected, it might legitimately be asked, for the overwhelmingly immigrant Asian-American community of San Francisco to blossom forth, suddenly and gloriously, into a coherent and civic-minded force concerned for the welfare and identity of a city that had so recently kept them in their place? Critics who claimed that the Asian-American community lacked philanthropic spirit, however, had to deal with the fact that Seoul-born Korean-American businessman Chong Moon Lee, founder and chairman of Diamond Multimedia, a leading manufacturer of graphics and accelerator cards for personal computer systems, had donated the $15 million it was taking to move the Asian Art Museum from Golden Gate Park to a reconverted San Francisco Public Library building on the Civic Center. Thanks to the generosity of this university professor turned entrepreneur, San Francisco would now, at long last, enjoy a proper site for its Avery Brundage Collection, the single finest comprehensive collection of Asian art in the nation.

By this time, San Francisco had become the leading Asian-American city in America. Thanks to its sponsor, Southwest Airlines, the colorful Chinese New Year’s parade organized each year by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce was being enjoyed by millions on television. Chinese-Americans had long since been serving on the board of supervisors. Fred Lau, followed by St. Rose and USF graduate Heather Fong, was Chief of Police. Schoolyards were teeming with Asian-American children. Public high schools, including the rigorously academic Lowell High School, and the private high schools of the city as well, were sending generations of Asian-American students on to colleges and universities. When state regulation of insurance collapsed in California, due to the shenanigans of the elected insurance commissioner, who soon resigned, Governor Gray Davis turned to a prominent Chinese-American from San Francisco, retired Court of Appeal Judge Harry Low, to straighten out the mess.

It is this human matrix, in short, that is taking us beyond Gump’s, Asian and non-Asian alike. My friend Richard Rodríguez, a San Franciscan, tells us that we are becoming more like each other. Asians are becoming Americanized and Euro-Americans are becoming more Asianized, and Asian-Americans and Euro-Americans are becoming more Hispanicized, and Hispanic Americans are becoming more Anglicized and Asianized. Some kind of fusion culture awaits us, although we cannot understand fully the process. No matter: as Marshall McLuhan tells us, once you are aware of your environment, it is no longer your environment. For the sake of this talk only, I have not underscored the difficulties involved in creating such a future: the conflicts, competitions, misunderstandings, even, God forbid, the hostilities and racism characteristic of our fallen human condition.

But I prefer, just for the sake of this talk, to keep in mind the more hopeful possibilities that await us beyond Gump’s. For a hundred years, we have been employing each other, doing business with each other, absorbing each other’s art and architecture, eating each other’s food. (What would our beloved Jewish community of San Francisco do, one can legitimately ask, if the Chinese restaurants of San Francisco were unavailable on Sunday evening?) And yes, we have also been exploiting, each other suppressing each other, misunderstanding each other as well. But if the Spanish had a dream of a great Asia Pacific port on the California coast, and Anglo-Americans dreamt of San Francisco as an entrepot of Asia Pacific trade, and civic leaders of a later era envisioned the city as the Geneva of the Pacific, none of these dreams could become real, or morally valid, unless they were truly anchored in all the peoples of the city, in their physical, social, and cultural selves. No Euro-American nor any Hispanic American or African-American need fear the Asian demographics of this city, provided that we continue, in Richard Rodríguez’s phrase, to become more like each other: to achieve connections of sympathetic tolerance, that is, and not only tolerance but knowledge and respect of each other’s cultures. White America has long since learned to internalize – in speech, music, humor, and something called soul – its African-American heritage. All of California is today experiencing a transformative interface of peoples and civilizations—Hispanic, Asian, African-American, Pacific Islander, you name it –- that is so powerful and profound, so all-encompassing, that – to refer to Marshall McLuhan’s adage—we are almost incapable of being aware of it. This encounter has differing orientations and shadings across the state. In Los Angeles, for example, the encounter with Mexico predominates. In San Francisco, I believe, it is the Asian connection that is dominating and will continue to dominate the interaction, as San Francisco moves beyond Gump’s.

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