I came across this image while looking up something else. I couldn’t find the name of a photographer for it, though some say it is likely a hotel in Stockton, California, in and around 1930. Though I had read about such signs, especially in the great Carlos Bulosan book America is in the Heart, I hadn’t seen one before.
There is something visceral and powerful about this image. How dark it is. How well-used the door, floor, and walls look. It doesn’t appear to be a place of wealth; rather, it is a place on the margins of American economic security and who gets counted as belonging.
Basketball is a huge sport in the Philippines. In trying to figure out how that happened, I came across this image in the archives University of Michigan Library Digital Collections, which includes lots of images from the early interactions of the US in the Philippines.
First published: Sunday, October 7, 2007, in the Albany Times Union
As President Bush tries to shape his legacy in regards to the Iraq war, he should pick up David Silbey’s engaging history “A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902” (Hill and Wang; 272 pages; $26).
Though both were wars of choice, the details are quite different. Still, the generalizations that can be gleaned from Silbey’s account are eerily familiar: a quick and stunning conventional military victory turns into longer-than-expected guerrilla warfare; a failure by the United States to understand its enemy; a sense of racial superiority that enflames troops and politicians in Washington; and a native population whose loyalties seemed to change depending on the time of day.