In 1882, the US passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, declaring a ten-year ban on labor immigration from China. It was the first major US law to limit immigration, and a marker of the anti-Chinese racism that permeated the American West.
For decades before and after the Exclusion Act, Chinese Americans fought back against violence, roundups, and pogroms in California and other western states—a resistance movement that included California’s earliest workers’ strikes and the largest act of mass civil disobedience to this day, as Jean Pfaelzer shows in Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans. The Chinese Exclusion Act stayed in place until December 17, 1943, when Congress officially repealed it.
In 2009 the state of California apologized for the decades of state-sponsored discrimination against Chinese Americans, and established December 17 as an official Day of Inclusion. In a two-part series in The Globalist, titled “Equality Is Never Having to Say You Are Sorry”, Pfaelzer examines this and other government efforts to atone for the past, and questions whether apologies are enough.
Read Part I and Part II of Jean Pfaelzer’s “Equality Is Never Having to Say You Are Sorry” on The Globalist website.