Back in 2009, I had blogged about how the state of California apologized for its role in the Chinese Exclusion Acts. On Monday, the House of Representatives, lead by California Congresswoman Judy Chu (the first Chinese American woman ever elected into the House of Representatives) officially passed House Resolution 683 – “Expressing the regret of the House of Representatives for the passage of laws that adversely affected the Chinese in the United States, including the Chinese Exclusion Act.”
For those of you who have forgotten your history, here’s a brief reminder:
“Between 1879 and 1904, Congress passed a number of laws targeting Chinese immigrants, including the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, signed by President Arthur. It barred Chinese laborers from entering the country for a decade (and later extended) and denied U.S. citizenship to Chinese immigrants already here. The law was repealed in 1943 after China became a U.S. ally in World War II.”
I imagine a Senate version will eventually pass. I think the main thing holding back this resolution (as well as the Senate version) since May of 2011 was ensuring that there were no reparations.
Of course, this resolution is primarily symbolic. But I think it is important for any nation to recognize its own past misdeeds, especially when they violate the very spirit of the founding of the nation. The Chinese Exclusion Acts were the only laws ever passed by the United States preventing immigration and naturalization to one specific race or people – and were only repealed when China asked for them to be repealed when the U.S. was seeking an official alliance to fight the Japanese in World War II.
Asian Americans consist of approximately 6% of the U.S. population, with Chinese Americans representing the largest portion of that population. I can only imagine what America would look like today had the Chinese Exclusion Acts not been passed. I think one can say for certain that there would be more Asian Americans today, and we would be considered more “mainstream” and less of the “perpetual foreigner” and being asked “Where are you from?” is truly an innocent question, with no follow-up’s of “Where are you really from?”