City of San Jose to issue formal apology for historical racism against Chinese, destruction of Chinatown

San Jose will apologize to Chinese people

Lawmakers in San Jose, Calif. are expected to pass a resolution on Tuesday apologizing for the city’s role in racism, xenophobia and arson that targeted the Chinese community during the late 1800s.

The apology: Led by Councilman Raul Peralez, local lawmakers will address Chinese immigrants and their descendants as they vote on the resolution at the city council meeting on Sept. 28, according to ABC7 News.

  • It’s appropriate that every generation, we do this,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said. “That we remember this. Because tragically, these lessons are lost from one generation to another. And even more tragically, history does repeat itself.”
  • According to ABC News, the resolution states: “The City must acknowledge and take responsibility for the legacy of discrimination against early Chinese immigrants as part of our collective consciousness that helps contribute to the current surge in anti-Asian and Pacific Islander hate.”
  • A special ceremony will be held on Wednesday at the Circle of Palms Plaza in Downtown San Jose, where Gerrye Wong of the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project and other prominent members of the community are expected to attend to acknowledge and accept the city’s apology.
  • The apology recognizes the hardships and struggles of our ancestors by the Chinese Exclusion Act which deprived Chinese naturalization to U.S. citizenship, inciting cities to drive out the Chinese by outlaw violence or legal methods,” Connie Young Yu, the author of “Chinatown, San Jose, USA,” told ABC News.
  • We need to also recognize that accountability helps to heal these wounds,” Evan Low, the youngest Asian American legislator ever elected to the California State Assembly in 2014, said.

No formal accountability: While a plaque that acknowledges the past atrocities in the city was set up in 1987 on the Fairmont Hotel, a memorandum released on Sept. 13 said “there has been no formal accountability” for San Jose’s anti-Chinese policies that led to the arson.

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  • Fairmont Hotel sits on top of the Second Market Street Chinatown that burned down in 1887, KQED reported. Although there were no recorded casualties from the attack, many members of the Chinese community were displaced.

Other details: About 24,000 Chinese immigrants arrived in California between 1849 and 1853. There were an estimated 64,000 Chinese in the country by 1870. However, the early immigrants were met with systematic racism, xenophobia and violence.

  • In addition to federal legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, City policies, resolutions, and other actions of the City of San José and the City Council directly contributed to the xenophobic discrimination and racial violence faced by Chinese immigrants,” the memo read in part.
  • San Jose had five Chinatowns, including the first Market Street Chinatown (1866-1870), the Vine Street Chinatown (1870-1872), the Second Market Street Chinatown (1872-1887), the Woolen Mills Chinatown (1887-1902) and Heinlenville (1887-1931).
  • Antioch, Calif., also offered an official apology to the Chinese community in May for the city’s racist and xenophobic past, which once saw an angry mob of white residents driving out Chinese immigrants from the city.

Featured Image via History San Jose

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