Posted on September 30, 2021

A Century After Arson Decimated Its Chinatown, San Jose to Apologize for Past Racism and Injustices

Catherine Thorbecke, ABC News, September 23, 2021

Local lawmakers in San Jose, California, are expected to vote on a resolution next week that would apologize to Chinese immigrants and their descendants for the role the city played in “systemic and institutional racism” more than a hundred years after one of the city’s thriving Chinatowns was burned by arsonists.
San Jose was once home to five Chinatowns built up by immigrants arriving to the U.S. in the late 1800s, according to a memorandum posted to the city’s website that acknowledges the pain and unequal treatment suffered by these early Asian American communities.”These early Chinese immigrants were met with virulent, systematic racism, xenophobia and the violence of anti-Chinese forces from early on and were regularly denied equal protection before the law,” the memo states. “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.”{snip}The memo notes how one of the most well-known of San Jose’s Chinatowns succumbed to arson in 1887 after the city council at the time declared the site a public nuisance and ordered it removed to make way for the construction of a new city hall. {snip}


A draft of the resolution chronicles the contributions Chinese immigrants made to the local economy, as well as the violence and racism they faced {snip}

The resolution also acknowledges the still-persisting impacts of centuries of racist policy, stating, “the recent rise in anti-Asian violence and racial discrimination demonstrates that xenophobia remains deeply rooted in our society” and that “Asian-Americans are still considered perpetual foreigners.”

It calls for the story of Chinese immigrants “and the dehumanizing atrocities committed against them in the 19th and early 20th century” to not be purged from the city’s history.

“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,” it states.