Chinese migrants in California faced discrimination, violence, and forced expulsion from their homes on many occasions beginning in the mid-19th century. One historian’s account found almost 200 “roundups,” in which Chinese were pushed out of jobs, homes, and cities by those who resented the competition for jobs or mining spoils, or simply didn’t like Chinese people.* A lot of people are not around to hear the state of California apologize.
On July 17, the California legislature quietly approved a landmark bill to apologize to the state’s Chinese-American community for racist laws enacted as far back as the mid–19th century Gold Rush, which attracted about 25,000 Chinese from 1849 to 1852. The laws, some of which were not repealed until the 1940s, barred Chinese from owning land or property, marrying whites, working in the public sector and testifying against whites in court. The new bill also recognizes the contributions Chinese immigrants have made to the state, particularly their work on the Transcontinental Railroad.
The website of Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), who sponsored the measure, reports that Gov. Schwarzenegger approved the apology measure on July 20. And Fong’s efforts are not to stop in California. Liu writes that Fong will seek a U.S. Congressional resolution apologizing for the Chinese Exclusion Act.
* Pfaelzer, Jean. Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans. New York: Random House, 2007. p. xxv.