Tue, 24 May 2022

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"An apology is not enough unless it's met with real action and budget solutions that will truly benefit the community," says Justin Hoover, executive director of the Chinese Historical Society of America.

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- San Francisco is expected to become the next U.S. city to formally apologize for past atrocities against the Chinese community, following Antioch, San Jose and Los Angeles, as more and more cities are reflecting on the country's racist history.

Unanimously, the resolution to apologize to Chinese immigrants and their descendants, introduced by Supervisor Matt Haney last year, passed at the Budget and Finance committee on Wednesday.

"The Chinese community in San Francisco has a deep and rich history but we have to acknowledge the harmful wrongs that our city has committed against this community," said Haney at a hearing of the Budget and Finance Committee.

"Although many of these injustices occurred long ago, it's clear this discrimination continues to happen today. This apology and commitment to budget investments will not erase what has been done, but is a necessary step for us to address the continued violence and discrimination that the Chinese community is still experiencing," he said.

The resolution was written in partnership with former students from the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), who brought the resolution to Haney's attention.

Many of the policies outlined in the resolution sought to undermine the progress of Chinese immigrants by banning them from schools and the levers of power. For example, in 1860, California's Education Code prohibited Asian students from attending public schools with white students; in 1870, the SFUSD closed the Chinese schools without providing any public school alternatives for Chinese students.

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Additionally, the 1870 Consolidation Act barred anyone of Chinese descent to be employed in the state, county, municipal governments, or other public work, except as a punishment for crime.

These laws prevented the integration of Chinese people in the San Francisco community despite their many contributions, said the resolution.

"The Chinese community has a deep history in San Francisco. Additionally, today we are over 23 percent of the city's population. San Francisco must issue an apology for historical wrongdoings in order to make progress in solving the critical problems of discrimination and racism facing America today," said Dennis Casey Wu, one of the three students who initiated the efforts for the resolution, at Wednesday's hearing.

"I know some people are going to say that an official apology is a fairly performative activism, but personally, I feel an apology would be notable as it would be an important step in advocating social justice and equity," he said.

Other supervisors, including Gordon Mar and Connie Chan, also spoke at the hearing in support of the resolution. "Today's resolution is a positive step in addressing generations of wrongdoings, stemming back to the Chinese Exclusion Act that found its roots in restricting Chinese immigration here in California," said Chan.

However, to begin healing from these wrongs, the city needs to commit to funding and investing in the community, she said.

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Similarly, Justin Hoover, executive director of the Chinese Historical Society of America, said the city has to commit to future budget investments. "An apology is not enough unless it's met with real action and budget solutions that will truly benefit the community," he said.

The Chinese Apology resolution will be voted on by the full Board of Supervisors next week, followed by budget hearings to occur in the upcoming months at the Budget Appropriations Committee to finalize budget investments for the Asian American community.

This legislation follows similar actions taken by the cities of Antioch, San Jose and Los Angeles, which have all passed similar resolutions last year. These apologies come at a time of increased hate and violence against people of Asian descent in the country.

During the period from March 2020 to September 2021, Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition aimed at addressing anti-Asian discrimination, received a total of 10,370 reports of hate incidents against Asian Americans across the United States. Its latest data show one in five Asian Americans have experienced a hate incident in the past year.

The public acknowledgment of the dark history of systemic racism against Chinese immigrants is "timely" as the nation is called upon to curb the wave of hate speech and violence against Asian Americans, said Mar.

"Facing our past mistakes head-on" is an important step towards "healing, safety and justice," he added.

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