Much work has kept me away from blogging this May, but I couldn’t let this month come to a close without acknowledging that this is Asian/Pacific American Heritage month! Jenn Fang at Race in America typed up 10 facts you may not know about Asian American history.
1). The first Asians whose arrival in America was documented were Filipinos who escaped a Spanish galleon in 1763. They formed the first Asian-American settlement in U.S. history, in the swamps surrounding modern-day New Orleans.
2). In the years between 1917 and 1965, Uncle Sam explicitly outlawed immigration to the U.S. of all Asian people. Immigration from China, for example, was banned as early as 1882, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. It wasn’t until the Immigration Act of 1965 — which abolished national origins as a basis for immigration decisions — that nearly 50 years of race-based discrimination against Asian immigrants ended.
3). Because of their race, Asians immigrants were denied the right to naturalize as U.S. citizens, until the 1943 Magnuson Act was passed. Consequently, for nearly a century of U.S. history, Asians were barred from owning land and testifying in court by laws that specifically targeted “aliens ineligible to citizenship.” Even after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, American-born children of Chinese immigrants were not regarded as American citizens until the landmark 1898 Supreme Court case, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, which established that the Fourteen Amendment also applied to people of Asian descent.
You can check out the rest of the list at Race in America.
In grad school, I met one girl from Pennsylvania who refused to acknowledge that the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese American citizens ever happened. “That would have been impossible in America!” she insisted. But an America that isn’t willing to acknowledge its ugly past is an America that’s willing to let it happen again. In celebration of our Asian American heros and pioneers, let’s educate ourselves.