2023 – Significant Progress and Continuing Challenges
The Significant Progress
In the words of historian Jon Meacham, professor at Vanderbilt University, today’s America is largely shaped by the three landmark legislations, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act 1965 and the Immigration and Nationality Act 1965, which together have transformed America into the largest multiethnic democratic republic in the world.
Since the civil rights movement almost 70 years ago, our country has made significant progress in expanding the founding ideal to include more and more Americans. As a result, we, Chinese/Asian Americans have not only been able to come to America, but also made countless contributions to every fabric of American society such as science, technology, academia, business, finance, arts, entertainment, politics, and public services.
The Continuing Challenges
However, Asian Americans have always faced prejudice, discrimination, and racial violence, from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to Vincent Chin of 1982, from the Rock Springs massacre of Chinese miners in Wyoming in 1885 to today’s rising anti-Asian Hate. During the Covid-19 pandemic, between March 2020 and March 2022, more than 11,400 hate incidents against Asian Americans have been reported across the United States, according to a report by Stop AAPI Hate.
The Chinese Exclusion Act may be a relic of the past, but its legacy is still echoing today. More alarmingly, against the backdrop of the intensifying tension in recent years between the United States and China, several state legislatures, such as in Texas and Florida, have passed laws to restrict real estate purchases by Chinese nationals, echoing the Alien Land Laws that passed in many states after the Chinese Exclusion Act.
“The justification for exclusion was that the Chinese were an ‘unassimilable’ race and therefore could never become Americans. … Its rationale – that Asians pose a racial danger to American society – has endured in our politics and culture to this day,” historian Mae Ngai said in a 2021 piece for The Atlantic.
Our Unwavering Allegiance to America’s Founding Principle
Today, the population of Chinese descent in America is estimated at 5.2 million, it is the largest group among Asian Americans (24.0 million) according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest estimate in 2021.
Chinese/Asian Americans, like immigrants from all over the world, came to this “Land of Free” to pursue the “American Dream” under the founding principle of “all men are created equal.“
Today, while commemorating the 80th anniversary of repealing the Chinese Exclusion Act, inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech 60 years ago, we, Chinese/ Asian Americans join Americans of all racial/ethnic backgrounds to achieve the unfulfilled “American Promise”, and to build a “more perfect union” in which the Constitution guarantees justice and equality for all Americans.