An Act of Regret

This week is shaping up to be incredibly historic. Today, the Senate plans to pass House Resolution 683, a formal recognition that the Chinese Exclusion Act was at least kind of messed up.

The word apology isn’t in the resolution, which you can read here, but it does “regret the passage of legislation that adversely affected people of Chinese origin in the United States because of their ethnicity” and acknowledge that the Chinese Exclusion Act, and other pieces of legislation “enshrined in law the exclusion of the Chinese from the democratic process and the promise of American freedom“.

You can also listen in here as the House of Representatives (hopefully and probably) passes the resolution.

Does this really matter? I don’t know. Three years ago today, the Senate passed an apology for slavery in the United States, and as far as I can see, it had very little affect. This piece of paper is not an apology or an atonement. It’s an acknowledgement. In official, government supported words, it clearly lays out what many of us already know– that the United States took great measures to recruit cheap Chinese labor, then deny them the right to vote, become citizens, travel freely, testify in court, or bring their families to the US. And that these policies excluding Chinese from immigrating to the US remained in place from 1982-1942, a time when immigrants from the Western Hemisphere were allowed to come freely to the US. It’s better than nothing, and better late than never. But not by much.



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