San José will issue a formal apology for the 1887 Chinatown fire and mistreatment of Chinese people.
The San José City Council is poised to vote Tuesday on a resolution formally apologizing to the Chinese community for the city’s maltreatment of Chinese immigrants and the 1887 Chinatown fire.
In 1887, during a period of severe anti-Chinese feelings, arsonists burned down one of California’s largest Chinatowns, San José.
San José is the country’s largest city to formally apologize to Chinese immigrants and their descendants for its role in “systemic and institutional racism, xenophobia, and discrimination,” recognizing and apologizing.
“Apologies for horrific injustices cannot erase the past,” the resolution stated, “but admission of the historic wrongdoings committed can aid us in overcoming the critical challenges of racial discrimination that America faces today.”
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The city of Antioch apologized in May for mistreating Chinese immigrants who had to build tunnels to come home from work because they were forbidden to roam the streets after dark.
Since the pandemic began last year, there has been a surge of violence targeting the Asian community. In the past, several cities, particularly those in the Pacific Northwest, have issued apologies. California apologized to Chinese employees in 2009, and Congress has apologized for the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which made Chinese residents the target of the country’s first statute restricting immigration based on race or nationality.
The largest of San José’s five Chinatowns was built in 1872. The municipal council designated it a public nuisance five years later and unanimously accepted an order to demolish it to make way for a new City Hall. Arsonists burned down the flourishing Chinatown before officials intervened, damaging hundreds of homes and businesses and displacing roughly 1,400 people.
During the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s, a considerable number of Chinese immigrants arrived in California. They worked in mines, on the transcontinental railroad, on farms, and in the abalone and shrimp industries, among other things. According to the resolution, there were approximately 63,000 Chinese in the United States by 1870, with 77 percent of them residing in California.
Chinese immigrants were subjected to bigotry and were pushed out of their communities. They were barred from owning property and marrying white people. This is a condensed version of the information.