San Jose formally apologized for its “role in acts of discrimination against the Chinese immigrant community and its descendants” through an unanimous resolution that city leaders announced this week.
City officials, including Mayor Sam Liccardo, and community leaders announced the resolution for past racist acts against the Chinese community in downtown San Jose, the site of a Chinatown destroyed by arson in 1887. A portion of the area was set ablaze shortly after the City Council had declared it a public nuisance and health hazard.
“Thirty-four years ago, San José commemorated the tragic destruction of the 2nd Market Street Chinatown, a century prior — but with each new generation, we must reemphasize our commitment to justice and renew our contrition, not just for these failings but for all acts of disrespect and violence against our Black, Latino, Indigenous, and AAPI community members,” said San José Mayor Sam Liccardo. “This reconciliation acknowledges the mistakes of our city’s past and serves as a reminder to continue striving for an inclusive society.”
The city developed the resolution, which enumerates decades of racism, in close collaboration with local historians and several Chinese American community organizations. It recognizes the five Chinatowns in San Jose that existed between 1866 and 1931 and acknowledges the racism and xenophobia that influenced policies and actions towards the city’s Chinese community.
“The apology by the city is an act of grace,” said local historian Connie Young Yu. “As a descendant of a Chinese worker driven out of Market Street Chinatown by an arson fire, I feel peace.”
The resolution also acknowledges “the recent rise in Anti-Asian Violence and racial discrimination demonstrates that xenophobia remains deeply rooted in our society.” It reads, in part: “Whereas, Asian Americans are still considered perpetual foreigners; and whereas, the story of Chinese immigrants and the dehumanizing atrocities committed against them in the 19th and early 20th century should not be purged from or minimized in the telling of San Jose’s history.”
“I want to thank all those who work for justice today, to ensure this is not merely a reckoning of things past but a change in our orientation to each other and this community in years to come,” Mayor Liccardo said at a press conference Thursday.
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