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Seeking An Apology
Cover Stories Series 2011> Seeking An Apology
UPDATED: June 20, 2011 NO. 25 JUNE 23, 2011
Redressing Historic Wrongs
U.S. lawmakers urge Congress to issue an official statement of regret for past anti-Chinese discriminatory laws

SEEKING AN APOLOGY: Representatives Mike Coffman, Judy Biggert and Judy Chu (left to right) hold a press conference at the Capitol Hill on May 26 to unveil a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to express regret over past Chinese exclusion laws (ZHANG JUN)

Shien Biau Woo, a Chinese American who formerly served as lieutenant governor of Delaware and president of the 80-20 Initiative, told Beijing Review that with his initiative the entire congressional delegation of Delaware has become co-sponsors.

In Bellingham, Washington State, people gathered on May 26 to celebrate the launch of Emerald Bay, an original ballet written by an English professor with Western Washington University based on a period when Chinese immigrants were being driven from the Bellingham Bay area after the Chinese Exclusion Act was enacted.

Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike issued a formal apology to the Chinese community during the event. "A lot of times an apology can go a long way toward helping healing and helping people understand that we do know there were things that were done in the past that were inappropriate," he said.

The Bellingham event is part of the larger Chinese Expulsion Remembrance Project, which was launched last year in Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Mount Vernon to arouse local people's awareness of anti-Chinese hostilities in the past.

"Progress is being made to broaden the support base, and yet it's premature right now to predict how long it will take for Congress to approve the resolutions," Gold said.

Since the resolutions involve historical records and Congress has many immediate problems to address, the process will take some time to bear results, Gold said.

Fighting discrimination

While activists campaign for the adoption of the resolutions, some Chinese living in the United States say an official statement of apology is not enough to address modern racial issues.

George Wang, a financial professional living in New York City who came to the United States from Taiwan in 1978, said he and his Chinese and other Asian American friends believe they still experience discrimination not just from WASPs but also from U.S. citizens of other origins.

"Today's discrimination against Chinese and other Asian Americans does not come from government regulations, but from individuals," Wang said. In particular, there is still the stereotype of Asian Americans being intelligent and hardworking, but not being able to integrate into mainstream society.

"As a result, the 'glass' or 'bamboo' ceilings are still widespread in corporate America," said Wang. But he also acknowledged progress is being made.

Zhang Juan, a recent graduate from New York University who majored in political science, told Beijing Review she learned from her college professors as well as her friends that not just Chinese Americans but Asian Americans as a whole experience severe discrimination in academic circles and the workplace.

It's meaningful, Zhang said, to get Congress to issue an official statement about these discriminatory laws in the sense that it will bring racial issues under the spotlight. Zhang also said she would be more interested in laws and regulations that help to address both obvious and subtle discriminations against Asian Americans in the United States today.

(Reporting from New York)

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