Tag Archives: 1882 Project

June 28, 2012 — A Visit to Yale and Chinese Exclusion

The recent FINDING KUKAN shoot at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty brought out the per­pet­u­al stu­dent in me.  You can’t help but be awed by the vault­ed ceil­ings and Knights of the Round Table atmos­phere of the Hall of Grad­u­ate Stud­ies where my inter­view with Yale Pro­fes­sor of Amer­i­can Stud­ies Mary Lui took place.

Photo of Yale Graduate Studies Building

Yale Grad­u­ate Stud­ies Build­ing on York Street

The build­ing reminds you how much his­to­ry has come before you and how much you are igno­rant of.

Photo of Robin Lung at Yale

Direc­tor Robin Lung at Yale

 

For­tu­nate­ly the halls of learn­ing at Yale are pop­u­lat­ed by peo­ple like Mary who ded­i­cate their lives to gath­er­ing knowl­edge and dis­sem­i­nat­ing it to peo­ple like me.

 

Robin Lung interviews Mary Lui for FINDING KUKAN

Robin Lung inter­views Mary Lui for FINDING KUKAN

 

In try­ing to under­stand the social cli­mate that prompt­ed Li Ling-Ai and Rey Scott to risk mon­ey and life to make KUKAN, Mary Lui remind­ed me that the behav­ior of Chi­nese Amer­i­cans like Li Ling-Ai was still gov­erned in part by prej­u­di­cial immi­gra­tion laws enact­ed against the Chi­nese — the most infa­mous one being the Chi­nese Exclu­sion Act passed in 1882.

Signature Page of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act

Sig­na­ture Page of the 1882 Chi­nese Exclu­sion Act

Meant to keep cheap labor from enter­ing the US, the exclu­sion laws end­ed up doing much more than that. From restrict­ing the for­ma­tion of Chi­nese fam­i­lies, to ren­der­ing the few Chi­nese women around at the time exot­ic crea­tures with ques­tion­able back­grounds the Exclu­sion Laws had neg­a­tive reper­cus­sions on even the rich­est and most edu­cat­ed Chi­nese Amer­i­cans.  It’s no won­der that with so few Chi­nese Amer­i­cans around that stereo­types and mis­con­cep­tions about them would form.

Vintage Valentine Card

Vin­tage Valen­tine Card

 

I came back to Hawaii much bet­ter pre­pared to appre­ci­ate the his­toric bill recent­ly passed by Con­gress to offi­cial­ly apol­o­gize for the prej­u­di­cial laws that tar­get­ed Chi­nese and oth­er Asians in Amer­i­ca for over 80 years.

 

Judy Chu

Judy Chu intro­duced Apol­o­gy Bill for Chi­nese Exclu­sion Laws

 

One of the stereo­types I had about my own eth­nic back­ground was that Chi­nese don’t make waves and pas­sive­ly accept their fate, let­ting bygones be bygones.

Action Call Post­ed by the 1882 Project

The coura­geous efforts of peo­ple like Con­gress­woman Judy Chu and orga­ni­za­tions like the 1882 Project belie that stereo­type and bring a new val­i­da­tion to the his­to­ry of Asians in Amer­i­ca that will hope­ful­ly prompt more sto­ries about an era of exclu­sion that we still don’t know enough about.

Are there ways that exclu­sion laws have affect­ed your life?  Let us hear from you.

Leave a comment