After Los Angeles, San Jose, and Antioch have issued similar apologies for their historical mistreatment of the Chinese-American community, Supervisor Matt Haney wants one from SF, possibly with reparations.
It is fair to look at everything District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney does these days through the lens of the fact that he’s running for state Assembly, and eager for absolutely any way to distinguish differences between him and his opponent David Campos. One such difference is the 27-story SoMa housing complex that the supervisors rejected, which Haney is making a centerpiece issue. And he may be trying to shore up another key voting bloc, as the Chronicle reports he’s introducing a resolution for the city of San Francisco to apologize to the Chinese-American community for a legacy of racist mistreatment in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
These apologies are something of a trend, as Antioch issued an apology in May, which was largely symbolic, though it did add a Chinese historic district designation. San Jose issued one last month, and Los Angeles followed suit a few weeks later. Per the Chronicle, Haney will introduce his apology measure today.
And San Francisco has some uniquely bad history in this department. San Francisco Unified School District actually still had a law on the books demanding that Chinese students be segregated up until just four years ago, though it was no longer enforced. SF Chinatown was also blamed and quarantined for a 1900 Bubonic plague outbreak that was not its fault. White mobs brought ethnic violence against the Chinese during the Gold Rush era, and the SF Board of Supervisors itself passed several racist ordinances during that era, banning anyone Chinese from a city government job, and even banning gongs and yeo ho poles used for transporting goods.
“This was really the hub of a lot of awful xenophobia and violence toward Chinese residents specifically,” Haney told the Chronicle. “At the time San Francisco was very much the urban center of this region, and so it sent ripple effects throughout the entire state.”
Yet there’s the question of whether this would merely be symbolic, and just a meaningless set of words saying we’re sorry and thanking the Chinese-American community for their “commitment to fostering reconciliation and friendship.”
“What does making amends look like? Are reparations on the table? What about reinvestment in the Asian community and its organizations?” executive director of the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco Justin Hoover asked the Chronicle. “An apology is great, it truly is, but it can’t just be a gesture.”
Haney told the Chronicle that he wants to hear from the community on any tangible remediations that might be included in the legislation. One idea is something similar to Mayor Breed’s Dream Keeper Initiative, which reinvests $120 million in the African-American community.
Image: chensiyuan via Wikimedia Commons