Asian-American Discrimination and History

For over a year now, violence against Asian Americans has been all over the news. I have a particular interest in this topic because members of my family are of Asian descent. Which is why an article entitled “11 Moments From Asian American History That You Should Know” caught my eye.

This is another example of how so much of history never makes it into the textbooks unless the event simply becomes too big to ignore. Our incarceration of people of Japanese descent during World War II is one such instance. Some of you may also have heard about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned all immigration of Chinese laborers*.

But discrimination against Asian Americans goes back even further. For example, in 1854 George Hall was convicted of murdering a Chinese miner in Nevada County, California through the testimony of three Chinese eyewitnesses.** But upon appeal, the California Supreme Court disqualified their testimony because California banned specific groups (“Negros, blacks, Indians, and mullatoes”) from testifying against whites. Although “Chinese” was not an ethnic group included in the list, the Court ruled that the Chinese were “Indian” and/or “Black” and thus could not testify. This creative logic was justified with an opinion that cited the perceived threat of the Chinese becoming equal citizens if they could testify against whites. As a result, Hall’s conviction was overturned.

Such was the prevailing opinion of immigration from the Far East at that time.

For more examples, see “11 Moments From Asian American History That You Should Know” by Paula Cachero and Olivia B. Waxman ( ).


** The People of the State of California v. George W. Hall (

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