Wish You Were Here
This project asks you to consider the ways in which you have access to resources that others do not, and reflect on inclusion, in order to be a better ally to the more vulnerable among us.
A common phrase when writing a postcard is “Wish you were here.” The statement implies a seat at the table, and a desire for others to have one too.
The postcard in this activity emphasizes the fact that a vast majority of people in the United States traveled here; most of us came from somewhere else. This postcard is an opportunity to consider the privilege that comes with “making it” in the United States, demonstrate our solidarity with other immigrants, and express support to people experiencing all forms of exclusion.
Even in recent years, the United States has seen a ban on Muslims, new immigrants, and discrimination of queer and trans folk, as well as continued brutality towards Black, Indigenous, Asian folks, and other people of color. The bigotry we saw during the Chinese Exclusion Act, is still present today and increasingly, these acts of bigotry are backed by new legislation. During the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the majority of Americans supported the new law; it represented the will of those given a voice.
It is our responsibility to make our vision of inclusion loud and clear. This means standing up for Asian Americans as they face growing othering and violence, and applying that vigilance towards supporting other communities as well.
About Chinese Exclusion
In 1790, the United States passed the Naturalization Act. This law made it so only white immigrants could become citizens. However, by the mid-1800s, Chinese immigrants began arriving in the U.S.. They sought work opportunities that were not easily available in China. The majority of Chinese immigrants settled in California and worked as laborers in goldfields and eventually the railroads. Most planned to work in the U.S. temporarily and then return to China, but very few went back. These workers were predominantly men, as Chinese women were banned from coming to the U.S. in 1875.
Many white laborers grew resentful of Chinese workers, and sometimes violent. They believed the Chinese were stealing jobs because they were cheaper to pay. Eventually, many Chinese started opening their own businesses — stores, restaurants and laundromats. They established themselves in Chinatowns around the West Coast. However, Chinese people were still seen as “foreigners” because they could not become permanent citizens. Many white citizens and politicians wanted to discourage more from immigrating to the U.S.. In 1882, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act. It was the first significant law to limit immigration to the U.S.. The act restricted Chinese workers from entering the U.S. for 10 years, and was extended twice until it was repealed in 1943.
In 1902, Congress and President Theodore Roosevelt permanently signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law. President Roosevelt used this fountain pen to sign it. The law prolonged the exclusion of Chinese laborers from immigrating to the U.S. indefinitely. It also extended the prohibition of those who were already in the country from becoming citizens, and the requirement that they carry a residence permit. Additionally, the law expanded the restrictions to immigrants from Hawaii and the Philippines. The ban on immigration and naturalization was not lifted until 1943.
The 1902 Exclusion Act
Ten years after the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law, it was extended and expanded on in the form of the Geary Act, written by California Representative Thomas J. Geary. In addition to barring Chinese immigrants from moving to America, it required Chinese people living in the U.S. to register and obtain a certificate of residence. They were expected to carry the permit at all times, or else be deported. Chinese residents fought the law, and even went to the Supreme Court in Fong Yue Ting v. United States in 1893, but lost. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt and Congress extended the Exclusion Act, seen here.