San Francisco to apologize for wrongs to Chinese Immigrants

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday to apologize to Chinese immigrants and their descendants, following a spike of Asian hate crimes in the Bay Area. 

The resolution apologizes on behalf of the board and the city of San Francisco for systemic discrimination and targeted acts of violence.

“It is important that our Board of Supervisors issue this apology, because much of this history took place with the active support and legislation that was passed by the body,” said Supervisor Matt Haney, the resolution’s chief sponsor.

According to the resolution, San Francisco historically passed numerous laws since 1860 that targeted Chinese immigrants, such as restricting the use of gongs, barring employment and implementing several ordinances from 1873 to 1883 that restricted Chinese laundries. 

Ordinance No. 1569, one of the several “Laundry Ordinances” that went into effect in 1886, made it illegal to utilize any laundry within a wooden building without a permit. 

At the time, 95% of laundries within the city operated within a wooden building, and 89% of laundry workers and 67% of laundries were Chinese-owned and operated.

“This apology is long overdue, and it comes at a time of increased hate against the API (Asian and Pacific Islander) community. We’ve seen spikes last year and that is an ongoing issue,” said Justin Hoover, the executive director of the Chinese Historical Society of America.

San Francisco Police Department statistics reveal a 567% increase in reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans from 2020 to 2021.

“The recent surge in anti-Asian hate crimes continues to affirm that APIs continue to be seen as foreigners and not Americans because we are not white,” said Cally Wong, director of the API Council, a 57-member coalition of nonprofit organizations within San Francisco meant to serve the API community. 

This makes San Francisco the fourth city in the country and in California to issue a formal apology to the Chinese community after Antioch, San Jose and Los Angeles.

According to Wong, Asians and Pacific Islanders represent over 35% of the San Francisco population yet 40% are living in poverty. 

“The next proactive step that the city must commit to is the significant financial investment in Chinatown. What we need to be sure of is that the resources are in place to cultivate the next generation of leadership in this community,” Hoover said.

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