Texans celebrate anniversary of Exclusion Act repeal
A hundred or so elected officials and judges, political candidates and members of the Asian community gathered at Fung’s Kitchen in Houston on Monday night to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Repeal of Chinese Exclusion Act.
Martin Gold, author of Forbidden Citizens: Chinese Exclusion and the US Congress: A Legislative History, recounted the history of the passage and repeal of the notorious 1882 act, as well as passage of House Resolution 683 in July of 2012, a measure regretting passage of exclusion act that adversely affected people of Chinese origin in the US because of their ethnicity.
The event was hosted by the Texas Asian Republican Assembly (TARA) and the Texas Asian Republican Club of Houston, and sponsored by the Republican Party of Texas.
Gold told the audience that it was during a visit to China in 2009 that he first learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act from a former Chinese ambassador to Israel and it captured his interest. “At that time I did not know much about any of this,” he said, “and when I first heard about it, I thought it was an isolated piece of legislation passed in a moment of unreason. “
Gold went to a publisher and got a contract to write a book about it on his law firm’s pro bono time. “When I first started, I had in mind a book about half its current length because I had no concept of how involved the history was.” Gold combed through the legislation records since the 1800s to make sure he got all his facts right.
Later, through a former Xinhua News Agency journalist, Gold learned that in the US the Chinese community was pushing Congress to pass a resolution acknowledging the historical wrongdoing done to Chinese immigrants and got involved. “I wanted to make sure the resolution was historically accurate. So in the end this research supported my book and the research supported the resolution,” he said.
Gold said that he has worked in Washington DC for almost 40 years and has worked for a lot of causes in his lifetime, “but nothing has been as interesting or as compelling or as worthwhile and as personally satisfying as writing this book”, he told the gathering.
Martha Wong, the first Asian American woman elected to the Houston City Council and the Texas House of Representatives (now retired from both) and current president of TARA, emceed the event. She pointed out that many of the people in attendance were current or former public officials of Chinese origin and their mere presence demonstrated what great progress has been made in the 70 years since the Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943.
Wong said that TARA, newly established in June of this year for the growing Asian American community throughout Texas, would focus on recruiting more members and training the younger generation to get involved in the political process.
Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Texas Republican Party, said that he learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act upon receiving the invitation to attend the event. “I did some research and I was amazed by what this act said,” he said. “I was so disturbed by this that I discussed this with my family over Thanksgiving dinner. We need to publicize something we are not proud of and learn from history.”
Edmond Gor, national president of the Chinese American Citizen Alliance (CACA), encouraged people to spread the word about Gold’s book and the Chinese Exclusion Act to the next generation.
Edmond Gor (right), national president of the CACA, introduces Martin Gold and his new book ForbiddenCitizens:Chinese ExclusionandtheUSCongress:ALegislativeHistory.