Timeline of Systemic Racism Against AAPI

The timeline documents several instances of systemic racism against AAPI in the United States. In knowing the history of how AAPI were treated in this country, we can better understand how we arrived at this point in history.

Know History Know Peace
Artwork by Jib Kiattinant

1790

Naturalization Act: Established a uniform rule for granting naturalization to “free white persons,” effectively barring Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, indentured servants, slaves, and women from becoming citizens.

1854

People v. Hall, 4 Cal 399 (1854): The Statutes of California. State of California. Ch. 99 § 14 p. 229, passed in 1850 stated that Native Americans and African Americans were not allowed to testify against white people. The ruling in People v. Hall interpreted this law to also include Asian Americans, therefore making it much easier for white people to get away with crimes against these ethnic groups.

1862

Anti-Coolie Act of 1862: This act intended to limit the competition between white workers and Asian Americans by imposing a tax on Asian Americans who attempted to work in manufacturing factories as well as to employers who hired Asian Americans. It also was intended to decrease immigration from Asian countries by reducing the number of jobs available.

1863-1869

Chinese railroad workers: Over 10,000 Chinese laborers worked to completed the transcontinental railroad between 1863-1869. They were subjected to perilous working conditions and paid less than their white counterparts. Leland Stanford was the president of the Central Pacific Railroad which was chartered by Congress to complete the railroad which would be a turning point in American history, making the West much more accessible to the rest of the country. Leland Stanford later founded Stanford University with funds from his railroad fortune and indelibly linked the university to the history of these Chinese laborers. For more details on the Chinese railroad workers, view the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University.

 Chinese Camp At End Of Track. # 327, Photograph
Chinese Camp At End Of Track. # 327, Photograph

Alfred A. Hart photographs, 1862-1869

Photographic series documenting construction of the Central Pacific Railroad, 1866-1869, presented both as an album and stereographs. Also includes mounted stereograph views of the Leland Stanford residence in Sacramento, 1862-1863. Collection includes copy negatives of Central Pacific series.

1870

Naturalization Act of 1870: This act allowed naturalized citizenship for African Americans while still denying naturalization to any other non-white person, including Asian Americans.

1871

Chinese massacre in Los Angeles: Following the shooting and killing of a white police officer during crossfire of rival Chinese gangs, hundreds of white and Hispanic people attacked LA’s Chinese community on October 24, 1871. Nearly twenty Chinese people were lynched, including a fourteen-year-old boy and a prominent physician. Though eight perpetrators of the massacre were convicted of manslaughter, their convictions were overturned by the California Supreme Court on a technicality. Discriminatory state legislation prohibited Chinese people from testifying against white people in California courts. This lead to further injustice and made the Chinese population more vulnerable to racially charged crimes, with little to no repercussions for the perpetrators from the law. Those killed during the massacre at the time represented ten percent of the total Chinese population in LA.

1873

The San Francisco Examiner San Francisco, California 27 Aug 1873, Wed • Page 3
The San Francisco Examiner San Francisco, California 27 Aug 1873, Wed • Page 3

The Chinese Invasion! They are Coming, 900,000 STRONG

The San Francisco Chronicle headline of August 27, 1873 reads in bold “The Chinese Invasion! They are Coming, 900,000 STRONG”. Although those of Chinese descent were initially welcomed into the country for labor work, this title further reflected the popular ideology that those of Chinese descent were to be seen as threats to the "true Americans" (specifically those who were white), which in turn threatened the way of life in the western world.

1875

Page Act of 1875: The act was named after its sponsor, California Republican Representative Hoarse F. Page, in an attempt to “end cheap Chinese labor and immoral Chinese women.” This act was created and enforced specifically to prevent Chinese women from entering into the US, the majority of whom were attempting to join the population of working Chinese men. This act also made it illegal to bring anyone into the US from China, with a penalty of up to one year in prison and a $2,000 fine (which equates to approximately $48,000 today).

1878

In re Ah Yup is a landmark case that ruled Asians ineligible for naturalized citizenship. In re Ah Yup tried to convince the court that those of Mongolian race should be seen as “white,” which would then make them eligible for naturalized US citizenship. The court ruled that, because Mongolians are born in China, they cannot be deemed as “white,” and therefore ineligible for US citizenship.

1879

The California Constitution of 1879 deterred Chinese immigration into California by prohibiting corporations from employing them. This part of the constitution restricted and decreased the number of Chinese people in California for fear that they would take over the state.

1882

First page of the US Chinese Exclusion Act
First page of the US Chinese Exclusion Act

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882: The law banned immigration of Chinese laborers. It wasn’t repealed until 1943.

In 1882, the US Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which suspended the immigration of Chinese laborers (skilled or unskilled) for a period of ten years. The Act also required every Chinese person traveling in or out of the country to carry a certificate identifying his or her status as a laborer, scholar, diplomat, or merchant. The 1882 Act was the first in American history to place broad restrictions on immigration. The Chinese Exclusion Acts (subsequent restrictions were added to the initial 1882 Act) were not repealed until 1943.

1885-1887

Anti-Asian expulsions, ethnic cleansing, attacks, and riots

Growing anti-Chinese prejudice in the US culminated in a number of acts of violence and expulsion against persons of Chinese descent in the years between 1885 and 1887, especially throughout the American West.

Massacre of the Chinese at Rock Springs from Harper's Weekly: Harper's Weekly, Vol. 29
Massacre of the Chinese at Rock Springs from Harper's Weekly: Harper's Weekly, Vol. 29

Rock Springs Massacre (September 2-3, 1885)

One of the most significant acts of violence against Chinese Americans occurred in the mining town of Rock Springs, Wyoming on September 2 and 3, 1885, in which white miners attacked Chinese miners, set fire to their homes, and killed approximately twenty-eight people; on the following day, all 500 Chinese miners were driven out of the town. A number of the perpetrators were arrested but subsequently released. No person or persons were ever convicted of the violence at Rock Springs.

1885

Attack on Squak Valley Chinese Laborers (September 7, 1885): The Attack on Squak Valley Chinese laborers took place on September 7, 1885, in Squak Valley (now called Issaquah), Washington. A group of white men fired their guns into several tents where a group of Chinese hop-pickers was sleeping. The gunfire resulted in the death of three Chinese men and the wounding of three others. The attackers were later identified and brought to trial, but all were acquitted.

Tacoma Riots (November 3, 1885): In Tacoma, Washington on November 3, 1885, a mob that consisted of prominent white businessmen, police, and political leaders descended on the city’s Chinese community and violently expelled the entire community (sending them on trains to Portland, Oregon), after which all structures in Tacoma’s Chinatown were burned down.

1886

Seattle Riot (February 7, 1886): White workers rounded up virtually every Chinese person in Seattle on February 7, 1886 and violently expelled them, forcing them to board a waiting boat for passage out of town. As with similar expulsions throughout the West, the victims were never compensated.

Yick Wo vs. Hopkins (May, 1886): Chinese laundry owners in San Francisco were discriminated against by city officials who denied them permits for their businesses. Yick Wo operated a laundry business in San Francisco without a permit, and after refusing to pay a $10 fine, was imprisoned by the City's sheriff. He sued for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing the fine and discriminatory enforcement of the ordinance violated his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The US Supreme Court (in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Matthews) ruled in his favor, concluding that despite the impartial wording of the law, its biased enforcement violated the Equal Protection Clause. This was the first case where the US Supreme Court ruled that a law that is race-neutral on its face but is administered in a prejudicial manner, an infringement of the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

1887

Hells Canyon Massacre (May 1887): A gang of white men ambushed and murdered thirty-four Chinese gold miners at Hell’s Canyon, Oregon in late May 1887. No one was found guilty of the crimes.

1888

Scott Act: An expansion of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Scott Act prohibited most Chinese—even long-term legal residents—who left the US from returning. Many long-term legal residents were stranded outside the US.

1889

The Treaty of Paris, 1889 concluded the Spanish-American War, signaled the expansion of US imperial power in the Pacific, and resulted in the US annexation of the Philippines. At the same time, the US Congress passed a joint resolution (referred to as the Newlands Resolution) to annex the kingdom of Hawaii. Critics charged that this was not a legally permissible way to acquire territory under the US Constitution.

1892

Geary Act of 1892 extended the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and was passed by Congress on May 5, 1892. The law required all Chinese residents of the US to carry a resident permit. Failure to carry the permit at all times was punishable by deportation or a year of hard labor.

1900-1904

Bubonic Plague: An outbreak of Bubonic Plague struck San Francisco between 1900 and 1904, likely transmitted along the trade route from Southeast China via Hawaii. The presence of the plague in the crowded confines of Chinatown reinforced discrimination against Chinese Americans and culminated in two acts: the quarantine of San Francisco's Chinatown and the permanent extension of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

1904

The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition promoted ideals of US imperial expansion and racialized depictions of indigenous peoples. An example of racism towards people of Asian descent involved Filipino people imported by the US government for display at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in a human zoo—a forty-seven-acre “Philippine Reservation.”

1905

Asiatic Exclusion League: In May 1905, the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League was organized in San Francisco to prohibit immigration of Asian laborers to the US. It was expanded and renamed in 1907 as the Asiatic Exclusion League, which promoted policies banning immigration and employment of Asian immigrants, created anti-Asian propaganda, and advocated for segregated schools.

1906

Fishing village of 200 Chinese immigrants burned down in Pacific Grove, California, May 17, 1906. A suspicious fire destroyed a thriving Chinese fishing village in Pacific Grove. White spectators cheered and looted Chinese stores and dwellings. The majority of the Chinese residents relocated to other communities, including San Francisco’s Chinatown.

1907

Pacific Coast Race Riots against East and South Asians and Bellingham Race Riot against South Asians: In 1907, violent riots aimed at persons of Asian descent broke out across a number of cities in the Western US revealing continued prejudice and racism against Asian Americans. Chief among these were riots in San Francisco (beginning on May 20, 1907, and lasting several nights) and in Bellingham, Washington on September 4, 1907.

1909

L-R: Elsie Sigel; Chong Sing (witness); Mabel and Paul Sigel (sister and father). From the Los Angeles Herald, 27 June 1909
L-R: Elsie Sigel; Chong Sing (witness); Mabel and Paul Sigel (sister and father). From the Los Angeles Herald, 27 June 1909

Murder of Elsie Sigel

The January 1909 murder of Elsie Sigel, a young Christian missionary working in New York City’s Chinatown, for which a Chinese person was suspected and blamed, led to anti-Asian violence.

1913

The California Alien Land Law of 1913 (also known as the Webb–Haney Act) prohibited “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning agricultural land or holding long-term leases for it. As a result, many California farmers of Asian descent (especially Japanese Americans) were forced to relinquish their farms and moved elsewhere.

1917

Immigration Act of 1917: Building on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Immigration Act of 1917 (also known as the Barred Zone Act), discriminated against persons of Asian descent, by creating a “barred zone” extending from the Middle East to Southeast Asia from which no persons were allowed to enter the US.

1921

Emergency Quota Act introduced the “national origins formula” by imposing quotas based on immigrants’ country of origin, calculated at three percent of the total number of foreign-born persons from that country recorded in the 1910 census. Its goal was to maintain the existing ethnic composition of the US and keep quotas low for Eastern and Southern Europe. The act did not apply to countries with bilateral agreements with the US or to Asian countries listed in the Immigration Act of 1917.

1922

Cable Act: Under previous law, women who were US citizens would lose their citizenship if they married a non-US citizen. This law enabled those women to retain their citizenship despite marriages to non-US citizens. However, it did not apply to women who married “aliens ineligible for citizenship,” including Asian immigrant men.

Takao Ozawa v. United States: US Supreme Court upholds the Naturalization Law which declared Japanese and other Asian immigrants ineligible for citizenship.

1923

United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind: US Supreme Court rules Indians are ineligible for US citizenship. At this point, nearly all Asians were ineligible for citizenship.

1924

Johnson Reed Act (Immigration Act of 1924): Limited the number of immigrants allowed entry into the US through a national origins quota. The quota provided immigration visas to two percent of the total number of people of each nationality in the US as of the 1890 national census. Included a provision excluding any alien who by virtue of race or nationality was ineligible for citizenship. Even Asians not previously prohibited from immigrating (including people from Japan) would no longer be admitted to the US.

1927

Lum v. Rice: This case ruled that exclusion by race of Chinese Americans from public school did not violate the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, effectively allowing the exclusion of minority children from schools reserved for whites.

1927-1930

Anti-Filipino riots: Filipinos in Washington state, including Yakima Valley, Exeter, and Watsonville, were subject to extensive intimidation and violence by whites. The Ku Klux Klan exploited existing anti-Asian sentiment that saw Filipinos as a source of inexpensive labor and a threat to white women.

1931

Cable Act amended: American women could now retain their citizenship after marrying aliens ineligible for US citizenship, including Asians.

1933

Roldan vs. LA County: A California Appellate court found that the state's anti-miscegenation laws did not specifically bar the marriage of a Filipino and a white person. LA County officials appealed to the Supreme Court of California, who decided not to review the case. After one week the California State Legislature voted to amend the code in question to ensure that Filipinos could not marry whites.

1934

Tyding-McDuffle Act (Philippine Independence Act): US federal law that established the process for the Philippines, at that time an American colony, to become an independent country. Reclassified all Filipinos, including those then living in the US, as aliens in place of US nationals. A quota of 50 immigrants per year was established (though in reality the number was significantly higher as agricultural corporations received exemptions to bring in Filipino laborers). This act also extended the Asian-exclusion policy of the Immigration Act of 1924 to the former territory.

1937

Anti-Alien Land Bill amendment: Washington State passed a series of amendments to their Alien Land Bill of 1921. Primarily targeting Japanese American agricultural workers, one of the amendments to the law clarified the definition of “alien” as meaning “non-citizens of the United States … who are ineligible to citizenship by naturalization.”

1942-1945

Tōyō Miyatake, full-length portrait, standing in his children's bedroom at an internment camp looking at his young daughter seated at a desk, drawing, while her mother stands behind her.  Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984, photographer
Tōyō Miyatake, full-length portrait, standing in his children's bedroom at an internment camp looking at his young daughter seated at a desk, drawing, while her mother stands behind her. Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984, photographer

Japanese Internment

Executive Order 9066, issued by President Franklin Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, authorized the “evacuation” of all persons deemed a threat to national security from the West Coast to relocation centers further inland. Over 120,000 Japanese Americans, including both resident aliens from Japan and US citizens, were forcibly relocated and confined in ten isolated, fenced, and guarded internment camps during 1942-1945, in California, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Arkansas. In 1988, the US government apologized for the internment, and provided $20,000 in reparations to 82,219 Japanese Americans still living who had been interned.

1943

Magnuson Act (Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943): Permitted US immigration from China, a World War II ally, for the first time since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and permitted some Chinese immigrants already residing in the country to become naturalized citizens. However, immigration was limited to a quota of 105 new entry visas per year. The Act also provided for the continuation of the ban against the ownership of property and businesses by ethnic Chinese.

1946

Luce-Celler Act: Indians and Filipinos could become naturalized citizens, in recognition of their World War II service to the US. However, immigration was limited to a quota of 100 new entry visas per year for each country.

1952

McCarran Walter Act (Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952): Permitted all persons, regardless of race, to naturalize in the US, but retained the discriminatory national quota system. Ended Asian exclusion from immigrating to the US. Introduced a system of preferences based on family reunification and skillsets. Passed during the era of McCarthyism, the act introduced much more intensive screening of potential immigrants to identify communists and other subversive individuals.

1950-1989

Montage of images from the Korean War. Clockwise from top: US Marines retreating during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, UN landing at Incheon, Korean refugees in front of an American M-26 tank, US Marines, led by First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez, landing at Incheon, and an American F-86 Sabre fighter jet.
Montage of images from the Korean War. Clockwise from top: US Marines retreating during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, UN landing at Incheon, Korean refugees in front of an American M-26 tank, US Marines, led by First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez, landing at Incheon, and an American F-86 Sabre fighter jet.

Korean War (1950-1953)

Resulting from the border dispute between North and South Korea, troops from North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950. President Truman sent American troops to intervene on South Korea’s behalf against Soviet-backed North Korea, claiming that this was a war against international communism itself. The war is seen as a “proxy war” for the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. The Korean War ended in 1953 with approximately 5 million casualties, both soldiers and civilians, with no changes in the disputed border and the Korean Peninsula still divided. The war is known as the “Forgotten War” for its lack of coverage in the news at that time and today.

Collage by Wikipedia User Nguyen1310  First Row from Left to Right: US troops fighting in 1965 Battle of Ia Drang , UH-1 Huey infantry dispatch ARVN Rangers defending Saigon in 1968 Battle of Saigon   2nd Row, L to R: Burial of 300 victims of the 1968 Hue Massacre , Two Douglas A-4C Skyhawks en route for strikes against North Vietnamese PT-boat bases in August 1964, as result of the Tonkin Gulf Incident    Last Row, L to R:  Quang Tri residents fleeing 1972 Battle of Quang Tri during the Easter Offensive, ARVN recapture Quang Tri after 1972 Battle of Quang Tri during Easter Offensive
Collage by Wikipedia User Nguyen1310 First Row from Left to Right: US troops fighting in 1965 Battle of Ia Drang , UH-1 Huey infantry dispatch ARVN Rangers defending Saigon in 1968 Battle of Saigon 2nd Row, L to R: Burial of 300 victims of the 1968 Hue Massacre , Two Douglas A-4C Skyhawks en route for strikes against North Vietnamese PT-boat bases in August 1964, as result of the Tonkin Gulf Incident Last Row, L to R: Quang Tri residents fleeing 1972 Battle of Quang Tri during the Easter Offensive, ARVN recapture Quang Tri after 1972 Battle of Quang Tri during Easter Offensive

Vietnam War (1954-1975)

The war between communist North Vietnam against South Vietnam and the US: Vietnam was divided between the Communist North and anti-Communist South after the defeat of French colonialism forces. Through the leadership of Communist leader Ho Chi Minh, the Viet Cong of the Communist North engaged in guerrilla warfare against the South. The US sent hundreds of thousands of troops to South Vietnam in an effort to fight off communism. Guerrilla warfare, air raids, and bombings all over the country by US forces during the war destroyed the country’s infrastructure. Due to the unpopularity of the war in the American public, in 1969 President Nixon implemented the “Vietnamization” strategy of shifting all military responsibility to South Vietnam and of slowly phasing in the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, claiming that South Vietnam was capable of holding out their own defense against the North. This led to heightened offenses by North Vietnam troops and the eventual collapse of South Vietnam and Fall of Saigon in 1975.

Noon rally in White Plaza: March to Palo Alto by Law students-protest against Vietnam War
Noon rally in White Plaza: March to Palo Alto by Law students-protest against Vietnam War

1965

Larry Itliong and the Great Delano Grape Strike: Larry Itilong led Filipino-American grape workers on the first strike against poor labor conditions and pay in September 1965. Before the Delano Grape Strike, Itliong had led similar efforts in forming worker unions for cannery workers in Alaska, as well as strikes for better working conditions at farms in Salinas and Stockton, California. Cesar Chavez, in the midst of preparing for a strike, led Mexican American workers into the September 1965 strike with Larry Itliong as to not disrupt the Filipino-organized strike. Both groups joined together to stage the Delano Grape Strike. The strike lasted five years and farm workers succeeded in securing pay raises, health-care benefits, and safety protection from pesticides.

Bob Fitch photography archive -- Cesar Chavez/UFW gallery, 1968-1974,
Bob Fitch photography archive -- Cesar Chavez/UFW gallery, 1968-1974,

Larry Itliong and the Great Delano Grape Strike

United Farmworkers Union (UFW, AFL-CIO) - organizing and field work: Between 1968 and 1974, at the invitation of the UFW President and organizer Cesar Chavez, Bob Fitch photographed union organizing activities including: agricultural field work, living conditions, pickets, marches, funerals, anti-picket police brutality, prominent supporters, intimate planning sessions, and the first union contracts in 1970 (Coachella Valley, CA).

1966

The term “Model Minority,” was coined in the January 9, 1966 edition of The New York Times Magazine by sociologist William Petersen, in an essay titled “Success Story: Japanese American Style”, to describe Asian Americans as ethnic minorities who, despite marginalization, have achieved success in the US. It generalizes Asian Americans as a monolithic group and attempts to explain away racism faced by other minority groups, especially African Americans, by claiming that hard work and good family values can overcome racism.

1970-1980’s

Ku Klux Klan Attacks on Vietnamese Refugees: Vietnamese refugees who settled in the town of Seadrift, Texas after the fall of Saigon in 1975 encountered racial prejudice and discrimination by white residents. There was constant tension between the native white fisherman and the newly arrived Vietnamese fisherman. Violence broke out on August 3, 1979, when Vietnamese refugee Sau Van Nguyen shot and killed local fisherman Billy Joe Alpin over fishing territory. On November 25, 1979, the Ku Klux Klan took action against the Vietnamese refugee community in Seadrift and retaliated against the killing of one of their own. They claimed Vietnamese fishermen were stealing US jobs, and so they patrolled the waters off the coast of Texas and attacked the fishermen’s boats. They menaced the Vietnamese people, set fires to houses, and chased them out of town, forcing many to flee to Louisiana. This was the reception that some 130,000 refugees received upon arriving in the US after fleeing Vietnam in 1975.

1974

Jung Sai Garment Workers’ Strike of 1974: 135 garment workers in San Francisco's Chinatown went on strike against exploitation of workers and oppression of Chinese immigrants on July 27, 1974. The strikers, 133 women, and two men garnered support and inspired the local community along with students and the working-class populations of the San Francisco Bay Area. What ensued was a year’s worth of protest activities by Chinese workers not only in San Francisco but throughout the country as Chinese workers everywhere started advocating for their rights. The factory owner threatened the strikers and closed the factory to avoid meeting workers’ demands. In December 1974 a court ordered the owner to reopen the plant and rehire workers, while also having to compensate workers for loss of work due to factory closure. The Jung Sai Garment Workers’ strike propelled activism in the Chinese immigrant community forward in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the country.

1977

Hundreds of protesters linking arms in front of the International Hotel at 848 Kearny Street near Jackson Street in San Francisco, California try to prevent the San Francisco Sheriffs' deputies from evicting elderly tenants on August 4, 1977. Photo by Nancy Wong
Hundreds of protesters linking arms in front of the International Hotel at 848 Kearny Street near Jackson Street in San Francisco, California try to prevent the San Francisco Sheriffs' deputies from evicting elderly tenants on August 4, 1977. Photo by Nancy Wong

International Hotel Struggle/ “Battle for International Hotel”

International Hotel (I-Hotel) is situated in Manilatown of San Francisco, housing primarily Filipino residents. The Battle for International Hotel ensued when San Francisco city tried to evict long-term residents of International Hotel for a development project. University of California Berkeley students, Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, African American, LGBTQIA+ communities, and other activist groups aided hotel residents in an effort to protect the residents and preserve the culture of Manilatown and their right to the city. After nine years of fending off evictions, on August 4, 1977, 300 riot-equipped police officers and sheriffs led an assault on the peaceful protesters and residents of I-Hotel. Police violently evicted the tenants and destroyed nearly everything inside the hotel, making sure tenants could never return.

1982

Murder of Vincent Chin: Vincent Chin was a twenty-seven-year-old Chinese man in Detroit who was beaten to death on June 19, 1982, by a pair of white men while out celebrating his upcoming wedding. During the time when the US auto industry was in decline and mass layoffs and wage cuts occurred throughout the nation, auto companies and workers were directing the blame towards Japanese imported cars manufacturers and Japanese people, causing a spike in anti-Japanese sentiment. Vincent Chin was mistaken for being Japanese and beaten to death out of anger by these white men with only a $3,000 fine for both men and no jail time. This enraged the Asian American community, leading to protests and the formation of the American Citizens for Justice movement. What followed was the first federal civil rights trial for Asian Americans where Asian Americans’ civil rights were protected.

New York Chinatown strike - the Garment Workers’ Strike: Chinese immigrants arriving from China and Hong Kong after 1965 to New York found work in the garment industry where working conditions were poor and pay was based on how much a worker produced and not by the hour. Although they had an International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, management was primarily white and did nothing to protect workers’ rights. Katie Quan, a garment worker from San Francisco, took the initiative to organize strikes and work stoppages to help secure better working conditions for garment workers. On June 24, 1982, 20,000 garment workers (mostly women) marched through New York’s Chinatown to Columbus Park to demand the renewal of union contracts. Within days nearly every contractor agreed to sign union contracts for better working conditions and pay. The garment workers of New York secured wage increases and benefits and called for workers’ rights that forever changed US labor law history.

1988

The Civil Liberties Act was signed by President Reagan to compensate former internees of Japanese internment camps $20,000 each as an apology if they were still alive when the order was passed. The order cited “racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and a lack of political leadership” as reasoning for the wrongful internment of over 100,000 Japanese Americans. The act was heavily opposed by Congressional committees and lobbyists and passed with support from the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Citizens (CWRIC), the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Japanese American legislators, community groups, and the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations (NCRR).

2006

Shooting death of Fong Lee: Fong Lee, a nineteen-year-old Hmong young adult born in Laos, was shot in the back while running from a Minneapolis police officer. The account of events was disputed by experts, the family, and surveillance footage; two police officers stated that Lee had raised a gun, however, the gun and bullets had no fingerprints or DNA, and initial police records showed it was recovered from a burglary (and in their custody). A jury would find the officer shooting did not use excessive force, sparking protests in downtown St. Paul. The officer, after dismissal and union representation, returned to active duty. A 1989 shooting in the back by police resulted in the death of two Hmong boys, both aged thirteen. These events would later resonate in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd.

2012

Sikh Temple shooting: A white gunman with neo-Nazi affiliations went into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on August 5, 2012, and started firing at its occupants. Six worshippers were killed and three others were wounded. The shooting ended when a responding officer shot and killed the gunman. Members of the Sikh community in Wisconsin were left in sadness and fear and believed that this was a blatant hate crime on their community. The attack came amid a surge of post-9/11 violence against Muslims or anyone perceived to be Muslim, including many South Asians. President Obama and US Senator Mitt Romney released statements expressing their condolences and condemning the senseless act of violence. Baba Punjab Singh, one of the three survivors who was shot in the face and paralyzed, passed away almost eight years later on March 2, 2020.

2019

Asian Americans become the fastest-growing homeless population in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but are severely undercounted and as a result, one of the hardest hit by a government crackdown on homelessness during President Trump's administration. The homeless population avoids census counts for fear of losing their children. They either stay long-term at motels or hide out in single occupancy (temporary) housing programs. As they are not technically “homeless” while staying in these temporary living situations, they do not count towards the total homeless population, causing severe undercounting of the Asian American homeless. Plans for a shelter in San Francisco were highly opposed by neighborhood protestors on the basis of “NIMBY” (Not In My Backyard). The Trump administration faults “liberals” for the problem of homelessness in California, with its only proposed solutions being clearing out homeless encampments and criminalizing the homeless.

2020

President Trump refers to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” in a tweet: On March 16, 2020, President Donald J. Trump described the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” in a tweet. Other US government officials used similar language in describing the virus despite World Health Organization warnings against linking the virus to any area or group due to the risk of stigmatization. The prevalence of this language in talking about the virus contributed to anti-Asian sentiment and a sharp increase in anti-Asian hate crimes. In addition, a recent Gallup poll (Feb. 3-18, 2021) finds that 45% of Americans now think China is the US’s greatest enemy.

Transgender Asian Pacific Islanders face significant discrimination: A groundbreaking study published in November 2020 by the advocacy group API Equality Northern California (APIENC) shows that trans and gender-nonconforming Asian Pacific Islanders (APIs) face significant discrimination compared to the general trans population. These disparities show up in housing, employment, health, violence and harassment, policing and safety, and community and power.

2021

Atlanta-area shootings: A white gunman claiming sexual addiction committed a series of mass shootings at three different spas or massage parlors in the Atlanta metropolitan area on March 16, 2021. Eight people were killed, including six women of Asian descent, and one other person was wounded. The shootings caused considerable fear and outrage in the Asian American community, and that outrage was further stoked when a Cherokee County sheriff’s deputy characterized the shooter’s actions as being the result of “a really bad day.” The shooter has claimed that race was not a motivating factor, and as of March 26, 2021, he has not been charged with a hate crime, though investigators say they have not ruled out bias as a motivator, particularly given the fetishization of Asian women in the US.

Indianapolis shootings: A former FedEx employee killed eight people and injured numerous others at the facility in Indianapolis where he used to work. While it has not been determined whether this was a hate crime, four of the individuals killed were part of the Sikh community.

Present day: We could not include every instance of racism or anti-AAPI hate crimes in this timeline. Since the pandemic began, 3,795 anti-AAPI hate crimes have been reported in the US (as of February 28, 2021), at least 708 of which took place in the San Francisco Bay Area, and this number is most likely undercounted. We want to bring attention to this matter and encourage people to report hate crimes, which you can do at https://stopaapihate.org/.