5.27.2011

bellingham, wa mayor formally apologizes for chinese expulsion

Wow. Coming off the announcement that Rep. Judy Chu and other lawmakers have introduced a resolution calling on Congress to acknowledge and express regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act, here's more news of efforts to heal the scars of a community's racist past: Bellingham mayor apologizes to Chinese community.

Yesterday in the city of Bellingham, Washington, Mayor Dan Pike issued a formal apology to the Chinese community for what happened 125 years ago, when Chinese residents were forced out of the area at the urging of civic leaders and the town newspaper:
The Bellingham event this week is part of the larger Chinese Expulsion Remembrance Project, which also was launched last year in Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Mount Vernon, to remember anti-Chinese hostilities, to learn from a dark piece of history and to reflect on the dangers of intolerance.

In this area, publishers of the Whatcom Reveille, with the help of civic leaders, had successfully launched in the newspaper's pages a campaign to push all Chinese out of the communities of Bellingham Bay and Whatcom County. They used a combination of threats, boycotts, vitriol and assertions that the immigrants were taking jobs away from white residents in the midst of an economic downturn.

The Chinese were given until Nov. 1, 1885, to leave. They did. Six days later, the residents of what would one day be Bellingham celebrated with a torchlight parade, song and fireworks.
This was just one of several towns up and down the Pacific Northwest that fell prey to anti-Chinese hysteria and forced out thousands of Chinese immigrants during the fall of 1885 and winter of 1886. Times being what they are, one hopes we can learn from the horrors and mistakes of the past. More here: Bellingham mayor to apologize to Chinese community for banishment 125 years ago.

Learn more about the Chinese Expulsion Remembrance Project here.