The Seattle City Council unanimously approved a resolution August 3 that expresses regret for anti-Chinese legislation passed by the Washington Territory and previous Seattle City Councils in the 1800s.
“We shouldn’t bury our history,” said Councilmember Nick Licata, the legislation’s sponsor.
“Discriminatory policies ripple from the past and still affect Chinese communities today.”
As a result of discriminatory legislation adopted by the Washington Territory, Chinese people were denied the right to vote, prohibited from giving evidence in the courts in cases involving Caucasians, and denied the right to own land. In this environment, the Seattle City Council passed three discriminatory laws directed against Chinese in 1885, relating to living space, commercial licenses, and public laundries.
In 1886, an anti-Chinese riot took place in Seattle, and a mob of 1500 forced 350 Chinese to leave Seattle. This was part of a regional and national pattern.
“If we are to address persistent issues of racial and economic inequality in Seattle, we must acknowledge the institutional racism of our past,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “I commend the Council for making this statement of regret about our City’s painful history of legal racial discrimination.”
Councilmember Licata developed the resolution after he was approached by the Greater Seattle Chapter of the OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates, and the local chapter of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance. Members of both groups spoke to their history and urged Council to adopt the resolution.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Bruce Harrell, Jean Godden, and John Okamoto. (end)