• Apology Ceremony for Chinese American Discrimination
Suffolk professor Da Zheng (left) with U.S. Senator Scott Brown

11/21/2011

Suffolk professor Da Zheng was overjoyed when U.S. Senator Scott Brown introduced a bipartisan resolution to formally acknowledge and express regret for the passage of discriminatory laws against the Chinese in America. For more than 60 years, the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited Chinese laborers from immigrating to the U.S. and made the Chinese ineligible for American citizenship. “It was one of the most notorious and discriminatory acts in the nation's history,” says Zheng.

The Chinese first immigrated to the U.S. in the 1840s to work in the California gold mines and later on the Transcontinental Railroad. Over time, anti-Chinese sentiment grew, often turning violent. In 1882, the federal government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was extended several times until its repeal in 1943 when China became a U.S. ally in World War II.

Senator Brown invited Zheng to be his guest at a November 16 ceremony in Washington, D.C., celebrating the Senate’s unanimous passage of the resolution. “Senator Brown helped to right an injustice, and I was honored to attend the event,” says Zheng.

A professor of English and director of the Asian Studies program, Zheng covers the Chinese Exclusion Act in his “Asian American Literature” and “Asia in America” courses. He is also a board member of the Chinese Historical Society of New England.

Zheng was disappointed to see minimal coverage of the resolution in the media. “The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first U.S. law that explicitly excluded a specific group of individuals on the basis of race.” He is proud that Brown took the lead role in this resolution. “It is only fitting for Massachusetts, given our state’s important role in other anti-discrimination milestones.”

Back to News »