The 1882 Foundation hosted its monthly Talk Story event on July 29, 2018 at the Chinatown I Street Conferencing Center. The event featured Ted Gong, the Executive Director of the 1882 Foundation, sharing his thoughts about the legacy of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and why it remains relevant today in current immigration debates. To supplement the conversation, the space included traveling exhibitions from the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA), “Remembering 1882: Civil Rights under the Shadow of the Chinese Exclusion Act” and a panel display on the contributions of Chinese workers in the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad, as well as some political cartoons and flyers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries illustrating anti-Chinese public sentiment during Exclusion. We also had a staff from the DC Public Library with books related to U.S. Immigration Policy and the Chinese Exclusion Act for participants to borrow.
Stan Lou, the Talk Story Director and OCA officer, kicked off the event by introducing two books related to Chinese American experience, “Crazy, Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan and “Number One Chinese Restaurant” by Lillian Li, both available at the DC Public Library. Ted then started his speech by raising the question of “what is the Chinese question.” He briefly introduced the history of anti-Chinese movement leading up to and during the era of Chinese Exclusion and related it to immigration issues in general. To break down the question raised in the beginning, Ted detailed three main issues: birthright citizenship, the roles of federal vs. local government in the enforcement of immigration laws, as well as how immigration laws are enacted. In the end, he concluded that the Chinese question is really about who and what can become American. This speech raised audience’s awareness of the fact that immigration laws actually affect all Americans. The following discussion was very active and enlightening. It particularly emphasized the parallels of past and present in the question of the democratic process in racist and unjust policies.
The event can be viewed in our Facebook live history if you are interested in learning more. This event is part of our monthly Talk Story series in DC Chinatown, rooted in the idea that the strength of our community is in the power of our stories told and shared. Please visit our website to learn more about our monthly discussion on Chinese and Asian American experiences. Share your stories and get inspired!