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A U.S. soldier escorts several Japanese American children and a pastor to an internment camp in 1942. Photo:

The recent surge in anti-Asian racism and violence in the United States is the fruit of centuries of government policy. 

Why it matters: One thread throughout American history is a “racialized notion of who is an insider, who’s an outsider, who is American and who is an unassimilable foreigner,” says Karthick Ramakrishnan, a University of California Riverside professor and founder of AAPI Data.

A brief timeline of anti-Asian racism in the U.S.:

  • 1790 — Naturalization Act: The act barred naturalization of any non-white person.
  • 1854 — People vs. Hall: California's Supreme Court ruled an Asian person couldn't testify in court against a white person, setting the stage for anti-Asian violence to go unpunished.
  • 1871 — Chinese massacre in Los Angeles: Following the shooting of a white man killed in crossfire of rival Chinese gangs, hundreds of white and Hispanic people attacked L.A.’s Chinese community on Oct. 24, 1871. Nearly 20 Chinese people were lynched or shot dead.
  • 1875 — Page Act: Designed to prohibit women who had “lewd and immoral purposes” from entering the U.S., the Page Act was enforced mostly against Chinese women, the majority of whom were attempting to join Chinese men working in the country.
  • 1882 — Chinese Exclusion Act: The law banned immigration of Chinese laborers. It wasn’t repealed until 1943.
  • 1885 — Rock Springs massacre: White miners in Wyoming Territory attacked Chinese miners, killing 28 and wounding several others.
  • 1922-1923 — Supreme Court on citizenship: In separate cases in 1922 and 1923, the Supreme Court ruled that a Japanese-born man and an Indian-born man were not white and ineligible for naturalization.
  • 1924 — Johnson Reed Act: The law effectively blocked immigration from Asia and drastically cut the number of immigrants allowed to enter the U.S.
Japanese Americans at an internment camp in Santa Anita, California. Photo: Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
  • 1942-1945 — Japanese internment: During World War II, the U.S. forced over 100,000 people of Japanese descent — the majority of whom were U.S. citizens — into internment camps.
  • Late 1970s-early 1980s — KKK attacks: The Ku Klux Klan, claiming the Vietnamese fishermen were stealing American jobs, patrolled the waters off the coast of Texas and attacked the fishermen’s boats.
  • 1982 — Murder of Vincent Chin: Two white men in Michigan beat Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man, to death, blaming him for the success of the Japanese auto industry. They served no jail time.
Sikh men and their supporters hold a candlelight vigil in New York for victims of the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting in 2012. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
  • 2012 — Sikh Temple shooting: A white supremacist fatally shot six people at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on Aug. 5, 2012, a. A seventh victim died of his injuries last year. The attack came amid a surge of post-9/11 violence against Muslims or anyone perceived to be Muslim, including many South Asians.
  • 2020 — Anti-Asian hate crimes surge: Last year saw a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes that many attributed to anti-Asian rhetoric during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • 2021 — Georgia shootings: Asian Americans expressed alarm following the March 16 shootings at three spas near Atlanta, Georgia. Eight people were killed, including six Asian women.

The bottom line: Ramakrishnan tells Axios the common thread from the 18th century to now “is this notion of the perpetual foreigner, that, ‘they’re never one of us.'”

Go deeper:

Go deeper

In show of bipartisan solidarity, governors, former officials condemn anti-Asian attacks

Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

26 governors and more than 60 former officials denounced bias and discrimination against Asian people Friday, saying, "hate will not divide our states, territories, and communities."

Driving the news: The statements come amid a nationwide day of action following March 16's deadly shooting in Atlanta, in which eight people including six Asian women were killed, and a yearlong surge of anti-Asian hate crimes fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Asian Americans are underrepresented in law enforcement

An Asian American police officer walks through New York's Chinatown during an annual parade on Feb. 17, 2019. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Asian Americans make up only about 2% of the nation's law enforcement officers — an underrepresentation that ripples through small towns and major cities.

Why it matters: The consequences have been amplified over the past year, as violence and acts of racism grew against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Now, law enforcement agencies are facing criticism for not adequately reporting hate crimes and not having enough Asian American officers on staff to to adequately investigate cases.

Mar 26, 2021 - Podcasts

President Biden meets the press

President Biden gave his first news conference yesterday, where he emphasized what he's accomplished but was pressed on what he hasn't.

  • Plus, all votes have been counted in Israel's election, leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc just short of a 61-seat majority in the Israeli Knesset.
  • And, the history of hate crimes against Asian Americans in the U.S.

Guests: Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy and political science at the University of California, Riverside, and Axios' Margaret Talev and Barak Ravid.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Justin Kaufmann, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Amy Pedulla, Naomi Shavin, Alice Wilder, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com.

Go deeper:

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