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Mayor Sam Liccardo during a May news conference in San Jose, California. Photo: Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

San Jose officials will formally apologize in a Wednesday ceremony for racial discrimination and injustices that early Chinese immigrants suffered in the Californian city — including the destruction of Chinatown in an 1887 arson attack.

Why it matters: A rise in anti-Asian hate during the pandemic has focused attention on the U.S. legacy of racism against Asian Americans, per Axios' Shawna Chen. San Jose is the latest and largest city in the U.S. to formally apologize to Chinese immigrants and their descendants.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Driving the news: San Jose City Council unanimously approved a resolution to apologize on Wednesday to Chinese immigrants and their descendants for the city's role in "systemic and institutional racism, xenophobia, and discrimination."

  • "An apology for grievous injustices cannot erase the past, but admission of the historic wrongdoings committed can aid us in solving the critical problems of racial discrimination facing America today," the resolution states.

Context: Chinese immigrants faced racist policies in Western states in the 19th century, including being prevented from owning property and land, as well as scapegoating and xenophobia.

  • In San Jose, the Chinese settlers built their own communities, resulting in five Chinatowns in the city that existed until the 1930s. Several were targeted by arsonists, KQED notes.
  • One such deliberately lit blaze in May 1887 in Chinatown on Market Street razed homes and businesses, displacing 1,400 people — soon after San Jose's council had declared the site "a public nuisance in the way of plans to build a new city hall," per the Mercury News.

What they're saying: Connie Young Yu, a historian and author of "Chinatown, San Jose, USA," whose grandfather was a teenage refugee from the 1887 fire, told AP the apology gave her an "enormous sense of reconciliation and a sense of peace," adding that it shows the city was "taking responsibility" for the discriminatory acts.

  • Councilmember Raul Peralez said in an emailed statement that being a city that's inclusive and welcoming for all "means facing head on its past mistakes."  
  • "Our Chinese community has long been an important part of our city and this long overdue apology from the city will be a step forward towards much healing," Peralez added.
  • San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo noted that it's "important for members of the Chinese American community to know that they are seen and that the difficult conversations around race and historic inequities include the oppression that their ancestors suffered," per AP.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Go deeper: The centuries-long history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Peralez.

Go deeper

Oct 20, 2021 - Health

New York City announces COVID vaccine mandate for all public workers

A health care worker administering a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to a student in Staten Island in August. Photo: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced an expanded COVID-19 vaccine mandate that covers all of the city's public employees, including police officers and firefighters.

Why it matters: Around 71% of city workers have already satisfied the mandate by receiving at least one dose. The remaining 46,000 unvaccinated employees will have to receive their first dose by Oct. 29 or will risk being placed on unpaid leave until they can show proof of a first dose, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
8 mins ago - Economy & Business

Why it's so hard to tax wealth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The wealth tax that wasn't a wealth tax isn't even a tax, now. The Democrats had a meticulously constructed 107-page proposal to pay for a large chunk of their spending plans with a tax on billionaires, but it died ignobly on Wednesday, the same day it was unveiled.

Why it matters: The dream of a wealth tax will never die as it so neatly generates revenue by reducing inequality. But there are three main reasons why that dream is likely to remain just a dream for the foreseeable future.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Health

Public health messaging lessons for the next pandemic

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

"Be first, be right, be credible" is the mantra of public health experts in a crisis. It's difficult to argue that the health community has regularly managed to be any of those three during COVID-19.

Why it matters: A pandemic isn't just a medical emergency — it's also a communications emergency. The U.S. public health establishment, hamstrung by bad data and political interference, has struggled with the latter.

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