The vice mayor of Cupertino, California, Liang-Fang Chao has defended the Chinese Exclusion Act, Patch reports.
The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act was passed amid rising fears that Chinese laborers were taking American jobs. The law was eventually eliminated.
Chao defended the discriminatory law in an email sent to a group of Cupertino Union School District parents last week. She argued that the law was not racist because it was meant to only keep out Chinese laborers “not all Asians.”
“It was really a labor issue where American laborers wish to keep cheaper Chinese laborers out, for good reasons,” Chao said in the emails. “We are doing similar things today, through the H1 visa process. We don’t want to give work visas to people that will take American jobs.”
In the emails, Chao also told parents they should “not get offended so easily like some people do nowadays.” She defended the people who wrote the Chinese Exclusion Act because they lived during a different era.
“I am sure that those people will be offended by many things we do today, as we are offended by what they did then, based on the current standards,” Chao wrote.
She also expressed concern that the school curriculum focused too heavily on discrimination against Chinese Americans.
Chao told Patch on Sunday that she brought up the Chinese Exclusion Act to provide context for a discussion about critical race theory. She said she was trying to demonstrate how the prejudice Chinese Americans faced could not be explained by “racism alone.”
According to Patch, Chao was born in Taiwan and has lived in Cupertino since 1999. Cupertino currently has a population that is two-thirds Asian.
Many expressed disappointment with Chao’s comments.
“It is unfortunate that Vice Mayor Chao made comments on the Chinese Exclusion Act without going deeper into the history of the many laws excluding Asians spanning years,” Councilmember Hung Wei said Monday afternoon.
Several members of the city council, including Cupertino Mayor Darcy Paul, said that the law was racist.
A Twitter account called “Next Door in Silicon Valley” pointed out that Chao sits on the board of Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR). The organization claims to be combatting racism and intolerance but includes board members about Megyn Kelly, who has been criticized for racist views in the past. Kenny Xu, a podcaster who has attacked critical race theory and attempted to validate the model minority myth, is also on the board.
Others pointed out that they would consider her comments during the next city council elections.
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