From Storm to Sunshine: Chinese Americans Rally Against Discrimination
As the storm clouds of December 16th unleashed their fury, a resolute group gathered at The Torch of Friendship in Miami, united against the unfair legislation of SB264 and SB846. Drenched from head to toe, they stood strong in the raging tempest, a testament to their commitment. Little did they know that just a day later, under the bright sunshine of December 17th, a ray of hope would shine upon their cause. President Biden's statement on the 80th anniversary of the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act arrived, marking a significant victory in Chinese Americans’ efforts spearheaded by UCA (United Chinese Americans). The weather has shifted, and so has the tide of the fight with the arrival of this first ever official commemoration on the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act stripped Chinese Americans of their lawful rights, and their dignity was ruthlessly trampled upon. Vulnerable and easy to be targeted, Chinese immigrants had no choice but to endure and suffer in silence. Eighty years after the Act’s repeal, the state of Florida, regrettably, witnessed the birth of SB264, a law brimming with discrimination against Chinese Americans. It carried an intent to brand ethnic Chinese as enemies, both racially and ideologically. And, more recently, SB 846 has put a roadblock in the path of Florida's public universities hiring Chinese graduate students and postdocs, which has sparked serious concerns among Florida’s academicians. However, today's Chinese Americans are no longer timid or submissive; instead, they choose to unite and say no to unconstitutional and unfair laws. After a month of organizing and planning led by UCA (United Chinese Americans) and FAAJA (Florida Asian American Justice Alliance) together with 28 other organizations, the stage was set for a rallying cry against SB264 and SB846 at The Torch of Friendship in Miami, in the stormy afternoon of December 16th.
December 16, at 2:00 PM. With the U.S. national anthem ringing loudly amidst a torrential downpour, it became evident that the struggle and fight would face formidable obstacles. The inclement weather served as a metaphor for the arduous path ahead in changing the unfair legislation, but the rally attendants remain resolute in their unwavering commitment to fight against it. Leaders of the Chinese American community from across the country actively participated in this event, delivering inspirational speeches. Prominent figures included Congresswoman Judy Chu, former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, Texas State Representative Gene Wu, UCA President Haipei Shue, Co-founder of CALDA (Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance) attorney Clay Zhu, and N. Miami Beach City Commissioner candidate Lynn Su. In addition, representatives from many organizations such as CASEC (The Chinese Association of Science, Education and Culture of South Florida), FAAJA, The Yick Wo Institution, NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), LULAC (The League of United Latin American Citizens), and ACLU (The American Civil Liberties Union), lent their voices to the cause. The rally also saw strong support from various communities, including African American, Indian American, Caribbean, Jewish, Cuban and other Hispanic communities, as well as professors from Florida’s public universities such as UF (Univ. of Florida), FSU (Florida State Univ.), and FIU (Florida International Univ.). Despite the challenging weather conditions, these speakers delivered a clear and unified message: Florida has no place for a new Chinese Exclusion Act, and Chinese Americans will not passively endure unjust treatment.
Amidst relentless stormy weather, with the wind gusting and rain pouring down, people stood side by side, holding their signs aloft. Within the crowd, drenched children and teenagers chanted slogans, their soaked clothes clinging to their determined forms. With arms held high, they ensured that passing cars and pedestrians could not overlook their signs. The flimsy ponchos people wore offered no protection from the relentless rain, leaving them soaked from head to toe. Yet, not a single person retreated. This group of determined individuals, hailing from all corners of the United States and various parts of Florida, stood steadfast, braving the unrelenting wind and rain for a full one and a half hours. Let the storm rage more fiercely; it only serves to galvanize the awakening Chinese Americans, fortifying their resolve to confront the political challenges ahead.
The rally opened and closed with a group sing-along of the iconic civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome," led by singer Steve Higgins. This timeless song holds a profound place in the hearts of Americans, symbolizing the enduring faith and belief that discrimination, injustice, and darkness can ultimately be conquered. It is a melody that perfectly aligns with the dawn of a new era in the Chinese American civil rights movement in the United States.
December 17. A day after the storm. Miami's charm returned, bringing with it warm sunshine and pleasant temperatures. And with the return of beautiful weather came exciting news from the White House - President Biden's Statement on the 80th anniversary of the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act. In his statement, President Biden underscored America's core values as a nation of immigrants, reaffirming its commitment to equality and cultural diversity. He celebrated the monumental contributions of Chinese Americans across generations - from building the transcontinental railroad in the 1800s to serving in the military, and from authors, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs to scholars today. He paid tribute to all immigrants who continue to make extraordinary contributions to the nation. This was a promising gesture from the White House, one that deeply resonated and encouraged the Chinese American community.
The legacy of the Chinese Exclusion Act is still echoing today, and it was concocted by some Florida politicians catering to xenophobic and Sinophobic sentiments for their political gains. But the Chinese Americans stand firm, resolute in their fight against such sentiments, as these represent a profound departure from the equality that the United States promotes. They declare in unison: "We shall overcome!"