The late 1800s saw an influx of Chinese immigrants to the U.S., in search of opportunity and work. It also saw the implementation of one of the most twisted acts passed by the U.S. Government: The Chinese Exclusion Act. It was one of the hardest times to be a Chinese-American in the U.S.
In 1880, two years before the Chinese Exclusion was passed, San Fransisco had already begun seeing racism and discrimination developing towards Chinese immigrants. One particular case was when an ordinance was issued that required all laundromats in the city to hold a permit issued by the city. However, even though over 89% of laundry businesses at the time were owned by Chinese workers, not one of them were granted a permit.
Two of these workers were Yick Wo and Wo Lee, who had been arrested after first: not being granted a permit by the city, and second: after refusing to pay the 10$ fine associated with not having a permit. After their arrest, they sued the city for writ of habeas corpus, in defense for their rights. They argued that the fine and enforcement of the ordinance was a discriminatory act, and a violation of their rights as U.S. citizens under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The case (Yick Wo v. Hopkins) made its way to the Supreme Court. It was concluded that the the enforcement violated the Equal Protection Clause, because even if the law is impartial, if it is applied with an "evil eye and an unequal hand" than it becomes biased. The Yick Wo case resulted in one of the first opportunities and achievements to ensure equality of people's rights despite their legal status, which strengthened Fourteenth Amendment rights for all.
Author: Carina Sun
In Honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
We are bringing you the stories of inspirational Asian Americans from history.
5/30/20 - The Exceptional Example Ronald Takaki Set
5/27/20 - The Incredible Legacy of Kalpana Chawla
5/26/20 - When Marrying a Non-American Meant Losing Your Citizenship
5/25/20 - Honoring the 442nd Infantry Regiment
5/24/20- A Glimpse at Asian-Americans in Hollywood -- Miyoshi Umeki
5/22/20 - The Oriental Schools of San Fransisco
5/21/20 - Equality For All Colors - Yick Wo v. Hopkins
5/20/20 - An End To Police Brutality: Peter Yew's Stand
5/19/20 - Finding His Form: Linsanity in 2012
5/18/20 - Internment and Injustice: Fred T. Korematsu
5/17/20 - The Courageous Stand of Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo
5/16/20 - The Unbreakable Spirit of Wong Kim Ark
5/15/20- The Admirable Perseverance of Patsy Takemoto Mink
5/13/20 - The Lasting Legacy of Grace Lee Boggs
5/12/20-Remembering "The Forgotten" -- The Chinese migrants who built America's first Transcontinental railroad
5/11/20 - The Singing Neurosurgeon: Dr. Ayub Ommaya