It seems like non-Asian people have this tendency to label all Asian-related things as "oriental." Remember that "oriental skirt" you saw at the mall? Or the Halloween costume with the chopstick hair clips called "oriental costume?"
Now imagine being told you needed to go to an "oriental school" because you were Asian.
In 1884, that's what happened to Mary and Joseph Tape's daughter. Both of them were Asian-immigrants and U.S. Citizens. Their daughter was U.S.-born, but they were still treated as outsiders. When they tried to enroll their daughter, Mamie, into school, they were denied. They sued the school and the board of education, which made its way to the Supreme Court of California. However, the school superintendent encouraged a different path: one that would create "separate but equal schools" for Asian-Americans and Whites.
This decision created national and international controversy, as it brought up the immense segregation problems Asian-American immigrants were facing. The situation worsened in 1905 when the San Fransisco Chronicle launched an anti-Japanese campaign targeting them specifically.
Regardless, on October 11, 1906, the San Fransisco Board of Education directed that all schools in San Fransisco were to send their students of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese descent to new "oriental schools". This was the first time Asian-American students were legally required to be separated and excluded from equal education. This angered both Americans and the Japanese government, who argued that it was a violation of the rights of Japanese-Americans. In Tokyo, newspapers announced outrage with the U.S. government's actions and denounced the legislation.
Concerned with the hit on his presidency, President Theodore Roosevelt came to an agreement with the Japanese government that he would not legally prevent Japanese immigrants from entering the U.S. if they slowed the influx of Japanese laborers into the U.S. Furthermore, Roosevelt then worked with California officials to reinstate Japanese students in exchange for limiting Japanese labor immigrants.
So, in the end, it was a "win" for the Tapes. However, just 4 years later, the Immigration Act of 1924 essentially banned all Asian-Americans from immigrating to the U.S. at all, undermining all of this progress. Read about that in our article coming out tomorrow!
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