Evaluating The Evolution of Exclusionary Laws

evolution of the racial exclusion laws. The writer explores the Jim Crow laws and the Chinese Exclusion Act and examines their similarities and differences. The writer finishes by defining how the writer would have reacted as a white leader at that time.

The Evolution of Exclusionary Laws

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Today, America works hard to stamp out racism. There are hate crime laws in affect that raise crimes based in racism to a federal offense level. While the nation is taking this and other steps to prevent racism issues, it has not always been this way. Years ago in America racism was not only tolerated, it was encouraged through legislation exalting its value.

Throughout American history racial exclusionary laws evolved and came full circle from being discussed, passed, upheld, challenged, struck down and the dismantled and all along those who were the victims of such laws stood strong and proud, knowing they were being abused and refusing to stand idly by and allow it to happen.

Whether it was the Jim Crow laws or the Chinese Exclusion Act, different periods in history allowed the mistreatment of various minorities and the evolution of society removed the ability to do so.

While most people are aware of the atrocities of America’s days of slavery, others are not so familiar with the evolutionary process that racial exclusion took. Slavery impacted African-Americans in ways that will never be forgotten but there were other acts in the U.S. that perpetuated racial exclusionary practices. One of those practices included the Chinese Exclusionary Act (Johnson, 1998 pp 1112-1148).

The Chinese Exclusionary Act had some things in common with the Jim Crow laws, and also had some differences. One of the things that was similar was the fact that it was designed to allow the mistreatment of a race population simply based on the fact that the members belonged to that race.

As Chinese immigrants continued to make their way to America resentment continued to grow. White miners and workers believed that Chinese immigrants were coming to the U.S. And taking jobs, homes and other life sustaining elements that should have gone to white residents (Johnson, 1998 pp 1112-1148).

Passed in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was a climax to more than thirty years of progressive racism. Anti-Chinese sentiment had existed ever since the great migration from China during the gold rush, where white miners and prospectors imposed taxes and laws to inhibit the Chinese from success. Racial tensions increased as more and more Chinese emigrated, occupied jobs, and created competition on the job market (Johnson, 1998 pp 1112-1148).”

By 1882 the public outcry was heard and there was a ban that prohibited Chinese immigrants from gaining access to American soil or land (Johnson, 1998 pp 1112-1148).

When it was first implemented it was supposed to last a decade but it was later changed to have an indefinite time frame.

The difference between this and the Jim Crow laws was that this banned Chinese immigrants from coming to America. The Jim Crow laws abused and excluded African-Americans already in America from certain standards of living.

When China became an important ally of the United States against Japan, the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed; however, a lasting impact remained. The act was both cause and effect: it came from decades of Chinese discrimination, and initiated decades of Chinese exclusion (Johnson, 1998 pp 1112-1148).”

Chinese who were caught in America after the Act was passed claimed to be relatives of those with papers who were already here.

The refusal to allow Chinese to immigrate to the states lasted more than six decades.

When challenged, the Supreme Court initially alleged that it would disturb the national sovereignty to strike down the Chinese exclusionary act.

In the famous Chinese Exclusion Case, the Supreme Court stated that “the power of exclusion of foreigners is an incident of sovereignty belonging to the government of the United States, as a part of its sovereign powers delegated by the Constitution.” Similarly, in Fong Yue Ting v. United States, the Court reasoned that “the right of a nation to expel or deport foreigners, is as absolute and unqualified as the right to prohibit and prevent their entrance into the country (Johnson, 1998 pp 1112-1148).”

It was not long after that when Congress banned immigration from all Asian nations into the U.S. further supporting exclusion of targeted populations.

During this time frame many states passed laws that prohibited certain nationalities from owning land in that state or any other real property as well.

The 14th amendment which provides equal protection under the law was used to begin chipping away at the exclusionary policies, not only for Asians but for African-Americans.

The relationship between Chinese exclusion and the revolutionary improvements for African-Americans during Reconstruction often goes ignored, even though pre-Civil War state laws regulating the migration of slaves served as precursors to the Chinese exclusion laws. It was no coincidence that greater legal freedoms for African-Americans were tied to Chinese misfortunes. As one historian observed, “with Negro slavery a dead issue after 1865, greater attention was focused on immigration from China.” Political forces quickly reacted to fill the racial void in the political arena (Johnson, 1998 pp 1112-1148).”

As racial exclusionary laws began to get challenged Supreme Court Justices initially agreed that African-Americans should be treated as equals however, Chinese people were so different from the Americans that the nation had a right to prevent them from owning property.

It was not long before the argument the constitution is color blind appeared and changed the attitude about excluding anyone from the rights to live, work and play in America based on heritage.

Jim Crow laws were enacted to continue the separate but equal beliefs of the politicians with regard to treatment of African-Americans. According to those who supported the Jim Crow laws, as long as there were separate but equal accommodations for Blacks and Whites the constitution was being obeyed. Trains had cars for Whites and different cars for Blacks. There were White water fountains in public buildings and water fountains that only Blacks could use (Davis, pp).

There were White schools and Black schools and other elements of life that were divided by providing a facility, tool or tool that could be used by Blacks and they were banned by law from using anything deemed for Whites.

These laws created Jim Crow cars wherein black passengers were separated from white passengers. Indeed, the word Jim Crow as a term denoting segregation first appeared in reference to these northern railroad cars. Responding to the federal law prohibiting racial discrimination on railroads (Civil Rights Act of 1875), Tennessee passed laws in 1881 protecting hotels, railroads, restaurants, and places of amusement from legal suits charging discrimination. The state also attempted to circumvent the federal anti-segregation laws in transportation by enacting statutes in 1882 and 1883 requiring railroads to provide blacks with “separate but equal facilities.” Florida, Mississippi, and Texas jumped on the bandwagon, as did most other states by 1894(Davis, pp).”

The Jim Crow laws were similar to the Chinese Exclusionary Act because they singled out a race and allowed that race to be treated differently, however, the Jim Crow laws pretended to stay in line with the constitution and treat Blacks equally while the Chinese Exclusionary Act allowed the complete banning of all immigration from China to America.

My Opinion

If I were a White leader of society in the era where exclusionary laws were passed I would have objected to them. I would have worked to have them repealed because it is not right to choose how one is treated based on race.

The United States constitution is a powerful document and one that promises every person the same treatment in all aspects of life. Diversity is what makes the country a fun and interesting place to live and raise children and had I been alive at that time and been considered a leader I would have used my power and clout to get people to support the dismantling of all laws allowing racial exclusion.


Chinese Exclusion Act (Accessed 5-20-07)


Davis, Ronald Ph.D. Creating Jim Crow: In-Depth Essay (Accessed 5-20-07)


Definition of Jim Crow Laws (Accessed 5-20-07)


Johnson, Kevin (1998) Race, the Immigration Laws, and Domestic Race Relations: a “Magic Mirror” into the Heart of Darkness, 73 Indiana Law Journal 1111-1159, 1112-1148

Racial policy and racial conflict in the urban United States, 1869-1924 *.

From: Social Forces | Date: December 1, 2003 | Author: Shanahan, Suzanne | More results for: evolution of racial exclusion laws

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