Denver, capital city of Colorado, has become the fifth city in the United States and the first outside California to offer an official apology for past wrongs against Chinese and other Asian immigrants.
At a special event titled "Reclaiming our Past, Building our Future: City of Denver's Chinatown Apology" held on Saturday, Michael Hancock, mayor of the city, read the official apology letter for the devastating effects of the 1880 anti-Chinese riot in the historic Chinatown of lower downtown Denver that decimated a once thriving Asian American community.
"We know that to heal our community we must be willing to face and address things we have avoided, apologize for wrongs we have committed and follow through with actions that are true to ongoing positive change. This is just the beginning," Hancock tweeted Monday.
The letter recalled the first group of Chinese immigrant workers who suffered from race discrimination when they arrived at Denver in 1869 and had to live in Chinatown, which was one of several geographical ghettoes created in the city to confine its "undesirable" residents.
Moreover, there were also discriminatory practice at that time, including some in the form of restrictive covenants in housing deeds along with "gentleman's agreements" to prevent "Orientals" from living and working other areas in the city. As a result, Chinese immigrants were forced to live in substandard housing and work in limited occupations.
"Yet, irresponsible government reports at the time regularly condemned it as a den of inequity and its inhabitants as conveyors of social diseases. Tragically, the anti-Chinese riot of October 31, 1880, nearly destroyed Chinatown, killed Look Young, a young laundryman, and wounded hundreds of others," the letter read, noting the city police force failed to protect its Chinese residents and courts failed to punish the murderers after the riot.
"While the city cannot erase past injustices against Chinese immigrants and the Asian American and Pacific Island communities, the city owes them a long-overdue apology - an admission of the wrongs committed and its failure to correct them is a first step towards recognizing and honoring their contributions and can contribute to racial reconciliation," it said.
"It will also serve to educate those who are ignorant of this shameful chapter in Colorado's history and hopefully bring some closure to the families whose loved ones suffered racial violence and abuse," the letter added.
The city announced in the letter that it would take measures to deal with the continued consequences of past violence and "discrimination such as the recent surge in anti-Asian hate crimes across the nation," including supporting the establishment of an Asian Pacific Historic District and an Asian Pacific American community museum.
In May 2021, the San Francisco Bay Area city of Antioch became the first U.S. city to offer a formal apology to Chinese immigrants and their descendants for the race discrimination in history. Then, the city of San Jose in September, Los Angeles in October and San Francisco in February 2022 followed the move.