Parents' Guide to

The Chinese Exclusion Act

By Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Chinese immigrant experience reveals racism and resilience.

TV PBS Educational 2018
The Chinese Exclusion Act TV Show: poster.

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This important, poignant docuseries highlights how the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act became the first of 15 federal laws and numerous state laws in United States history to target the Chinese community. It reveals how the federal government refused to acknowledge the role Chinese immigrants were playing in the building of the country while systematically preventing them from becoming part of mainstream American society. It also explains how the 1882 law -- the first to single out a specific race and nationality for exclusion by name -- laid the groundwork for pre-World War II policies designed to keep other groups of "undesirable" immigrants from entering the U.S. This deconstruction helps articulate how the Exclusion Act, despite being repealed over 80 years ago, continues to reinforce sociocultural prejudices against Chinese Americans while informing contemporary political and legal attempts to ban other specific groups from the country. But The Chinese Exclusion Act also underscores how generations of Chinese Americans fought these efforts to keep them out of American society by working within their community to support each other and by successfully challenging these laws in court. Overall, it's an impactful narrative that tells the difficult immigration story of the Chinese people in the U.S. and successfully underscores why it is relevant to everyone.

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