Rename Julius Kahn Playground
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Julius Kahn Playground is a public park in San Francisco that has been popular with families and children for over 90 years. We are calling for the overdue renaming of Julius Kahn Playground, named after a congressman who made the Chinese Exclusion Act permanent for nearly half a century.
What was the Chinese Exclusion Act?
The Chinese Exclusion Act, originally signed into law on May 6, 1882, excluded Chinese laborers from entering the United States under the purported fear that they “endanger[ed] the good order of certain localities.” This was the first time in U.S. history that the country barred entry of a specific ethnic group.
The Act also required Chinese people who were already in the United States to obtain certifications to re-enter the U.S. if they left, making it difficult and risky for Chinese in America to travel back to China to see their families. Moreover, the Act prohibited state and federal courts from granting Chinese persons citizenship.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was initially meant to last for ten years, but it was renewed by the Geary Act in 1892 for another ten, whereby it further required that each Chinese resident register and obtain a certificate of residence, or else face deportation.
Julius Kahn and Asian Exclusion
When the Act was again set to expire in 1902, Julius Kahn led the effort to make the Act permanent. In 1902, he drafted and introduced H.R. 13031, dubbed “the Kahn bill,” to the U.S. House of Representatives.
On the floor of the House of Representatives, Kahn declared that Chinese people were deceitful and of poor moral character, and lamented about their inability to assimilate. He also played into people’s fears by portraying the Chinese in San Francisco’s Chinatown as dangerous criminals, including gamblers, murderers, thieves, kidnappers, and blackmailers—rhetoric that is similar to the anti-immigrant sentiment that we still hear today.
Beyond Chinese exclusion, Julius Kahn pursued efforts to exclude other Asians from entry into the country. In a 1906 speech, Kahn openly expressed hostility toward the Japanese and argued for the country to deny them entry to the U.S. and the ability to naturalize as U.S. citizens. Kahn further lobbied for the exclusion of Asian Indians, sending a letter in 1910 to the Commissioner General of Immigration asserting that people from India would be a burden on U.S. communities. And, although Filipinos would not be excluded because the Philippines were a U.S. territory at the time, Julius Kahn nonetheless expressed disdain toward Filipinos on the House floor, particularly those of mixed Chinese and Filipino descent.
What can we do now?
Norman Yee, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, has introduced a resolution to direct the Recreation and Park Commission to remove Julius Kahn from Julius Kahn Playground and to lead a community process to rename the playground that reflects San Francisco’s shared values.
The names of our public spaces reflect the values and culture of the community. Our public parks, which are open to people of all ethnicities and backgrounds in our diverse community, should not honor a man who promoted and institutionalized racist and exclusionary policies in the U.S. on behalf of San Francisco.
Please join us in signing our petition to support the removal and renaming of Julius Kahn Playground to recognize the shared culture and values of immigrants in San Francisco.
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