Continuing on in this series, let’s examine another racist law found on the AltoArizona website. The Un-Fair Campaign directs the reader there from the “Taking Action” page on their website under “Learn how white privilege has historically disadvantaged people of color.”
1850 Foreign Miners Tax
“This law placed a $20 a month tax on all miners of foreign origin in California. The 1852 version of the law placed a $3 a month tax exclusively for Chinese laborers. Taxes for Chinese steadily increased with ever harsher bills passing the California Legislature and signed into law by then California Governor Bigler. One law passed by the State Legislature and signed by the Governor created a $50 tax per head for Chinese entering Californian ports that was to be paid within three days.
The California Supreme Court later ruled the law unconstitutional. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bigler#Anti-Chinese_laws)”
AltoArizona does include the name of the individual behind this racist law, John Bigler. However, once again, a snapshot of a law does not do justice to the full historical context of the law.
Using the link provided, we learn that John Bigler was a Democrat. Many pages could be written about the scathing racism abound in California during this period of time at the hands of Democrat leadership.
Fighting against this racist law was extremely difficult for the Chinese due to the racist (and known as the meanest Chief Justice ever) Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, Hugh Campbell Murray (a Democrat) who said the following in his Opinion in the case “People v. Hall” 1854 – a decision that restricted the Chinese ability to testify as witnesses before the court in California:
“…a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior, and who are incapable of progress or intellectual development beyond a certain point, as their history has shown; differing in language, opinions, color, and physical conformation; between whom and ourselves nature has placed an impassable difference” and as such had no right ” to swear away the life of a citizen” or participate” with us in administering the affairs of our Government.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Murray_%28judge%29
The ruling effectively made white violence against Chinese Americans unprosecutable, arguably leading to more intense white-on-Chinese race riots, such as the 1877 San Francisco Riot. The Chinese living in California were with this decision left practically in a legal vacuum, because they had now no possibility to assert their rightful legal entitlements or claims – possibly in cases of theft or breaches of agreement – in court. The ruling remained in force until 1873. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_American_history
You can read more about the Foreign Miners Tax in the Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History, Volume 1.
The Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution attributed to the end of this racist law, but, as we all know, was not the end of racism in our country.