While Florida targets Black history, Texas Republicans plan to make life miserable for Asian Americans

While much of the country is rightfully preoccupied with Florida’s efforts to eliminate African American history from schools, a quieter but equally dangerous racist development is happening in Texas and beyond.

Texas’s proposed SB147 will, if enacted, ban citizens from China, Russia, North Korea and Iran from buying property or real estate in Texas; at least 11 other states are considering similar legislation. The ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council is pushing many of these bills as a “model policy,” just as it has aggressively promoted anti-transgender legislation.

These laws will almost certainly have a disproportionate impact on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders because we are easier to identify — and will bolster the yellow peril view of us as forever foreigners in our own country.

SB147 justifies its necessity on the grounds of national security, a catch-all phrase to override the pillars of American freedom and democracy. It deems these four countries to be enemies of the United States, especially China — propelled by the current hysteria from the diplomatic fallout over an alleged spy balloon.

Whatever the state of official diplomatic relations between countries, these sorts of anti-free market, race-based discriminatory restrictive covenants are anathema to our nation’s values and have a disgraceful place in American history. The proposed Texas land law is eerily similar to racist laws of the past.

On May 3, 1913, California passed the Alien Land Law prohibiting Asian immigrants from purchasing and owning land. In 1920, immigrants not eligible for citizenship were prohibited from entering short-term leases for land, and stock companies and could not acquire agricultural lands. In 1923 American-born children of Asian immigrant parents or corporations controlled by Asian immigrants were not allowed to lease or own land.  These laws were directed at Japanese and Chinese immigrants, based on perceived economic threats.

Fifteen states followed California creating similar laws. Oregon’s Constitution stated no “Chinaman” could own property in the state — but “white foreigners” could enjoy the same ownership rights as native citizens. Fortunately, these discriminatory laws were eventually struck down by the Supreme Court in Sei Fuji v. California as a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

SB147 ignores that history to send the chilling message that questions Asian American loyalty to America — perpetuating the forever foreigner stereotype.

On its face, SB147 exempts U.S. citizens. But it’s not difficult to imagine various scenarios where American citizens will face fallout from the bill.

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Lillian Sing, Julie Tang