Within the field of Asian American studies, exclusion is a leitmotif that brings together collective histories of immigration restriction, detention, mass confinement, and citizenship denial. It expresses the organized forces, based in both state and private action, that have marginalized Asian Americans, and against which they have had to struggle, first to be permitted to enter the United States at all, and then to become accepted within the larger society.

To understand Asian exclusion, it is necessary to look at the larger history of ethnic stratification in the United States. From the time of their first settlement, Euro-Americans determined that America was theirs by right, an ever-expanding “white man’s country” that they did not mean to share with other inhabitants. Despite the vital role of African Americans and native peoples in building the common society, members of those groups were excluded by both law and custom from full citizenship in …

This essay may be found on page 82 of the printed volume.

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