"He suggested exterminating Chinese immigrants"

A building in University of California Berkeley School of Law may be renamed for its affiliation with racist attorney John Boalt.

The Sacramento Bee reports that University of California Berkeley School of Law is moving to rename Boalt Hall.

Boalt Hall, which has many law school classrooms, was named after 19th century San Francisco attorney John Boalt.

According to a column published by Berkeley Law School lecturer Charles Reichman, Boalt was a prominent figure, supporter and influencer of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

In a speech titled ‘The Chinese Question’ of “an unconquerable repulsion” of Americans to Chinese people, Boalt pushed to prevent Chinese immigrants from assimilating.

“Boalt invoked the alleged criminality, intellectual differences, cruelty and inhumanity of the Chinese, and mused it would be better to “exterminate” a strongly dissimilar race than assimilate it,” Reichman wrote in his column.

Dean Erwin Chemerinsky looked into the issue and wrote a letter to the law school community saying he went through hundreds of “passionate, persuasive messages on both sides.”

60% of those asked wanted to change the building’s name. Others argued that historical figures had mixed legacies. Some argued that removing Boalt’s name from the building would dishonour Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt, who donated $100,000 to the school.

Chemerinksy sided with those who wished to drop Boalt’s name.

“I was moved by the many who wrote me expressing their discomfort with honoring someone who expressed vile racism, especially without anything to point to that would justify honoring him as an individual,” Chemerinsky wrote.

However, the committee is yet to launch its own review. UC President Janet Napolitano then would have the final say.

 

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