Marion Barry’s statement that Asians “ought to go” is an echo of what American political leaders were saying in the late-1800s. He echoes Denis Kearney, a sandlot orator in California who ended his speeches during the 1870s with the cry of “The Chinese must go!” Forbidden Citizens, § 2.11, Denis Kearney and the Sandlot Orators.
In 1882, Congressman John Kasson (R-IA) accurately described this attitude as “one of the most vulgar forms of barbarism.” Forbidden Citizens, § 4.60, House Debate, March 22, 1882: “Who would have them for voters?”. It is still a vulgar form of barbarism in 2012.
Starting in 1879, Congress adopted a series of Chinese exclusion laws by majority votes, which did not assure that the laws were sound or just.
The Chinese Exclusion Act (H.R. 5804) passed the House of Representatives April 17, 1882, by an overwhelming majority vote of 201 in favor, 37 opposed, and 53 not voting. The Senate passed the bill, with amendments, on April 28, 1882, on another overwhelming majority vote of 32 in favor, 15 opposed, and 29 senators not voting. The House concurred in the Senate amendments on May 3, 1882 by voice vote and President Chester Alan Arthur approved the measure on May 6, 1882. Forbidden Citizens, Chapter 5. The Ten-Year Exclusion Legislation of 1882.
What’s old is new.