Gina Greenlee, Margaret H. Greenberg May 17, 2022

Shared Context: The Chinese Exclusion Act

Image credit: Kerwin Elias,

As organizational development consultants we know how failing to name what needs naming derails any business endeavor. That’s a certain outcome if euphemisms are applied to race talk and race work. In your business spaces we encourage you to use direct, constructive language to name what must be named, without shaming or blaming. Shared context about race and racism in our society is a requisite foundation, before jumping into action at your workplace.

A place to start (or continue) your journey of shared context is the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This US federal legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Chester A. Arthur made it illegal for Chinese workers to come to the US, and for Chinese nationals already in the country, ever to become citizens of the United States.

Why it Matters

The violence that escalated against Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders who live in Western countries during the pandemic is not new and not isolated. Shared historical context allows us to engage race talk about centuries of discrimination, violence, and oppression and recognize how it manifests in the present day.

In business, you cannot advance strategy you do not name. Organizational race work is no different.