What have we learned about immigration – a visit to Tacoma, WA’s Chinese Reconciliation Park

Evidently, this is not the first recession experienced in the USA. It’s not even the first time with horribly high unemployment. Sadly, it’s not the first time that we’ve not taken responsibility for our problems and have instead blamed a minority for our what challenges us.

Economic stress can also created an uncomfortable bump in our social justice history.  One such example occurred in the 1870s and ’80s.

The place: Tacoma, Washington.

The problem: economic depression and a depleted job market.

The reaction: blame the Chinese immigrants.  Actually, the problem existed in much of the United States and resulted in a horribly racist and discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (the Act). In Tacoma, the Act only, fueled sentiments of intolerance.

In Tacoma, the Chinese were “targets of violent riots, and local laws that limited their rights.”  In October of 1885, a committee of prominent Tacoma white guys got together and demanded that the Chinese leave Tacoma. The committee included the mayor, county judge, fire chief, and other city officials.  By November, many of the threatened Chinese had departed, but those that did stay were herded by an armed mob, marched eight miles to the nearest train station, and forced to depart. The remaining Chinese settlement was razed.

Now, over a century and a quarter later, the City of Tacoma has acknowledged its role in those past mistakes and built a beautiful park along the Old Town waterfront – Chinese Reconciliation Park. Dedicated to the mistreated Chinese immigrants, the park is the a result of  a long reconciliation process.  The process and its memorial park, officially begun in 1994 by the Chinese Reconciliation Process Foundation,  now serves as a potent reminder of a painful past.

For me, it also achieves one of its primary goals: “…to promote peace and harmony in our multicultural community.” AlthoughI can’t help but draw parallels to some current events and feel saddened that history just keeps repeating, I do hope this place helps remind us all of the consequences of intolerance and reactionary, bigoted actions.

Here are some scenes from the peace-provoking park.


3 thoughts on “What have we learned about immigration – a visit to Tacoma, WA’s Chinese Reconciliation Park

  1. Pingback: Isleton « peregrination

  2. I had recently read Iris Chang’s outstanding book The Chinese in America, a historical epic spanning 150 years about the impact of Chinese immigrants to America. Heart-breaking. Heart-warming. As a Chinese and yet more significantly as a world citizen, more than ever the work towards building a more peaceful world remains one which requires our utmost commitment to centre our deliberations and efforts to this most noble task. Thank you so much for the beautiful photos and the timely reminder. Sharon

    • Thank you Sharon. I grew up near San Francisco and was very aware of the large Chinese community there and the important role they played in building that community as well as the railroad that connected SF to other cities. But also being from the West Coast, and a child of two WWII era parents, I was also very aware of the treatment of the Japanese-Americans during the war.

      Both immigrant groups were unfairly targeted, lost property and had their lives disrupted and only because of their cultural heritage. I visited Manzanar (a Japanese internment camp that’s now a National Monument) and was incredibly moved.

      There, one amazing thing I saw, was that the interpretive signs did not hesitate to draw comparisons between that history and the history that was unfolding at the time (it was just after 9/11). I left that site proud that the government (it’s a federal park property) had been willing to take a stand against swelling anti-Arab sentiment.

      It’s all heart-breaking history, and you are so right, it requires hard work, diligence, to effect change so that we don’t keep repeating our mistakes.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting. I know this post is a departure from my mostly nature/travel-themed posts, so I appreciate the positive feedback.

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