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.” Although, I 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.