On August 19, 2005 ground was broke on Shuster Parkway by Ruston Way for a new park called "Chinese Reconciliation Park". The reason for this park goes back 120 years to perhaps the most shameful era of Tacoma’s colorful history. In the 1880s the growing city of Tacoma was faced with a multitude of problems. The economy was in a recession. Jobs were scarce. The Northern Pacific Railroad from Kalama to Tacoma had recently been completed, but the benefits of that had not yet occurred. Most of the people who built the railroad were Chinese and many of them chose to settle in Tacoma.
In 1885 there were approximately 600 Chinese in the city of Tacoma. Many of them were proud business owners and good members of the community. Others worked in saw mills or as fishermen. Many farmed pigs. The other major fact about the Chinese was that they were willing to work for a fraction of what a white man would expect.
The recession coupled with a workforce willing to work cheap led to a strong anti-Chinese movement in Tacoma. Tacoma wasn’t the first place this sentiment arose, but it was one of the most vocal. Public meetings were held. None of them were unbiased.
The solution agreed upon by the city leaders was something that would become known as "The Tacoma Method". Chinese were ordered to leave the city of Tacoma by November 1, 1885 or face being removed by force. About 400 Chinese left their homes and their livelihood out of fear and intimidation. Two hundred remained. Many had the word of white business owners who were against the Tacoma Method, that they would be spared. Others thought that their long-standing ties in the community would save them. They were all wrong.
On November 3, 1885 several hundred men, led by city officials forced the remaining Chinese on a train bound for Portland. They burned the burned Chinese settlements to the ground.
Honestly, building a park 120 years later doesn’t come close to making up that sort of racist action. However, what I believe is important is Tacoma’s effort to make the citizens of Tacoma aware of a dark chapter in Tacoma’s history. This sort of thing needs to be remembered. Hatred and bigotry hasn’t gone away. It’s still out there and waiting for a place to take root. This is why Chinese Reconciliation Park is important.
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