Over a century later, the “Tacoma Method” still stains our history

This November will be the 137th anniversary of one of the worst episodes of racial violence Tacoma has ever seen.

On the morning of November 3, 1885, a riot of over 500 people led by Tacoma’s then-mayor Jacob Weisbach and other prominent white residents flooded Tacoma’s Little Canton China Town. The violent mob dragged Chinese and Chinese-American residents out into the streets. They stormed homes and businesses, forcing residents to march to the waterfront. Tacoma’s Chinese population was then herded onto trains headed to Portland, Oregon. Many Chinese and Chinese-American residents were expelled with just the clothes on their back. Once these residents were driven out of town, the mob spent the next few days burning down Chinese owned homes and businesses. This horrific episode of government official-sanctioned violence is known as the 1885 Tacoma Chinese Expulsion. At the peak of 19th century Chinese prejudice in the United States, the “Tacoma Method” was praised as an effective method to subdue Chinese communities on the West Coast.

This event is a dark stain on Tacoma’s history, and it is something that should be acknowledged, not hidden or ignored. Up until 2017, the “Tacoma Riot of 1885” was a Wikipedia stub, not a full article. In talking to others, I’ve encountered a shocking number of people who are completely unaware of the fact that this happened. However, there is at least one organization working tirelessly to bring awareness and establish discussions around the topic.

Founded in 1994, the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation is an organization dedicated to bringing awareness and reconciliation to the events of the Tacoma Chinese Expulsion. Their mission is  to educate communities on Tacoma’s history and the need for mutual cultural respect, collaborate with the Tacoma community to increase acceptance of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, grow community connections by providing opportunities for people to connect with one another, and encourage the healing process through the Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park.

Tacoma’s Chinese Reconciliation Park is situated near Schuster Parkway overlooking the Salish Sea. The park is designed to be a contemplative experience that tells the story of Tacoma’s Chinese residents through a series of intentional artistic installations. This includes pieces such as the spiral-shaped “Walk With The Sojourner’s Path,” which symbolizes the path of struggle Chinese Tacoma residents faced, and the stone sculpture titled “Through The Expulsion Path,” in which the nine large stone pillars represent the nine Tacoma city council members that held office during the time of the Tacoma Chinese Expulsion. The Chinese Reconciliation Park is a beautiful place to sit and consider our city’s history and how we can learn from it now.

In honor of the victims of the 13th anniversary of the Tacoma Method, The Chinese Reconciliation Project has organized the Walk for Reconciliation Against Racism. This walk will trace the forced march that Tacoma’s Chinese residents underwent in reverse, beginning at Union Station where they were forced out of town at gunpoint. The walk will proceed through downtown, along Schuster Parkway, and culminate with speeches and performances at Chinese Reconciliation Park. This event is free, outdoors, and family friendly. This is an excellent way to encourage dialogue about this event, as well as further public education on the topic. 

As a resident of Tacoma, I hope to see you there. 

Walk for Reconciliation Against Racism – Saturday, Oct 29, 2022, 10 AM – 2PM

From Tacoma Union Station to Chinese Reconciliation Park, organized by the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation

For further reading:

The Tacoma Method Project (n.d). Expulsion. Retrieved on October 17th, 2022 from  https://www.tacomamethod.com/

Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation. (n.d.). Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park. Retrieved on October 17th, 2022 from https://www.tacomachinesepark.org/

Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation. (2021). About The Tacoma Reconciliation Project Foundation. Retrieved on October 17th, 2022 from https://crpftacoma.org/about-crpf/

Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation. (2020, September 30). From Darkness to Light - Lihuang Wung Gives a Tour of Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park . Youtube. https://youtu.be/Ke99vZJhmrU

For further reading: