written by YSEALI PFP fellow Diana Taty from Malaysia
At the end of my first work day on Friday April 27th, I popped by a Mexican place recommended by my host mom with the intention to get take-out dinner. A quick transaction and a brown bag later, I was focused on brisk walking the 2-minute walk home as it was getting chilly outside. A newspaper caught the corner of my eye as I was headed out; it had a colorful front page which struck me most. I gravitate towards anything artistic and after a day of Seattle’s grey skies, this was refreshing! The Stranger is an alternative weekly newspaper in Seattle Washington. It calls itself “Seattle’s Only Newspaper” which not only curates Seattle City Council politics but curates the top Things to Read and Things To Do on a bi-weekly basis. A great find for someone who wants to delve into the city’s true colors (instead of being a conventional tourist)!
The Wing Luke Museum was nearing the close of its featured exhibition “Year of Remembrance: Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner” which recognizes the 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066, and explores historic and contemporary issues of racism, discrimination and human rights. On February 19th 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which resulted in the forced removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans. They were charged with no crime and the cause of their imprisonment was their ancestry. This had a big impact to residents of the Northwest region of the U.S. and I was curious to understand how deeply it affected them emotionally, physically, as well as the economy of the region they resided in.
Chinese and Japanese immigrants were, between the 1880s and early 1990s, pivotal to the Northern Pacific and Great Northern Railroads especially the Kaloma-Tacoma stretch and Spokane-Cascade mountains. The Chinese worked on building and laying the railroads and the Japanese worked as section hands and engine watchmen. Having played an essential role in American history, it was a new learning for me to be aware of the consequences of war on the larger demographic of people and not only those whom were directly exposed to conflict areas.
The exhibition was primarily focused on E.O. 9066 but carried the topic of racial exclusion to the current time of 2018. It featured the racial and religious partitioning of people of the U.S. as an effect of directives from the current federal administration. This brought me to the awareness that war and conflict wherever in the world will continue to shape the thoughts and understanding of the larger group of people at hand towards those that were directly involved in conflict. These are how stereotypes are formed around certain racial and religious profiles without considering the, obviously, different surrounding ecosystem between the individuals whom were directly involved versus those whom are/were not.
Circling back, it is programmes like the YSEALI Professional Fellowship Programme that play a role in shaping stereotypes of people whom are from our countries. Having direct exposure to families and the workforce, albeit small, gives us the opportunity of a cultural and, to an extent educational exchange allowing us to independently and consciously paint a true picture of people from our countries. I hope our work supervisors and host families can only say good things about the fellows in our cohort, for the responsibility to shape ideas and conceptions lies within each and every one of us.