Matt talks to Ed Tepporn—himself an immigrant, immigrating from Thailand to Texas in the 1970s, the Executive Director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, a former U.S. immigration Station that now serves to preserve the rich stories of Pacific Coast immigrants (from 80 different countries) and share them through educational initiatives and public programs. As Ed says, “connecting the history of the past with what’s happening today and in the future.”
The gentlemen discuss the spike in xenophobia, anti-immigration sentiments, and racism towards Asian-Americans in this country as a result of the pandemic. They decry their mutual challenges of being “otherized” as gay men—and for Ed, gay and Asian—and celebrate the wins of the right to marry their husbands and the legal protections marriage affords, as well as commend the contributions and positive impact of immigrants on US society and culture.
EPISODE #7, SEASON 2
I do hope that it's better for gay and lesbian and bi and trans kids these days compared to what it was like for us, and at the same time, whether it's the LGBT community, whether it's other racial, ethnic communities, whether it's other oppressed or marginalized communities, the struggle, the challenges, the resiliency that our communities have had to endure are part of our history. There's a part of me that also thinks it's important for however you identify to understand what your own communities or families have gone through but also what other communities and families have gone through, so that hopefully we don't repeat history.
That's part of what we're trying to do at the Angel Island immigration Station Foundation, is there was this history of xenophobia that led to people being excluded, and then once they were detained on the island, the Asian folks were treated differently from the non-Asian folks. They endured lengthier interrogations. The conditions that they lived in were more cramped. The food that they served was even cheaper than the food that non-Asians were served. If we aren't aware of our history, if we don't remember history, if we don't understand and empathize it, then we're absolutely doomed to repeat it.
Unfortunately, that's what we're seeing nowadays, not only with what's happening to Asian communities in terms of the rise of xenophobia, but also the detention that's happening along the southern border and the debates and discussions about who is allowed to enter this country and who is allowed to be an American and what is the worth of an immigrant and their current and potential contributions as opposed to how they're currently thought of as how they're a burden how we're a burden to society.
What I love about your organization is that you're teaching stories and you're telling stories and you're reminding people of what happened. Just like you said, so we don't repeat it, although we are repeating it, right?
We are repeating it unfortunately.