Fa­ther’s le­gal bat­tle leads to help­ing im­mi­grants BIO

See­ing his Army en­gi­neer fa­ther wronged, Ted Wang turns ac­tivist

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By AMY HE in New York amyhe@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

When Ted Wang’s fa­ther filed a law­suit in the late 1970s against the US gov­ern­ment — specif­i­cally the sec­re­tary of the US Army and for­mer Sec­re­tary of De­fense Don­ald Rums­feld — he wanted ac­knowl­edge­ment that he had been wronged.

At the time of the suit, Hung Ping Wang was in the US Army Corps of En­gi­neers as an en­gi­neer but in his decade-plus ca­reer at the fed­eral agency he had never been pro­moted de­spite hav­ing plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence in Tai­wan and a master’s de­gree from Stan­ford Univer­sity in Cal­i­for­nia.

The elder Wang was told ex­plic­itly that a pro­mo­tion would never hap­pen be­cause he spoke English with an ac­cent, and that he could never man­age peo­ple be­cause of that. Watch­ing his fa­ther strug­gle in his work­place de­spite be­ing qual­i­fied for the job in­flu­enced Ted to even­tu­ally go to law school and then be­come a civil rights ad­vo­cate, fo­cus­ing on racial in­jus­tice and dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“I wit­nessed that grow­ing up, and see­ing how dif­fi­cult it was, and how frus­trat­ing it was for some­one who was in­tel­li­gent, qual­i­fied, had prob­a­bly more ex­pe­ri­ence than most peo­ple in his work­place, to not be re­spected be­cause he spoke English with an ac­cent,” Wang said.

“What be­came clear when he talked about it was that this was not an iso­lated ex­pe­ri­ence. All of his for­mer class­mates, friends who had come to the United States, had had a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing their qual­i­fi­ca­tions over­looked be­cause they didn’t fit the idea somebody had of a man­ager: some­one who can’t speak English per­fectly,” he said.

Wang im­mi­grated to Ore­gon from Tai­wan and was a teenager when his fa­ther filed the law­suit. In the 1970s, the state was almost com­pletely white, he said, and his fam­ily was greeted with hos­til­ity where it set­tled be­cause it was the neigh­bor­hood’s first non­white fam­ily.

“Peo­ple ac­tu­ally burnt some­thing on our front lawn (dur­ing the law­suit),’’ Wang said.

“It was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent era where peo­ple were much more ex­plicit about their bi­ases.”

The law­suit — Hung Ping Wang vs. Martin Hoff­man, Sec­re­tary of the Army, and Don­ald Rums­feld, Sec­re­tary of De­fense — dragged on for years and took a sub­stan­tial amount of money, Wang said.

Ul­ti­mately, the elder Wang lost the suit be­cause no bias or dis­crim­i­na­tion was found. He was al­lowed to re­tire with full ben­e­fits in his 40s, but with­out the pro­mo­tion he wanted.

“The rea­son why peo­ple file law­suits is be­cause they want some­one to ac­knowl­edge that they were wronged. He never got that,” Wang said. “He was able to start a suc­cess­ful business, do­ing con­struc­tion real es­tate so I think that took some of the pain away — that he was able to have a suc­cess­ful sec­ond ca­reer — but I’m sure for a long time, the fact that no­body ac­knowl­edged his ex­pe­ri­ence was re­ally painful for him.”

The younger Wang later at­tended Reed Col­lege, study­ing psy­chol­ogy be­fore go­ing to law school at Yale Univer­sity. After law school and with his fa­ther’s le­gal bat­tle as an im­pe­tus, he be­gan his ca­reer in com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ing and civil rights ad­vo­cacy.

Wang, now 50, worked at the Lawyer’s Com­mit­tee for Civil Rights, a na­tional civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tion, for seven years when he got out of law school. He then worked at the Chi­nese di­rec­tor at Un­bound Phi­lan­thropy, based in London with a New York of­fice, where he works with or­ga­ni­za­tions seek­ing to im­prove the lives of im­mi­grants in the US. Un­bound is a small to mid­sized foun­da­tion that gives a lit­tle un­der $6 mil­lion a year to 45 to 50 US or­ga­ni­za­tions that fo­cus on com­mu­nity build­ing and im­mi­grant ad­vo­cacy, work that Wang sees as cru­cial to the growth of the US.

“One pri­or­ity is to cre­ate more wel­com­ing com­mu­ni­ties at the re­gional level, to try to help re­ceiv­ing com­mu­ni­ties un­der­stand how im­mi­grants can help them eco­nom­i­cally and oth­er­wise, and to un­der­stand that this coun­try is go­ing through a big trans­for­ma­tion in terms of de­mo­graph­ics, and that’s not a thing we should be afraid of,” he said. “It’s hap­pen­ing and it will be good to have poli­cies that fa­cil­i­tate bet­ter un­der­stand­ing, and pro­grams that ac­tu­ally en­gage peo­ple across com­mu­ni­ties.”

w‘ It as a com­pletely dif­fer­ent era where peo­ple were much more ex­plicit about their bi­ases.” TED WANG PRO­GRAM DI­REC­TOR AT UN­BOUND PHI­LAN­THROPY

AMY HE / CHINA DAILY

Ted Wang, pro­gram di­rec­tor at Un­bound Phi­lan­thropy, has spent his en­tire ca­reer in com­mu­nity ad­vo­cacy, hugely in­flu­enced by a racial dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit his fa­ther filed against the gov­ern­ment when Wang was a teen.

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