A few weeks ago, I went to a costume party with my boyfriend, who is white. Since I’m half-Japanese, we’d dressed up as (zombie) John Lennon and Yoko Ono. At one point, an inebriated Caucasian girl came up to us and complimented us on our costumes, gushing about what adorable babies we could have together because of our mixed races. At the time, I thought the drunk girl’s ramblings were sweet, but thinking back on it, her easy acceptance of my race was actually quite significant. After all, it was only a few generations ago that thousands of Japanese Canadians—including my grandparents, aunt, and uncle—were stripped of their property and basic rights and interned (quite like livestock) in stables in Vancouver because of their race. Now, some 70 years later, I walk along the same downtown streets that my grandparents were banned from and am complimented on my “exotic” ethnicity.
Should I be angry at how quickly we as a community forget the injustices that were committed against us? Maybe. But I’m not.
While I do feel that it’s important that the facts of this racist behavior be acknowledged and not swept under the rug—particularly at times like Remembrance Day specifically dedicated to remembering the sacrifices and tragedies that all Canadians have suffered due to war—I also see some hope in the fact that many of my friends have little to no knowledge of Japanese-Canadian internment. If it sounds crazy to people nowadays that this extreme, legislated racism could happen in our community, then maybe that’s a sign that we have progressed in certain ways as a society.
Don’t get me wrong—I know that racism is still prevalent in Canada. But, there is no denying the fact that there was a time that people of Japanese descent were reviled to the point of expulsion in British Columbia; today, I feel I am accepted into society just as well as a person of any other race, despite the tinge to my skin. So, this Remembrance Day, I will choose to remember the growth that British Columbians have made, and to dream of how even more accepting my children and grandchildren’s generations will be.