When we don’t know our history we are doomed to repeat the errors of the past

January 09, 2017

One weekend we drove across the line with a soccer ball and after our fill of chasing the ball, we decided to go into a tavern to buy some pop.

…Joe had already gone in. I opened the door to enter the bar and I saw the bartender talking to Joe. I couldn’t hear what was said but Joe was leaving. He was livid, shaking his head and muttering, “I can’t understand some people,” and briskly walked out. I asked him, “why, what did he say?” “He said that he’ll serve me but not you.” There was a moment of silence then Joe with clenched fists chortled, “At least we didn’t give him our business!”

– George Doi

My meeting ended early so it gave me a chance to call my uncle and catch up on family news. Our conversation shifted to current events and my dismay at the election of the president-elect in the US. We were talking about the hate and division happening now, but it reminded me of something my uncle wrote in a recent article about the 1950s. He shared an experience where he was being refused service because of his ethnicity. He is a third generation Japanese Canadian. Our family came to Canada in the 1800s and yet none of it mattered during the forced uprooting, dispossession, and incarceration during 1942, and it never occurred to the bartender who refused him service. I will continue to insist we have an inclusive history of Canada, including the stories of Japanese Canadians, being taught effectively in our school system and represented in our media and elsewhere. When we don’t know our history we are doomed to repeat the errors of the past. We must also call out the racist comments and actions especially for the leaders who are in positions of power and influence. We must consider the consequences of allowing situations which sanction racist behaviour. Doing nothing gives tacit permission for the racism to continue.

Bay Farm Prison Camp - NNMCC Archives

Bay Farm Prison Camp – NNMCC Archives

Blog post image: Bay Farm – Slocan 1942.

Cover image: Nelson in 1950s. Thanks to Fred Wah.

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