There are many instances of trauma in my family and friends, and I put the root of it on the incarceration of the Second World War. When we were growing up, we were told to ignore the past, and just get-on-with-it and assimilate into the mainstream. In fact, our parents told us to work harder and outstrip working people like themselves, and that only by being a Professional could we redeem ourselves. I was mystified why being a working person was looked down upon. We seemed like decent, relatively happy people. When I went to university I was very conscious of my working-class roots. I think the Nisei internalized the racism placed upon them, and in turn regarded each other with condescension. I remember hearing a friend of my parents claiming that “None of my friends are Japanese”, as she gobbled down the salmon on her plate.
So many negative attitudes can prevail when you feel defeated, out of sync, and by simply looking in the mirror, you know you do not fit in. I do not like to dwell on the examples of trauma of Japanese Canadians, but in conclusion like to highlight the importance of the past to influence the present. If more of the Nisei had been able to get an education and realize their dreams, or even earn a decent living without killing themselves physically, we would be better off as a group. The Nisei were afraid to gather in groups. Even something like the Powell St, Festival, which seems so celebratory today, initially met with vehement opposition from Nisei elders. I have met Sansei who say, “So what? We didn’t have anything anyways”, in reference to the “Internment”. I like to focus on the relationship of the past to the present, and the importance of legacy, be it monetary or spiritual.