Question from Tsunagu: In recent years (particularly since the arrival of COVID-19), we have seen a rise in anti-Indigenous, anti-Black, and anti-Asian hate crimes. We see a disproportionate number of racialized people, too, enduring homelessness, criminalization, police violence, and other forms of struggle. Do you see a thread of connectivity between these conditions and what happened to Japanese Canadians during World War II? If so, what are the connections that you see? Why does Japanese Canadian history matter today? (We invite you to consider this on multiple scales: why does it matter to you? To the community? To society in general?)
Answer: Every time I hear about an incident of anti Indigenous, anti-Black or anti Asian violence, I cry. I feel horror, shock and sadness for the one(s) who was/were the targets or the ignored and deep grief and frustration that we’re still going through this. The thread of connectivity runs deep, deeper than what happened to Canadians of Japanese ancestry during World War II what is happening today.
It’s deeper than what we call race. We are one human race and just happen to have different skin colours. All of this is a microcosmic fractal of the holographic universe. And as such it seems that we are unfortunately prone to repeating patterns until a mutation occurs or we wake up to something we were in ignorance of that then changes our thought patterns, belief systems and our reactions to what we fear.
Fear of the “other ” is innate and triggered in the amygdala for our survival. Fear of “other “goes back to the time when we were tribal and feared the members of other tribes because they might have attacked us at one point.
Now we’re realizing we’re in a global community on one planet but we haven’t figured that out that we’re all brothers and sisters. Fear and insecurity triggered by “other” causes us to want to defend out of fear which means isolating, attacking and eliminating the minority whether that’s an individual or a group from our own “perceived” zone of safety and to increase our own zone of safety by owning or controlling land and people.
Historically we can look at some of the colonizers eg. European countries globally, Japan in Asia (with our ancestry we may have had relatives involved in this). None of us are excluded as perpetrators or victims in human history. We’ve all been doing such acts whether it be thought, words or acts of violence to each other.
I think if we’re honest as human beings, we all have various unfounded judgments, biases and prejudices with “those who are different” – being too fat or too skinny, being “ugly”, being poor, bring rich, being different physically, mentally, emotionally, religiously or spiritually, making a different health choice than the majority. Whatever we think as individuals or what the majority thinks, we believe to be right.
Anyone, individual or group who thinks differently or is any of the above and not “normal” according to the majority can be subject to coercion, bullying, isolation, sometimes led or supported by the perceived authorities abusing their own power and/or people in their own peer group. Generally there is propagation and dissemination of a narrative that they themselves may fully believe but where they either are not seeing or revealing all the issues. This is used to justify taking away the individual or minority’s rights.
The history of Canadians of Japanese ancestry in Canada is important to remember, share the stories, teach and build upon. We, as Canadians of Japanese ancestry more than any group should know the thoughts and beliefs of the majority are not always correct, just or legal. And that the decisions and actions of so called authorities whether in government or politics, media or other systems can damage the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well being of people and their descendants for many generations as indigenous people would say, seven generations.
When any information or individuals or organizations are being repressed, censored or when we’re told that there is one narrative and the rest is misinformation or lies, there is reason to be suspicious that the truth is being covered up, generally for the reasons of economic or other benefits, often to a very small group of people.
When violation of human and civil rights happens, it takes decades sometime centuries for people to wake up and realize how wrong they were in the past. And it sometimes takes that much time to actually do something about it.
And thus far it’s been left to the minority and a few special people to fight what was violent, oppressive, wrong and/or illegal. We can list some of them in this country, the theft and colonization of indigenous land, atrocities such as the murders and sexual abuse in residential schools, black slavery, Chinese Head Tax, incarceration of Canadians of Japanese ancestry.
Events are happening to this day where human and constitutional rights of citizens in Canada and all over the world are being removed. The majority doesn’t care because they don’t know, they don’t care or they think they’re right. They fully believe the individual or minority are wrong and they just don’t have time to care or act because they want to get on with their daily lives.
At the same time, I have both hope and evidence that we are evolving. Overall, racism against Asians has improved over the last 150 years. There were blatantly racist headlines in newspapers, since the arrival of Asians through World War II and beyond.
I don’t believe that we’re going to slide backwards with respect to racist attitudes. The events of the last two years are unearthing racism, sexism and other human rights issues that are still underneath the surface and need to be brought to light.
It’s sad, even tragic that it’s still all there. One way of every person having an impact is by rooting inside of ourselves and seeing where any covert prejudice, bias, or racism lies inside of us individually and looking at attitudes of communities we participate in so that the fear behind it and dissolving those fears through what ever means is necessary.
And with respect to racism, it’s time now to come together in solidarity with our black, indigenous, people of colour and white Brothers and Sisters as the one human race that we are to call out and change the rest of the present systems of systemic colonization, racism, oppression of different choices. I believe in the ability of humans to evolve over decades/centuries and ultimately millions/billions of years. And I also believe that truth, love and compassion overcome and dissipates the kind of fear that results in racism and violation of human and civil rights.
Researching the history of my family on both sides is important to me. Having visited Japan twice and visited my families’ homes in Shizuoka and Hiroshima, it’s grounded and connected me to my lineages on both sides going back centuries.
Learning more and more about Japanese history, culture and traditions has become an essential source of nourishment for me to to understand myself, what has shaped me from a genetically inherited perspective as well as a soul perspective. And it’s a motivator to use this ancestral inheritance as well as the gifts and talents that have been given to me to serve the world and to create greater love, peace and compassion for myself and for others.