COVID-19 and Racism

The pandemic and subsequent rise in anti-Asian sentiment is just the most obvious way in which racism still permeating our society has revealed itself in the past few years. I think there’s an undeniable commonality with the WWII incarceration. Although COVID-19 is a different beast than a global war, “Asianness” continues to be the way “undesirable” and “dangerous” people are identified. I think it’s vital to understand that COVID-19 is not the cause of this racism, but provides an outlet for it to be expressed. The rise in hate crimes toward other people of colour that coincide with the pandemic is demonstrative that racism is always present, if not always visible or reactive.

Preserving knowledge of our war and postwar experience matters for those generations who live with their effects today. What’s more, I think that because white Canadian society’s perception of Japan and Japanese people has improved throughout the last few decades, it can be very easy to begin viewing ourselves as “safe” from the racism experienced by our ancestors; but we’re not. I also think that it becomes tempting to identify ourselves as a “model minority” and blame groups who are currently experiencing heightened racism; but we mustn’t.

Kanejiro and Nobu Kawai, incarcerated in Roseberry (my grandmother’s mother and father)
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