By Lorene Oikawa
It’s the J word that shocks and hurts me. I see the BC government using the racial slur to describe the Japanese soccer team. They aren’t the only ones to use the J word. Some people are using the first three letters of Japan or Japanese as an abbreviation. It’s like a slap across the face, and a painful reminder of the racism experienced by Japanese Canadians.
Shouts of “Kill the Japs” at the 1907 anti-Asian riots. “Japs keep out” in the 1940’s. A few examples from our BC history, but racial slurs, and racism, haven’t been eliminated from our society. Most people know not to use a racial slur, at least in public. I know most people who are using the J word as an abbreviation aren’t using it as a racial slur, but it is one. And we can’t keep quiet about it, just like we have to keep speaking out about racism.
I responded to the BC government on Twitter. It’s where they used the offensive word as a hashtag, highlighting it with a # so that people can use it as a key word and search for it. I suggested they use JPN as an abbreviation. To their credit they replied and said they would use JPN from now on. I am glad for the correction, but it makes me wonder why they used it in the first place.
For the past few years, I have been hearing from various individuals, and their comments are linking to a bigger picture of the work that needs to be done. Young Japanese Canadians sharing that they did not know about the internment except for maybe one brief paragraph in a book at school. Japanese Canadian elders mention that they used to be asked to go out to talk to school children about their imprisonment during the Second World War, but not anymore. Members of the Japanese Canadian community telling me how they are seeing more people who don’t know and don’t understand about the forced removal of Canadians (of Japanese ancestry) by the Canadian government.
It is welcome news that the BC government’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on the residential school system is the inclusion of Aboriginal history and culture in the K-12 school curriculum. The BC government says the curriculum has already been revised and also includes “past discriminatory government policies such as Chinese Head Tax” but it’s not clear what else is included or what will be covered.
The National Association of Japanese Canadians has not been contacted and neither has the Greater Vancouver JCCA so we haven’t had an opportunity to provide any input or share the stories and voices of Japanese Canadians. We hope to see a draft of the curriculum later this month, and then be able to provide input. I will let you know what happens in next month’s Bulletin Geppo.
If we know and understand our history, we will be less susceptible to repeating the errors of our past including racist acts and racial slurs.
On behalf of the GVJCCA Board of Directors, I would like to thank everyone who golfed, helped plan, volunteered, and donated to the 3rd Annual Tonari Gumi and GVJCCA Golf Tournament. The weather was wonderful, the food delicious, and I really enjoyed meeting with some new and old friends. A very special thank you to Tonari Gumi Executive Director David Iwaasa for his leadership role in organizing the event. If you didn’t get a chance to join us, you can still make a contribution to both Tonari Gumi and the GVJCCA.
Our next major event is on August 1 and 2, at the Powell Street Festival. Join us for our annual GVJCCA Wild Salmon Barbeque, and Musubi (SPAM sushi) food booth. Check out our ad in this edition of the Bulletin Geppo magazine. You will be supporting The Bulletin Geppo and the GVJCCA. Also, please drop by our GVJCCA community booth for information on our past and current initiatives. I will be helping at both booths, and also speaking at the Labour Landscapes: A Storytelling Walk on Saturday, August 1. Enjoy the festival and happy summer!