A few months ago, my husband and I were hanging out at his sister’s place one evening. As we chatted in their basement, I eyed their bookshelf, and soon the talk turned to books. My sister-in-law has a huge collection of Christian fiction; while we discussed our favourite authors and favourite books, I began grabbing a few to borrow and read. Then I had to whittle my stack down to an amount of books I could read in the next few months.
One of those books was All The Way Home by Ann Tatlock—an author I was unfamiliar with. As I started into the novel during one of my breaks at work, though, I found myself really enjoying the author’s work. She made two eras in the States come alive: the internment of the Japanese in the States in World War II and the racism directed at black Americans in Mississippi in the Korean War era. These were tied together through the main characters’ experiences with the prejudice directed at the Japanese, which helped them to understand and sympathize with the struggles of the blacks.
As I read, two questions kept repeating themselves in my head. The first was, Did Canada inter her Japanese citizens during World War II? I suspected the answer was yes, and I was right. Histor!ca says, “Canadian military authorities and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police felt that there was little chance of a Japanese invasion and that Japanese Canadians were not a threat to national security. Yet racist and xenophobic public sentiment felt that Japanese-born Canadians showed too much sympathy for Japan and that there was a chance that some of them might form a fifth column.”
However, racism against the Japanese didn’t start with the war, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia. Even before then, government policies in BC, where most of the Japanese immigrants had settled, were anti-Japanese. Even those born in Canada and those who had fought for Canada in World War I were denied the rights of citizens. With that attitude, it was probably easy to suspect the Japanese of “helping the enemy” and to further take away their rights by locking them in camps. Some of these camps were located in the Rockies, near present-day popular tourist spots.
My second question was about the racism in the States portrayed in the second half of All The Way Home. Maybe it shouldn’t have surprised me that even in the 1960s and 70s, blacks weren’t allowed to vote and were treated as Tatlock shows. I wondered if that has changed today. Then as I thought about that, I remember a comment I heard during the last American presidential race. One person said he didn’t want either a black or a woman in office, so he wouldn’t be voting for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.
Does it ever end? Will there ever come a time, with our increasing globalization, when we cease to fear or hate those who are different from us?