By Letter to the Editor on January 10, 2019.
Every time I travel in Canada, I am repeatedly surprised to find a rapidly changing outlook of ethnic makeup. I stayed for a week in December in the area of Vancouver which used to be a white Anglo-Saxon middle-class enclave. Now it’s all Chinese. I was shocked initially. But soon I found myself having fun. Good food to begin with. However, I can understand some people get upset. Though many of us have the ability to adjust in time, some need more time.
My daughter began schooling in Lesotho, Africa with African and European friends. We lived in the housing compound for the university staff who came from several countries. It was a regular stop for the South African tourist bus. At home, they lived in racially segregated areas, so they were curious about an integrated community. Through bus windows, they looked at our children playing together like they were looking at animals in a game reserve. In turn, our children made faces at them.
The first time she showed fear of people appearing not African nor European was at the airport. She was seven years old. She saw a group of Chinese agricultural advisers who just landed as a part of the Chinese foreign aid program. She was frightened even though they looked like her parents. But for her, Asians should be only one or two persons; not a big crowd. It is always a bit unsettling to run into a bunch of people who appear unfamiliar. This is not racism nor xenophobia. Fear of strangers is a natural instinct. We will get used to it in time and will forget the difference. You have to be intentionally determined to remember the difference to stay suspicious.
It’s all about getting to know each other. I once worked in a rural church congregation at the time of the heated debate about homosexuality. There was a longtime member of the choir who was openly gay. He was everybody’s friend, not an issue. The case of ethnicity is the same. Once you get to know someone and become a friend, all distinctions disappear.
A recently broadcast comedy drama on CBC was about a struggling African immigrant family in England. It ends with a line: “In the long run, we are all the same.” We may look different, but biologically we all belong to one and the same family of species.
Tadashi (Tad) Mitsui