When I was eight, I’ve caused the hatred of eight thousand.
Back in 1905, Canada was still like a white patriot baby. Fights between the colours were often seen on the streets, oppression is a common practice on the immigrants. Anti-Chinese was promoted and encouraged on daily basis by the white communities. We the yellow guys sheltered within the walls of Chinatown, tried to live invisibly.
I was raised in a big family that lived in a small apartment on top of the laundromat in Chinatown. My father, the owner of the laundromat, was one of the first Chinese person born in Canada. My father is very smart, he is my idol. He studied law, and he is fluent in both English and Chinese. This intelligent man wanted to become a lawyer, but Law Society would not accept his application. He kept trying and trying.
My big uncle said to him once at a tea house, “you’re wasting your time. If you want to fight them, You’ve got to have money, you’ve got to get good lawyers.”
When reality hits harder than a meteorite clashing the surface of the Earth, it could either knocks you out of your conscious until you are a dreamless walking shell or it could miraculously convert your interest to elsewhere. Good that my father did not find the end of the dream as the end of a life. He opened up his own laundromat, like many other Chinese did. Then there was the new beginning of a family. Then there was me.
Quan, Tim, Dylon and Yi were my best friends during the time. We went to language class and played soccer together. All of us Chinese kids were pretty well behave. We knew where not to go, what not to do. Sometimes some of us might venture out of Chinatown, and every time when we returned home safe without being spotted by any Whites, we would give ourselves points. Who had the most points by the end of the week can be the leader of the group.
That year, I just turned 8. As being the leader 4th time in the row, we’ve all decided to check out the warehouse behind the church five blocks away from Chinatown. From the stories that Quan’s grandfather told us, the warehouse is a haunted place that take small children. But because I was the leader for so long and I just turned 7, a haunted house is a perfect adventure to proof my leadership.
With out wisdom and stealth, we were able to check out the warehouse without anyone spotting us. Sometime I wonder if the Whites have decided to make us all invisible all together.
The haunted house was nothing. The large empty space was piled with old storages. It’s a perfect place for us to play hide and seek, though Dylon was not pleased with the idea as he’s afraid of the dark.
We decided to come back again another day with our rocks and sticks to play with. However, we’ve never thought that was the first and last time we will ever see the warehouse.
On our way back, we raced one another through the field that lead us to the back of Uncle Lin’s shop. It is already dark out, but our eye sights were pretty good.
“Hey, someone’s there.” Tim pointed at the other side of the field. There were about five human figures walking toward us.
We stopped the race and stood there for a few minutes.
“It’s probably Thomas and Shi-Yi,” I said, still panting from the run, “maybe they came to look for us.”
As the figures came closer, we slowly realize who we were dealing with.
Dylon took a few steps back, “Bai-ren…,” Dylon meant the Whites.
It was a group of six white kids, probably in senior high.
“Let’s run,” Quan said.
As being the leader, I took my stand, “No.”
“Come on,” Tim said, “we don’t have to be afraid.”
“They don’t like us. Mommy said they think we’re disgusting,” Quan faced the other way, ready to run.
“I’m not running,” I started walking toward them, “I’m going home.”
Tim followed my lead. Quan and Dylon looked at each other, and followed along hesitantly.
Most of us kept our heads down, trying to focus on getting home. The English chatters were getting louder and louder.
“Hey!” One of them yelled.
We kept walking.
A taller white in orange beige shorts picked up a rock and threw it into the air.
We walked faster.
Few other white kids saw. They laughed and picked up a few more rocks.
None of the rocks hit us, on purpose. They threw them in the air hoping that some would drop and fall on our heads. One of the smaller pebbles fell on my shoulder. I looked up at the group. When our visions met, one of them start walking towards us.
I turned and yelled “Kuai pao!” Run!
Same with every other day, we were chased like dirty mouse with a white groom. We ran through the woods. My eyes were eagerly looking for the signs of Uncle Lin’s shop. But we were too slow. Or rather, we were too Chinese too short too weak too young too different.
They surrounded us.
“What’s the hurry?” laughed one of the Whites.
We kept silent.
“I don’t think they understand you Chris,” said another one
“Hey I have some clothes for you to wash, Chink!”
“Let us go home!” I shouted.
They were stunned, but also amused.
The boy with the beige shorts picked up some rocks again started throwing at me. I was shock at the action and didn’t move. The rest followed him and started throwing rocks at all of us.
Tim managed picked up a small but thick branch and started swinging at the Whites. I also found a long branch and started fighting back. Later Dylon and Quan also did the same.
The boy with the beige shorts grabbed hold of my arm and was about the strike my face with a rock. Luckily I was fast enough. I pulled my arm closer to make come closer to my height, then I kicked him in the back knee. He quickly dropped down on the ground.
“Oww!” He let go of my arm.
Even though we were younger and shorter, we moved faster and we knew the area well. We were able to get away from the group.
The Whites chased after us again. But this time we were all determined to not let them catch us. Before we reach Uncle Lin’s backdoor I heard screams from the Whites. None of us looked back.
Uncle Lin was cutting his cabbages as we ran through his kitchen. He yelled at us with his cutting knife. But we were very glad to see him.
I would never thought by fighting back for yourself, by standing up for yourself, in exchange I’ve created suffering for my community.
On a quiet night, when all the uncles and aunties finally tucked their children in beds, when all the shops were closed, when all the laundries hung motionless on the strings, when all the rice cookers in the kitchens started to cool down, came marching down a army of Whites.
There were about a thousand men and women, young and old. They ran through Chinatown, destroyed everything they saw. I still remember being awoken by the thunderous sounds. When I half opened my eyes and thought there was a storm outside, my father came rushing in the room and wake us all up.
“Get up and get upstairs!” He said in Chinese and picked up my younger sister who was still sleeping and grabbed my younger brother’s arm.
My mom put on light jacket around me and screamed, “what’s going on?”
“Hurry up!” My father yelled as he hurried us upstairs.
When we got to the roof the entire Chinatown was filled with angry Whites. We’ve never seen this many Whites in the community before. They cheered when the store windows were chattered, they praised when someone managed to knocked down the banners, they yelled when they saw yellow faces appeared from the rooftop.
Many who were unable to get to the top floors in time had to battle their way out of the furious crowd.
“Come up!” father yelled at them, “this way!” He pointed toward the nearest entrance to the building.
In the midst of chaos, mother saw a familiar face in the crowd. “It’s Dr. Shu!” We all looked over where mother was pointing at. A man with glasses was being cornered by a few Whites. Dr. Shu tried to talk them into leaving him alone, but the group circled him closer. One of them started to push Dr. Shu.
Father put down younger sister and ran off.
“Dad!” we yelled. But he’s already downstairs.
Father managed to push his way through to get Dr. Shu, who at this point is halfway on his knees. He pulled up Dr. Shu and tried to push his way back to the building. The crowd tried to stop them. They pushed and punched. I was beyond furious.
“Dad!” I wanted to go help father but I was stopped by mother.
When the two of them finally got into the building, we rushed down to receive them. Luckily, no serious injuries. A few bruises on father face and scratches on his arms. Dr. Shu twisted his legs during the run and also got a few bruises.
Two hours later, the Whites retreated with victory and tiredness.
When the last white turned the corner onto another block, silence once again fell back on Chinatown. It was a dead silence. Even the movements of the leaves were heard loud and clear.
We stayed on the roof for another hour. Then father went downstairs alone to make sure the violence was gone before letting us down.
Everything was pretty much destroyed. The floor of the shop is now covered with glimmering shattered glasses. All the laundries, shelves, tables, were broken. I saw tears in my father and mother’s eyes. Without saying much, father started to clean up the store while mother took us upstairs and got us to sleep.
It was later that week that we found out the rampage was caused by the angry parents of the boy who were hurt when fighting with us. The newspapers stated that there were about 8000 White who participated. Just by the incident was not enough to cause the violence alone. It was a tipping point of the accumulated hatred that the Whites had been building up since the arrival of Chinese. We were also accused of destroying the Canadian economy and was one of the reasons for depression.
I still remember mother’s expression when she was helping us to get change before bedtime that night. She was very quiet, but whenever she looked at us I could tell from her eyes she had so much to say. After I learned the reason of the riot, the guilt overtook me and I cried for a few days. I was sad, I was confused, and I was angry. Father hugged me one night and said in order to fight back we must not use violence but intelligence.
“But how?” I asked. Father did not have an answer for me.
Even till this day the memory still haunts me.
I was eight, and I’ve caused the hatred of eight thousand.
Based on true events.