Vancouver, 1911. Since Wong Junior started to live with his father, he shared many innovative ideas with him. One day, Old Wong saw his son return home with his hair cut short and dressed in Western clothes. He was utterly surprised by his son’s new appearance: the braid – or pigtail – was no longer there, along with his traditional Chinese robes.
Old Wong: “Why have you cut off your braid? Our hair is a gift from our parents and from the Emperor. It is as precious as our life!”
Wong Junior: “Papa, if I want to fit into Canadian society, I have to change the way I look and, besides, China has now become a republic. The Ching Dynasty is gone. Why should we still wear braids?”
Old Wong: “Yeah right! The Emperor is no longer there! I still remember the time when Mr. Sun came to Vancouver. My friends and I had even organized fundraising event for his revolution!” Old Wong proudly said.
Wong Junior: “Okay, but dad, you have been in Canada for 10 years. Don’t you think it’s time to adjust to Canadian ways?”
Old Wong: “But … how?”
Wong Junior: “Start with the way you dress yourself. As long as you continue to wear traditional Chinese robes and to keep the braid, you will scare off the White people.”
Old Wong: “Hmmm… you may be right…”
Wong Junior: “And don’t you think you should learn English?”
Old Wong: “I’m too old for that!”
Wong Junior “Well, you should at least be able to be able to have some basic interactions with the Whites. Try starting with a few simple sentences…”
Old Wong: “I must admit that not being able to speak English is really inconvenient…”
Wong Junior: “It may also be a good idea to try to understand how Canadians think. You should get rid of some of your old habits and thoughts; being passive and depressed is not the solution.”
Old Wong: “What is the Canadian way of thinking?”
Wong Junior: “Out here, people are mainly Christians. They believe that all people are created equal. The discrimination we suffer is contradictory to their faith…”
Old Wong: “What equality and faith are they talking about? Us Chinese keep on being discriminated!”
Wong Junior: “We don’t understand them and we have never really taken the initiative to integrate in the mainstream society. And if you want the discrimination to cease, the only way is to become part of their community, adopt their values and claim our rights.
Old Wong: “What rights?”
Wong Juniro: “Civil rights! Voting rights!”
Old Wong: “We tried that … but in 1886, once the railway had been built, Vancouver declared that the Chinese and the First Nations people were not allowed the vote. That same year, when the first mayoral elections took place, Alexander, a manager at Hastings Mills arranged for the Chinese to vote because he didn’t see any reason for keeping them from voting. But on the way to the polling station, a group of White Canadians blocked the way, and a man driving a four-horse cart dashed toward us.”
Wong Junior: “Dad, change does not happen overnight. We need more people who will be committed to make greater efforts and to work hard to achieve our goals … As the Whites say, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ Right, dad?”
Old Wong slowly nodded in agreement.
Wong Junior: “Well, then, maybe cut off your braid and get rid of your robes tomorrow?”
Old Wong: “Um … OKAY!”