Tom Kato, 41, left Branding Iron Bar and Grill in Keremeos feeling uneasy and frustrated after spotting two stickers displaying white power symbols and the words “It’s OK to be white.” The bar’s owner has since said he will not take down the stickers. (Contributed)

Tom Kato, 41, left Branding Iron Bar and Grill in Keremeos feeling uneasy and frustrated after spotting two stickers displaying white power symbols and the words “It’s OK to be white.” The bar’s owner has since said he will not take down the stickers. (Contributed)

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

A Vancouver man was shocked to discover white power stickers inside a Keremeos pub while visiting the village.

Tom Kato, 41, was staying in Keremeos with friends while on a motorcycle tour when he and five others decided to head over to the Branding Iron Bar and Grill for some food and drink. Unfortunately, the evening was ruined by two offensive stickers.

“It made everybody that I was with feel uncomfortable, and then I started to get upset and frustrated,” said Kato.

The group was first thrown-off after they saw a sticker placed on an emergency exit door with the words “It’s OK to be white” accompanied by an “OK” hand gesture.

To some, this hand gesture may seem innocuous; however, it’s anything but. In recent years the hand gesture has become widely recognized as a hate symbol used to represent white power. In 2019 the gesture was added to the Anti-Defamation League’s “Hate on Display” database.

The “OK” hand gesture — now used as a non-ironic symbol of white supremacy — originated as a hoax on the notorious internet forum 4Chan. (Anti-Defamation League photo)

READ MORE: Village of Keremeos looks to dismantle systemic racism

At first, Kato and his friends were hesitant to attribute the sticker to the establishment they were in, thinking it may have been put up by someone random. This changed when they noticed a second identical sticker on a fridge behind the bar.

“That’s when we were like ‘Woah, OK, this place is no good,” Kato said.

Kato, a Japanese-Canadian, was travelling with five friends. He was the only non-white person in the group. At the time, Kato and his friends were unaware of the meaning behind the hand gesture, but the words alone were enough to make him and his friends uneasy.

Kato’s wife later informed him of the symbolism behind the hand gesture.

The group decided it would be best to quickly eat, pay and leave. On the way out, Kato snapped a photo of one of the stickers which drew some unwanted attention from an “older gentleman behind the bar” who he believes may have been the owner.

“He basically told me he’s entitled to his opinion and that he doesn’t think it’s racist,” said Kato.

Kato explained to the man that he respected his right to an opinion but also made it clear that in his opinion the stickers are very offensive.

Kato said he felt obligated to speak up if only to prevent others from having the same experience.

“I just don’t want another person or family to go in there and feel uncomfortable,” he said.

As an expecting father, Kato hopes his child will never have to feel uneasy as he did when he was at Branding Iron Bar and Grill.

“I don’t know what I want the outcome to be but I just think the stickers need to be taken down at least,” explained Kato.

The owner of the bar has since said he has no plans to remove the stickers, according to Keremeos’ mayor Manfred Bauer.

Bauer also made it very clear that the stickers and the owner’s opinions are not representative of the Village of Keremeos.

“It’s a private business and there’s nothing we can do,” said Bauer. “As far as the village is concerned, we do not tolerate any kind of racist behaviour.”

The Western News has attempted to contact the bar’s owner but has not yet received a response.

Kato thinks that now more than ever people are becoming more emboldened to speak up and call out racism. He hopes sharing his story will encourage people to continue to speak out.

“The people who should feel uncomfortable are those people who have those (racist) types of opinions,” he said.

“If you don’t say anything nothing is ever going to change… We just have to keep trying.”

READ MORE: Keremeos MLA disheartened by xenophobia towards Quebecois seasonal workers



jesse.day@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Canadaracism

Just Posted

Young Federico “Fred” Lenzi. (Raymond Lenzi/Contributed)
Italian moved to Okanagan with hope; he ended up being sent to a WWII internment camp

Raymond Lenzi shares his grandfather’s story ahead of Canada’s planned formal apology to Italian-Canadians

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Jane Long-Haggerty, a chartered accountant with a member of the Salvation Army Food Bank, hold up a cheque for $740. Long-Haggerty decided to cut her fees in half and ask her clients to donate whatever they felt they could to the food bank. The idea landed her a room full of food and $740 to the Salvation Army Food Bank. (Submitted)
Penticton accounting firm gives big return to food bank

Long-Haggerty said this year’s tax season showed how bad the pandemic has impacted everyone

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

A brown bear and two cubs were spotted near Killiney Beach May 10. (Michael Dick photo)
Warm spring brings bears out earlier in Okanagan

Residents urged to keep their garbage secure until the morning of pickup

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

A COVID-19 patient receives oxygen outside a hospital in Jammu, India, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP/Channi Anand)
B.C. donates $500K to Red Cross COVID-19 relief efforts in India

The money will provide oxygen cylinders and ambulances for patients in communities grappling with the virus

Kelowna rain
Kelowna records driest March on record, spells summer trouble for Okanagan

In March, Kelowna received a total of 2.6 mm of precipitation, compared to the monthly average of almost 22 mm

Superintendent Aaron Paradis, community services officer with the Surrey RCMP, during a media availability about a recent drug bust in Port Coquitlam. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Police seize 13 million ‘potentially fatal doses’ of pure fentanyl at B.C. drug lab

The evidence was seized at large, illicit drug manufacturing site in Port Coquitlam

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth debates the province’s latest measure to control crime, March 10, 2021. The legislation allows police to impound vehicles used to transport weapons and further restricts sale of vehicle and body armour. (B.C. legislature video)
B.C. seeking ways to ‘name and shame’ gangsters, minister says

Mike Farnworth appeals to family members to talk to police

Jonathan Prest had to climb way up to the top of a dead red cedar tree to rescue a terrified cat, but he made it up and down successfully. (Facebook photos)
Tree cutter rescues cat stuck 100 feet up a dead and dried-out cedar

Jonathan Prest put himself in extreme peril to get a terrified cat out of a dangerous situation

The Greater Victoria School District continues to face backlash over its wording and approach to Indigenous learners in its 2021-2022 budget talks. (Black Press Media file photo)
School district’s approach to Indigenous learners leaves Victoria teachers ‘disgusted’

Backlash grows over ‘pattern of colonial thinking permeating the leadership’

Joyce and John Henderson were among 25 British Columbians named 2021 BC Achievement Community Award winners by the BC Achievement Foundation. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm couple recognized for their decades of contributions to community

Joyce and John Henderson receive provincial achievement award

Phil Hotzon gets surprised with a brand new e-bike after family and friends raise money to replace his broken one (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News).
Friends and family rally to replace Kelowna man’s broken electric tricycle

After crashing his e-bike into Mill Creek, loved ones raised fundraised and replaced it

Most Read