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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram could be playing for Colorado when the NHL resumes play. (Rik Fedyck/file)
Cranbrook product Bowen Byram makes NHL debut with Avalanche

Highly touted prospect marks first pro game following World Junior tournament in Alberta

Centre 64 in Kimberley. Bulletin file
Kimberley’s Centre 64 receives grant for building improvements

The Kimberley Arts Council/Centre 64 has just received notice that their grant… Continue reading

Teck sends impacted ground water from the former Sullivan Mine operations to the Drainage Water Treatment Plant on the St. Mary River. Photo courtesy Teck.
Teck will hold further information sessions on ground water issues in Kimberley

Ryan Peterson from Teck made a presentation on ground water issues to… Continue reading

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
MP Morrison calls Keystone XL permit cancellation ‘devastating news’

Kootenay-Columbia MP reacts to the Conservative Party’s removal of a controversial Ontario MP

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Volunteer firefighters from Grand Forks Fire/Rescue head towards the scene of fatal car crash near Gibbs Creek Road, below Highway 3, Thursday evening, Jan. 21. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Motorist dies in Highway 3 crash west of Grand Forks

City first responders were called to the scene Thursday evening, Jan. 21

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

Most Read