Zhiqian Xu
4 min readJun 10, 2022


To Tell History “Ethically”

History was always required to be unbiased, and true to whatever happened in the past. When a historical event involves multiple sides acting differently, holding different attitudes toward the event, however, no one can say the historical documents left are “perfectly unbiased, fair to every side, completely true to what happened”. And the reason was pretty simple — any format of the record, no matter it’s written document, photography, video, recording, or simply the involver’s memory, they are all done by human beings. Humans are not machines, they take sides. People always tell biased stories, biased to the side they favor, biased to whatever they believe was true. The fact is that the first-hand record is always passed by someone who gets deeply involved in a particular historical event. Therefore, it is unavoidable that the person who recorded the stuff got some interest involved. They might lean to the side they believe is “justice”, “correct”, and “have reasonable motivation”. In this way, the record they save would favor the side they believe in as a result.

What’s more, if a great interest group, such as the government got involved, the archive left by the government official would definitely, at least for a while, lean to what the government wanted the people to believe. This was shown in the case of all the events we mentioned in the course, the Korean, “buraku,” and Okinawan women and men. When they tried to stand up for themselves and fight for their rights, the government at the instant would keep the archive in favor of themselves and described those people who demonstrate as “unreasonable” or “aggressive”.

By experiencing the pandemic, I developed a further understanding of such a phenomenon. Due to the covid, I did not make it to the US during my freshman year of 2020 to 2021 as an international student from China. Thus, the story I tell would base on my experience in China instead of the situation people in the US were facing since I simply was not there, it is unfair for people here if someone like me that did not experience this part of the pandemic to critique and make comments just based on what they have heard. When the covid virus first got outbreak in Wuhan, the city was like hell. People could not get medication or even food, based on the lockdown policy China government issued. During January, a great number of posts asked for help from people pop up on Chinese social media like flood. 2 year old kids got separated from their parents for the quarantine, and old people who do not get the ability to live on themselves starved to death. The ashes of dead people got mixed together in the funeral parlor and their relatives do not even know if the ashes they take home got a tiny part of the one they loved. It was horrible. Everyone was criticizing the government back then.

However, the government announced that we need to have “correct collective memory and”, and that the government did not do anything wrong in “fighting the pandemic”. It was ridiculous, I have seen all those posts on the internet, and I heard all those tragic stories with my own ears. An even more ridiculous thing is, that, the Chinese people accepted what the government said. They choose to forget. I feel so weak, I do not have any power to fight for this, the only thing I can do is not forget any of these.

I never thought such a great historical event would happen right beside me. And I would not wonder that the “incompleteness of archive” can happen in 21 century, the century of technology, and the internet. Covid is something we actually experienced, however, what the minor groups under Japanese colonization have experienced we can only learn from the history, from the archive we have left. Even the event like covid which occurs right beside us can be changed into something else with the government documentation and biased view, how about those people who lived almost a hundred years ago? Back to the main topic, those minor groups with incomplete archives recorded whatever they have experienced. In terms to write them ethically, I really could say anything more than keeping the story true, to our greatest effort. Tell their stories from different sides, and collect documents issued from different interests. Even though it is impossible to be completely unbiased as there are only so many archives left for us to read, we need to picture the whole event with information from a different side and try to make the archive more complete, closer to what really happened, as we are not able to ask people who have experienced this anymore. We do not know how much of their story has already been wiped out from the history. The only thing we can do, is to not forget.