To discuss how marginalization hurts a community in Joy Kogawa’s novel, one should first identify the community that’s been mistreated. In Obasan, that community is Japanese Canadians.
Aunt Emily says that this community has become accustomed to marginalization. In the first letter/diary entry that Naomi reads from Aunt Emily’s package, Aunt Emily states, “We’re used to the prejudice by now after all these long years.” However, once Japan bombs the United States, Canada, America’s ally during World War II, transforms their prejudice into, according to Aunt Emily, “hoodlumism.”
This accelerated racism hurts the general Japanese Canadian community in several ways. People stop buying from their shops, their newspapers are shut down, their possessions are requisitioned, and, eventually, they’re displaced, put in internment camps, and forced to perform grueling labor. In other words, the marginalization turned this community into enemies and criminals. Aunt Emily writes that such marginalization means that they're treated “worse than livestock.”
For one specific example, think about how the brutal past causes Obasan’s silence. It’s as if her voice has been buried by the sundry marginalization that she’s had to endure. Another specific example arrives via Stephen and the marginalization that he has to face in grade school. At the end of chapter 12, Naomi relays one scene in which a girl with “long ringlets” calls him a slur to his face.
Concerning Aunt Emily, consider how her approach to her community’s marginalization contrasts with that of Obasan. Obasan is laconic while Aunt Emily is forcefully articulate. Near the start of chapter 27, Naomi describes Aunt Emily as a “heap of words.” For Aunt Emily, words are central in ensuring that neither readers nor Canada forget its racist past. “It matters to get the facts straight,” says Aunt Emily. “Reconciliation can’t begin without mutual recognition of facts.” These facts will be conveyed with words that accurately portray what happened.