WASHINGTON — Weeks after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke greeted Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) using a Japanese word, he defended his actions in a May 28 interview broadcast on satellite radio, prompting a response from the JACL.
In a statement, the JACL’s Washington office responded, “We would like to remind Sec. Zinke that Congresswoman Hanabusa is American and deserves to be addressed in her native language of English.
“What is most ironic in the interview is that Sec. Zinke earlier emphasized that ‘we are all Americans’ regardless of our differences. Rather than actually following his own words, he chooses to promote the foreignness of a fellow American.”
The original incident occurred March 15 during a discussion on whether federal funding would continue for the Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) grant program. (see tinyurl.com/y8wzj5u7). Hanabusa addressed a question to Zinke, who upon answering the query, began by saying “konnichiwa” (good afternoon) to Hanabusa. The May 28 interview with Zinke was with Breitbart News Daily.
JACL further stated: “It is particularly disappointing that this interview took place on Memorial Day, when so many Americans across the country joined together to recognize and remember in particular the sacrifices of Japanese American soldiers who served during World War II. Their service was in spite of our own country having labeled them as foreign agents and conspirators while their families remained imprisoned in American concentration camps.
“We call on Sec. Zinke to consider his choice of words more carefully and better learn the history of Japanese American incarceration. It is our hope that he can come to understand how the labeling of Japanese Americans as perpetually Japanese and foreign was a major factor leading to their mass imprisonment.”