WASHINGTON — Like most Americans, JACL is dismayed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s attempt at humor, patronization — or combination of the two — when he addressed Hawaii Representative Colleen Hanabusa, a fourth-generation American, in Japanese during a House committee hearing on March 15. His flippant remark was inappropriate and lacking the respect he afforded other representatives during the same hearing.
Ironically, this sleight was made immediately following the congresswoman’s passionate plea for continued funding of the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program, which serves the purpose to “identify, research, evaluate, interpret, protect, restore, repair and acquire historic confinement sites in order that present and future generations may learn and gain inspiration from these sites and that these sites will demonstrate the nation’s commitment to equal justice under the law.” The preceding language is taken directly from the National Park Services website that Zinke oversees.
The injustice of the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans was due to the very racist sentiments unintentionally exhibited in Zinke’s flippant comment, that Japanese Americans were and are perpetually foreign. Although not as brazen as General John DeWitt’s statement in 1942 that “A Jap’s a Jap. It makes no difference whether the Jap is a citizen or not,” the sentiment is not so dissimilar.
If anything, Zinke’s comment clarifies and reinforces the need for full funding of the JACS program. This program was established in 2006 with broad bipartisan support and has since provided $23 million to 186 different programs in 21 states plus the District of Columbia.
We are grateful to the more than 54 bipartisan members of the House of Representatives that have signed on to a letter of support for continued funding of the JACS program.
On March 14, JACL submitted a letter from 114 organizations to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies calling for continued funding.
We urge Congress to continue funding of the JACS program at the same level as in years past.
For more information on the program, visit www.jacl.org.
— JACL National