VOX POPULI: So, What’s in a Name?

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By STANLEY N. KANZAKI

Catching up on my piled-up, snail-mailed Rafu Shimpo, which I get late out east here in New York, I enjoy reading, among other writers, Mr. George Yoshinaga’s “Horse’s Mouth” column. The column that caught my eye goes back to Sept. 25, 2012, titled “The Space Shuttle and Me.”

In this column, among other items, he wrote about the Chinese Americans elected into National JACL offices at the last convention. He stated that upon learning about all this, it made him wonder if he did “get up from the wrong side of the bed.” He also states, “No, I’m not a JACL member.” SIGH!!!! Regardless, I will in the following paragraphs do some commenting on Mr. Yoshinaga’s cited column.

David Lin, pictured at the 2011 JACL National Convention in Los Angeles, was elected JACL national president this year. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

To begin with, he lists the four Chinese Americans holding elected National JACL office: David Lin, president and, if I may add, also a member of the New York Chapter JACL; Jason Chang, VP planning and development; John Moy (not Jason as he listed), VP membership; and Jeff Moy, chair, National Youth/Student Council. (Note: Jeff is John’s son, so this may be a first for a father and son being on the JACL National Board at the same time).

Then he includes two non-Nikkei names in national office: Mathew Farrells, secretary/treasurer, and Mariko Newton, national student rep. Rounding out the national elected officers are two Japanese Americans, Craig Tomiyoshi, VP public affairs, and the recently appointed Miko Sawamura, VP general operations.

At this point it is truly sad to mention that Elaine Reiko Akagi of the Seattle Chapter was voted in as VP general operations, but this great JACL lady, who gave a lifetime of service to JACL, has passed away.

So what we have here is four out of the eight elected national offices or 50 percent held by Chinese Americans. I’m sure the lonesome twosome Japanese Americans will carry on in togetherness and in the tradition.

Let us complete the make-up of the JACL National Board by identifying the seven district governors as follows: Marcia Chung, Central California; Toshi Abe, Eastern; Jeannette Misaka, Intermountain; Chip Larouche, Pacific Northwest; Kenneth Inouye, Pacific Southwest; Colleen Morimoto, Midwest; and David Uruhe, Northern California-Western Nevada-Pacific. We now have one Chinese American, five Japanese Americans and one non-Nikkei.

So now what is the final total racial/ethnic make-up of the entire JACL National Board?  There are seven Japanese Americans, five Chinese Americans and three non-Nikkei for a total of 15. What we now have here is a beautiful mosaic reflecting a civil rights organization. So, Mr. Y, as you can now see, ’tis not necessary for you to think you “got up from the wrong side of the bed.”

Mr. Yoshinaga then goes on to conduct a census of the Pacific Citizen “staff” (note: it should be PC board) and gives the following non-Nikkei names: Roberta Brown and Hugh Burleson (again). If he had gone on to take the census of the PC staff, he would have come up with only one Chinese American: Eva Lau-Ting, circulation. I don’t know where he would have classified Nalea Ko, reporter, since her surname could possibly be from three different Asian ethnic origins.

Of course, he has nothing against the conglomeration of the various racial/ethnic peoples, but laments and questions, “…don’t we Japanese Americans have an individual who can lead an organization that was founded to serve the interests of Japanese Americans?”

In a similar question then to the “Horse,” let me ask you this. I read in The Rafu that there is a Wilson Liu, president of the Little Tokyo Business Association. I believe that surname is Chinese. So I ask, “Don’t you Japanese Americans living in L.A. have an individual who can lead an organization that was founded to serve the interests of Japanese Americans?”

Thereafter he cries for my good friend, “Where are you, Harry Honda?” Yeah, Harry “dee K,” where wuz you when dee “Horse Man” indeedy needed y’all? Anyhoo, did he get a hold of you? If he did, were you able to knock some sense into him — that is, horse sense?

But then Mr. Yoshinaga, Rafu’s long-time, big-time, super-duper scooperman news hound, did not scent in on the BIG scoop. The BIG scoop? Yep! Ever hear of OCA (Organization of Chinese Americans)? And whom did they recently hire as their new executive director? ’Twas none other than a Mr. Tom Hayashi, one of us.

I wonder now if Mr. Y would be saying something to the effect about finding a Chinese American to lead a Chinese American organization founded by the Chinese? As a side issue, we once had a distinguished Nisei lawyer in New York and post-WWII JACL leader, the late Tom Hayashi. Does anyone know if they are related or is the name just a coincidence?

So, Mr. Hayashi has taken over OCA, an organization founded in 1973 (v. JACL, 1929) with 80 chapters (v. JACL, 110) and membership of 8,000+ (v. JACL, 11,000+). JACL always boasts that they are the “oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization.” But it will indeed be rather ironic if, in some distant future, Mr. Hayashi can possibly boast of OCA being the “youngest and the largest Asian American civil rights organization.” Can the Korean Americans and the Vietnamese Americans be far behind?

Getting back to “dee Hoss,” he bemoans that the Chinese Americans did not support the Japanese Americans when Pearl Harbor happened, saying they wore buttons identifying themselves as Chinese. This is understandable for fear of being mistaken as Japanese and possibly being attacked. That was in a different historical era in which Japan invaded China, bringing about some animosity between the two ethnic groups. But on the other hand, he didn’t do likewise, as he said he wore a button stating he was an American.

Mr. Y also claims that in the past he suggested that JACL change the name to AACL (Asian American Citizens League). From above the JACL founding fathers must be angrily looking down, disapproving and condemning him. A better suggestion is that Mr. Y should in fact join JACL and work actively from the inside and advocate changes he has in mind.

His long-time journalistic experience and knowledge of the past and current Nikkei community will indeed go a long way. This is instead of “dee Hoss” from time to time throwing wet, wordy cow-chip barbs from the outside. Regardless, I will continue to look forward to and read his most interesting and popular column, “Horse’s Mouth,” along with his hundreds of other readers from coast to coast and overseas.

In this early 21st century we are now witnessing something of value that did not happen much in the 20th century. The title of this column asks, “So, what’s in a name?” It is the new young generation and a new movement that is happening. It is hopefully too a beginning of inter-ethnic exchanges for an era of togetherness amongst the Asian Pacific American peoples.

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Stanley Kanzaki writes from New York. Opinions expressed in Vox Populi are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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