SASABE, Ariz. >> Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is defending his use of a Japanese greeting when responding to a question from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii.
The Arizona Republic reported today that Zinke was asked about his use of the word “konnichiwa” while touring the U.S-Mexico border in Arizona on Saturday.
Zinke told reporters: “How could ever saying ‘good morning’ be bad?”
Hanabusa asked Zinke on Thursday whether he would continue a program that preserves sites where Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II.
Zinke replied with “konnichiwa” — a Japanese greeting typically spoken in the afternoon. The Democratic congresswoman corrected him, saying she believed it was still “ohayo gozaimasu,” the Japanese phrase for good morning.
Zinke’s remark drew criticism from some lawmakers, civic groups and on social media as being insensitive and perpetuating stereotypes.
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) March 15, 2018
Hanabusa’s issued a statement Saturday saying, “the real issue here is that the administration ignored one of the most racially motivated periods in American history by defunding the Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) grant program.”
“When Secretary Zinke chose to address me in Japanese (when no one else was greeted in their ancestral language), I understood ‘this is precisely why Japanese Americans were treated as they were more than 75 years ago,” said Hanabusa. “It is racial stereotyping. How ironic that the most decorated unit in military history, the 100th battalion, 442 Regimental Combat Team, fought for a country that considered them enemy aliens. We must never forget our voices or the fact that we must fight so all can remember the injustice. Remember so it is never repeated. I call upon you to join in the fight to ensure this country never forgets that it imprisoned its people because of their ancestry, not because they committed a crime.”
No better example of why we need continued support for historical sites where the rights of Japanese Americans were violated b/c of race. Zinke's comment betrayed a prejudice that being Asian makes you a perpetual foreigner. Intentional or not, it's offensive. He should apologize https://t.co/oxO7N4qLrx
— Judy Chu (@RepJudyChu) March 16, 2018