Thursday, March 15, 2018

CAPAC Chair Calls on Secretary Zinke to Apologize for Racially Insensitive Comment

CAPAC Chair Calls on Secretary Zinke to Apologize for Racially Insensitive Comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a House Natural Resources Committee hearing today on the Department of Interior’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal, Secretary Ryan Zinke responded to Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) by making a racially insensitive comment in reference to her Japanese heritage.  Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), released the following statement:

“It is absolutely outrageous that Interior Secretary Zinke chose to racialize Congresswoman Hanabusa’s identity after she spoke about the importance of preserving funding for the Japanese American Confinement Sites where nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated during World War II.  Rather than greet her like he would any other Member of Congress, he responded to her as if she did not speak any English.  

“Whether intentional or not, his comments invoke the offensive stereotype that Asian Americans are perpetual foreigners regardless of how long their families have lived in the United States. What is even more alarming is that Secretary Zinke made this stereotype immediately after my colleague discussed the abhorrent racial prejudice that her grandparents and other Japanese Americans endured during World War II due to government-sanctioned profiling.

“Secretary Zinke owes Congresswoman Hanabusa an apology. Instead of perpetuating racial stereotypes, I hope the Secretary will work with Congress to prioritize funding for Japanese American Confinement Sites and ensure that we do not forget this dark chapter in American history.”

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