Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Dean of the California State University, Sacramento Library gets hammered by University P.C. Politics

Friends of Historical Accuracy regarding the ethnic Japanese Evacuation of 1942

This article is a few years old, but a good read. It's off the NichiBei Times site, http://www.nichibeitimes.com/news/csus-library.html.

My community had a "JapTown", too but now it is refered to as "Yama".

Saying that "JapTown" is a racial slur is a bit of a stretch, however. The Japanese-American reparations movement is attempting to reinforce the incorrect assertion that use of the word "Jap" has always been associated with malice and that any community that ever used the word "Jap" or "JapTown" should feel a deep sense of shame for their "racism".

Of course that's untrue. I feel no shame and I'm not about to have a guilt trip laid on me by the JACL or the ethnic activists. I do not believe that "Jap" or "JapTown" was used by Caucasions prior to Pearl Harbor with hostility or malice and I believe that any word used to describe Japanese after Pearl Harbor would have been used with hostility. You don't think "Japanese" would have been used without hostility after Pearl Harbor?

The official term in Thailand (in English, at least) to refer to their people is "Thai". Yet, in some countries, "Thai" are refered as "Thailandese". If a bunch of of Thai ethnic activists banded together and demanded that "Thailandese" is "racist", and any country who has ever refered to "Thai" as "Thailandese" are racists, does that mean they're all a bunch of "racists"? Of course not.

Such is the case with "Jap" or "JapTown" before Pearl Harbor, and as stated above any term used after Pearl Harbor would have carried a degree of hostility. You see the same thing today with the banning of the term "Oriental" as if it's some type of pejorative. I'm an "Occidental", should that be insulting? My Japanese buddies use "Oriental" all the time, and they speak English as a second language! I would get called "gaijin" all the time. So what! But I digress.....

Here's the piece on CSUS the librarian who got the wrath of the Japanese-American ethnic activists for having the "audacity" to use the term "JapTown". So much for historical accuracy....

CSUS Library Dean Resigns In Aftermath of Racial Slur
( published Feb. 13, 2001 )

Nichi Bei Times

Nichi Bei Times SACRAMENTO — The dean of the California State University, Sacramento Library, who used a racial slur during a speech at an event and exhibit commemorating the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans, has resigned from her post, the university said.

Particia Larsen, who had served as dean of the library for the past three-and-a-half years, submitted her letter of resignation last Thursday, said university spokesperson Frank Whitlach.

According to Whitlatch, the resignation is effective immediately. “She will remain with the university as a senior librarian,” he said.

According to Larsen, while she will be placed in a library faculty position — consistent with her retreat rights — she will not be returning to the library. She said she will be working on special assignments for Provost Bernice Bass de Martinez, until she retires in the summer of 2002.

The incident occurred at a Jan. 30 “Time of Remembrance” event held at the Golden State Museum in Sacramento. According to several in attendance, Larsen — who ultimately oversaw the Japanese American Archival Collection at the institution — used the phrase “Jap Town” when referring to her husband’s experiences growing up in Placer County near Sacramento.

The incident prompted a flood of letters to the university, and led to an immediate apology by CSUS President Donald Gerth to organizations sponsoring the exhibit.

One of the approximately 200 in attendance was Georgette Imura, a private consultant and active community member.

“I think people were kind of stunned,” she said. “Given her audience...it was terribly insensitive of her to use that term. I think it was poor judgment on her part.”

“That’s kind of shocking to see that kind of ignorance and insensitivity,” said Florin Japanese American Citizens League President Andy Noguchi, “especially by someone who is in charge of overseeing the Japanese American Archival Collection.”

Noguchi, who was out of town at the time, heard about the incident from chapter members.

Dean Explains Action
In a memo to library faculty, staff and administrators, dated Feb. 12, Larsen explained the circumstances surrounding her decision to resign.

“I made a mistake — unfortunately in a very public place,” she stated. “I embarrassed the university and put President Gerth in a difficult situation. In short, I became more of a liability to the university than an asset.”

A copy of her speech, distributed with the memo, reads the following controversial line:

“My husband Paul’s first memory of the Japanese sudden departure from Placer County is of going to the hurried up sale of his Japanese neighbors’ property in Penryn — to Jap Town — where as a five-year-old he was impressed with the Japanese lanterns and the crowds...”

Larsen said she didn't expect the response to her comments at the event.

“I never imagined that my audience would not understand that I was using the term in the historical sense — as a storyteller,” she wrote in the memo. “There were some people — Japanese Americans as well as Caucasian Americans — who understood what I was saying. However, there were others who did not, or found my intent unacceptable.”

Larsen stated that she was “shocked” and “completely surprised” when Gerth called her into his office to inform her of the “serious aftermath” of her remarks.

“Had I known that I might offend anyone by using that name for the place, I most certainly would not have used it,” she added.

Community Reaction
Reaction to the use of the slur was swift. National JACL Director John Tateishi, in a Feb. 5 letter to her, blasted the dean.

“Such insensitivity from someone in your position is incomprehensible to me, and quite frankly speaks poorly of the university’s attitudes toward Japanese Americans in particular and Asian Pacific Americans in general,” Tateishi wrote. “Whether the word ‘Jap’ is used derisively with intent or uttered out of ignorance, the end result is the same.”

Tateishi also indicated that some who intended to donate their personal internment memorabilia to the CSUS collection have since chosen to donate elsewhere.

News of the resignation spread on Friday. Among those contacted by Gerth was Sacramento JACL President Richard Ikeda.

“It’s about time,” said Ikeda, who referred to Larsen as a “totally insensitive woman.”

Ikeda, who sits on the JAAC Advisory Committee, voiced his displeasure of Larsen in a four-page letter to CSUS Vice President/Chief-of-Staff Elizabeth Moulds in March of 1999.

“In our collective experience, the dean’s lack of sensitivity on Japanese American issues speaks to complete absence of racial sensitivity,” Ikeda wrote.

In one instance that he recalled, Larsen attended a JAAC Advisory Committee meeting and “abruptly” announced that changes were going to be made in the staffing and management of the archives. “She then pointedly and repeatedly underlined that we were merely advisory and had no say in her administrative decisions,” Ikeda stated in the letter to Moulds.

“She was unfriendly to the (Japanese American Archival) Collection, in my opinion,” Ikeda told Nichi Bei Times.

At their regularly scheduled meeting last Tuesday, the JAAC Advisory Committee, consisting of many active Japanese Americans, was met with a visit by CSUS President Gerth, who read his letter of apology to the group.

The collection itself was initiated by late community activist Mary Tsukamoto, and contains hundreds of items donated through community efforts.

In the presence of Gerth, longtime CSUS Ethnic Studies Instructor Wayne Maeda pointedly told the president that there are “a number of barriers and roadblocks erected” in the way of the collection.

“I said that at least at the lower levels, the university was not supporting the archives,” Maeda recalled. “I stated that because of the barriers, I didn’t think the university was fulfilling its fiduciary responsibilities...and if possible I would prefer moving it to another institution...unless there’s demonstration of support.”

The resignation of Larsen did not surprise Maeda, who sits on the JAAC Advisory Committee and is the pre-eminent historian of the Sacramento Japanese American community.

And while one issue may have been resolved, Maeda said, “that really doesn’t resolve the issue of institutional support (for the JAAC).”

Sources have mentioned that under Larsen’s tenure as dean, there have been a numerous staff transfers to other university departments, retirements and actual resignations.

Larsen remains on administrative leave, sources say..


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