Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Mentions Frank Chin

in his latest article "Hollywood Must Do More to Combat Asian Stereotypes" in The Hollywood Reporter, Kareem says:

I remember reading a book in the '70s called Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers. The title comes from the typical expression uttered by Asian characters in old TV and radio shows, movies and comic books. Ironically, when the traditional publishing houses turned the book down, the press at historically Black Howard University took up the challenge. 

Explained Frank Chin, one of the editors of Aiiieeeee!, “The Blacks were the first to take us seriously and sustained the spirit of many Asian American writers.” Even then, both groups understood that unless every marginalized group was treated equally, no one would be.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Monday, December 07, 2020

Pearl Harbor Revisited

 Amerasia Journal 27:3 (2001)/28:1(2002): 63-68

The laughter stopped on September 11, 2001. A day America likened to Pearl Harbor. Till that day we were still laughing at the foolishness of the Organization of Chinese Americans, a self styled civil rights and education organization, linking up with the Japanese American Citizen's League, the group known to have used and abandoned the title "civil rights organization" at their convenience. The OCA might not know what their civil rights organization is or does, in fact there's real doubt that the Organization of Chinese Americans knows what a Chinese American is. In their scrambling around to match their name and title with meaning, I would think the OCA would know that the JACL is the one organization that would sink their credibility as a civil rights group. Everybody knows that. But obviously the OCA didn't.

They invited Norman Mineta, the Japanese American Secretary of Transportation, and former congressman, to speak and the JACL to give them instruction. Norman Mineta told them, that in WWII, his people, the Japanese Americans, had been unfairly interned in concentration camps, and had their civil rights stripped from them. Mineta did not say that the leader of the JACL had asked for the camps, and had advocated the drafting of the Nisei from the camps while their families were held hostage. The JACL, at the time was led by Mike Masaoka, Mineta's brother-in-law and political mentor. 

Mike Masaoka had convinced congress that the JACL was the only national organization with the membership and the leadership to represent Japanese American civil rights. He used the words: "civil rights" in describing the JACL.  And civil rights described the cases of Gordon Hirabayashi, arrested in Seattle, and Minoru Yasui in Portland, for violating a curfew that applied to Japanese only.  Mike Masaoka and the JACL refused to support Hirabayashi and Yasui's case saying, "The JACL is unalterably opposed to cases to determine the constitutionality of the military orders at this time. " An act blatantly against civil rights, and there's more, much more. 

(Mike Masaoka)

Masaoka offered a hundred thousand of his people—men, women and children—in concentration camps, as hostages to ensure the loyalty of the men of his proposed "suicide battalion." The army refused the suicide battalion idea, in name only. They did accept an all Nisei combat unit. Masaoka convinced the army that the Japanese Americans were so anxious to "prove their loyalty" that they would volunteer in overwhelming numbers, and leave their families hostage in the camps. Masaoka was embarrassed when Japanese America proved him wrong. It seemed the Japanese Americans were interested in the return of their civil rights before they volunteered. But not the JACL. 

In 1944 the government reinstated the draft for Nisei whether they were in camp or not. Now was the time for the JACL to prove they were a civil rights organization. They proved they were not. "Perhaps we Japanese Americans have not yet earned our right to unqualified citizenship." Thus spoke Masaoka, on April 22, 1944. Instead of defending the citizenship of the American-born-and-raised Japanese Americans, he offers a formula for the subjects of the white race to be accepted. 

 "Therefore, in order to be in a position to legitimately demand that our full citizenship rights and privileges be restored and maintained for all time to come, JACL has worked unceasingly for the reinstitution of the Selective Service ever since the War Department changed its policy and announced that Japanese Americans were not wanted for military service. That arbitrary classification of 4-C granted us was embarrassing and humiliating." 

(Colorado Japanese American Concentration Camp)

What was embarrassing and humiliating was the JACL's slavish acceptance of concentration camps and white approval— instead of the law—as a condition of their Amencan citizenship. Perhaps embarrassing is the wrong word for what the JACL did. The JACL whipped up America's war of revenge against Japanese-America. They abandoned civil rights and the Japanese culture of their people for one man's vision of a "better American for a greater America," enforced with lies and an intimidating identification with Masaoka's vision of a monstrous white man. 

The Organization of Chinese American has come across the interesting fact that all of the mainland Japanese Americans to achieve elective office, at any level of government, from dog-catcher to either house of congress have been members of the JACL.  The JACL is rightfully known as a patriotic organization that encouraged Nisei men to accept being drafted from camp. The JACL was wrong in its assertion that their recruiting for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was responsible for the closing of concentration camps. The 442nd might have helped mightily to win WWII, but everything they—and the whole American army—did was irrelevant to any of the issues of camp. 

(442nd in Camp Shelby, Mississippi)

The JACL was performing for the whites, the JACL sent Japanese Americans to camp for the whites, turned against civil rights for the whites, and wanted to prove Japanese American loyalty to the whites. During the forties of WWII, when the Japanese were the despised people of the day, it took no courage for the JACL to satisfy the whites. Such craven behavior was precisely what the whites wanted and expected. It took real courage for a Japanese American, in camp to say he would not answer the call to go to war, like a normal American, until he was a normal American. In Hawai'i, the site of Pearl Harbor, Japanese were not interned, and produced 10,000 volunteers and answered the draft with less resistance than the mainland, where only 805 volunteered from the camps. The numbers suggest that, if the mainlanders were not in camps, they would have responded to the call for volunteers and the draft more positively. But the Japanese Americans on the mainland weren't treated like normal Americans, they were interned. In a mimeographed bulletin March 4,1944, the draft resistance tells everyone where they stood: 

Without any hearings, without due process of law as guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, without any charges filed against us, without any evidence of wrong doing on our part, one hundred and ten thousand innocent people were kicked out of their homes, literally uprooted from where they have lived for the greater part of their life, and herded like dangerous criminals into concentration camps with barbed wire fence and military Police guarding it, AND THEN, WITHOUT RECTIFICATION OF THE INJUSTICES COMMITTED AGAINST US AND WITHOUT RESTORATION OF OUR RIGHTS AS GUARANTEED BY THE CONSTITUTION, WE ARE ORDERED TO JOIN THE ARMY THRU DISCRIMINATORY PROCEDURES INTO A SEGREGATED COMBAT UNIT!  Is that the American Way?  No. 

And it took real courage for Frank Emi to write and insist on the words he knew would get them arrested:

We feel that the present program of drafting us from this concentration camp is unjust, unconstitutional, and against all principles of civilized usage, and therefore, WE MEMBERS OF THE FAIR PLAY COMMITTEE HEREBY REFUSE TO GO TO THE PHYSICAL EXAMINATION OR TO THE INDUCTION IF OR WHEN WE ARE CALLED IN ORDER TO CONTEST THE ISSUE. 

All the draft resisters wanted was the camps closed, then they would accept the draft. The JACL as a civil rights organization should have supported this clear cut civil rights stand, but instead, they accused the draft resisters of sedition, cowardice and treason, and stood against their civil rights. Whether or not the JACL has ever been a civil rights organization has been a matter of internal debate since Pearl Harbor. Outside of Japanese America and the JACL, there is no debate. It is not a civil rights organization. 

Mineta and the JACL's insistence that the WWII monument include Masaoka's words exalting the government moved National Park Service Director Robert Stanton to reject petitions signed by more than a thousand Japanese Americans. Stanton, likewise, refused to read a protest pamphlet prepared by two members of Stanton's board, Francis Sogi, who'd seen service m WWII, in the Military Intelligence Service, and Kelly Kuwayama, a member of the 442nd. "JAPANESE AMERICANS DISUNITED: How a memorial to unify the Japanese American community became a symbol of disunity" at the very least, is an indication of how deep the controversy of the JACL runs through Japanese America. 

The Organization of Chinese Americans says it is a civil rights and an education organization. Because of the events of September 11, 2001, its Washington office finds itself in the right place at the right time to speak for us. But don't count on OCA to stand for Chinese America. When asked what Chinese America is, they say, they're really more than Chinese American, that they have Korean American members and Japanese Americans in the organization. When asked to define Korean American and Japanese American they offer double talk and distraction but no answer. 

As an education organization, they seem to be equally inept. Chinese stories one would expect every Chinese to know are foreign to the ears of OCA. Their members manning the phones of their Washington office can tell any number of European children's stories The Ugly Duckling, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, a few Jewish stories, The Golem, and not one Chinese children's story.  Why is it that only in America do we find this contempt for the Chinese children's story?  So what Chinese or Chinese American knowledge do they teach? 

Their magazine IMAGE is full of self-congratulatory stories on working with Norman Mineta and the JACL. The OCA membership is saying things like, "We're the Chinese JACL." 

Seen in action, the OCA is right to liken themselves to the JACL. They don't know and don't like Chinese Americans. Where do we go when we need an organization that knows Chinese America—knows the stories, knows the history, knows the facts and knows the difference between a real Chinese-American spy and an FBI face-saving fake, or between a real Chinese American threat and a fake. When the government moves to put us into concentration camps for our own protection—will the OCA, defender of our civil rights—go to the Supreme Court, or will they sacrifice our rights as a proof of our loyalty?

- Frank Chin

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Frank Chin in Bruce Lee Documentary

ESPN's Be Water has a short clip of Frank in it. More information here.

Frank commented on Bruce before. Check it out:

[The youtube channel this video clip comes from is not Frank Chin's official youtube site, he doesn't have one yet.]

Friday, June 05, 2020

Did Frank Chin say he will beat up Maxine Hong Kingston?

"Frank does terrible things. He tells me when he sees me at a conference he's going to beat me up."

- Maxine Hong Kingston on Frank Chin (source)

What gave Kingston the idea that Frank wanted to beat her up?  Allegedly, it was in a letter correspondence she had with Frank back in 1976.  Says Kingston:

"He even wrote me a letter that he's going to beat me up if he sees me."

The only letter I (Eddie) am aware of was mentioned in Curtis Choy's documentary on Frank (those letters were dated in 1976, too).  There was no mention of Frank looking to physically hurt Kingston in the film.

Just recently, a number of close associates of Frank's were asked from a fact-checker from The New Yorker about any 1976 letter where Frank supposedly made this threat.  The fact-checker was working on a forthcoming article on Maxine Hong Kingston (which was just released) and wanted to look further into this.

Unless we missed it, we were unaware of any letter of this kind, and we never witnessed first-hand where Frank had the idea of beating up Maxine Hong Kingston.  The only person I'm aware of who knows about this threat is Maxine Hong Kinston.

The fact-checker told me she found the 1976 letter in question.   According to the aforementioned New Yorker article,

Chin once wrote her a heated letter saying that the only reason for meeting would be for 'a public fight, but I’m not anxious for that.'

Frank was obviously talking about a public debate, not an effort to show off his physical prowess as a martial artist on a female author.  Furthermore, Kingston left her return address on the envelope (watch the documentary and you'll see it).  It would be awfully strange to tell your perpetrator where you live if you think they'll come and beat you up.

The idea that Frank wanted to physically beat up Kingston is absolutely absurd.  Frank accused Kingston of making up white racist stories of Chinese History.  It appears she's making up stories of Chinese men.

This rumor of Frank has been going around for decades.  I thank the fact-checker and author for quoting Frank.  I often find rumors of Frank lacking in substance and merit.  This is yet another one of those cases, I'm afraid.

More here.