To John Korty:
Your Farewell to Manzanar is the most despicable, self-righteous, white racist vision of Japanese America in American film. It’s less honest about white racism and the Japanese American lockup in concentration camps than The Purple Heart (1945), Escape from Manzanar (1945), Go for Broke! (1951), Hell to Eternity (1960), If Tomorrow Comes (1971) and Guilty by Reason of Race (1972). Your characterization of Japanese Americans being either Japanese foreigners or American-born yellow white supremacists sucks off the same white fantasies about Japanese America that justified putting them in the camps in the first place. Ku Klux Klan is gonna see that you get the Emmy for proving they were right, John.
You have lovingly removed white racism from the issue of the concentration camps and the everyday minds of Japanese American. A remarkable feat. You save whites from feeling guilty by characterizing Japanese Americans as cheerfully unaware of the pervasive white racism and as lovably stupid and subhuman as Snow White’s seven dwarfs.
The removal of white racism from the issue of the Japanese American concentration camps is as racist as removing anti-Semitism from the issue of the Jewish concentration camps run by Nazis. Nazis gonna have you do a film on the Jews not being bitter about their camps to make the Nazis look good, John. You have a real future making the Walt Disney True Life Adventure Series of endangered non-white human species.
I first throught your adaptation of Ernest J. Ganes’ The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman was a crime against literature by a filmmaker known for making movies about trivial nothings. The magnitude of your racist accomplishment, of turning a great book into a trivial nothing, memorable only for a makeup job, escaped me until I saw Farewell to Manzanar.
"Your Farewell to Manzanar is the most despicable, self-righteous, white racist vision of Japanese America in American film. "
I saw the film Edison Uno says “speaks for itself,” and finally saw your crime is against humanity of non-whites. Farewell to Manzanar might be the perfect racist crime. Only a white racist could have removed white racism from the issue of the camps and adored to justify the racist logic that made the camps happen. General De Witt will rise from the grave to hand you your Emmy, John. You’ve redeemed him.
Worse than legitimizing white racism is your willful destruction of Japanese American history and culture. Harry Ueno, Togo Tanaka, Joe Kurihara, Fred Tayama and other Japanese Americans who were moved to heroic acts of will and greatness to maintain Japanese American integrity are real people.
These great Japanese Americans of Manzanar are still living, what they said and did at Manzanar are matters of public record and more, they are the substance of Japanese American courage in the most trying time in Japanese American history. You change their names to fakes, some kind of Dopey-san and Sleepy-san in your racist fairy tale. You cut the knowledge of white racism from their minds and mouths and amazingly cut the awareness of white people out of the minds of all Japanese Americans, making yellows look really dumb. They don’t notice a yellow man messing around with the only white woman in the movie, and nothing is made of the yellow woman married to the white man that opens and closes the film.
That’s a white supremacist fantasy of Shangri-la, not reality. Even “Japs” weren’t and aren’t that blind. They saw. They talked about what they saw. You make the men who stand up and fight for what they believe in sissies and crybabies who can’t stand up without falling apart and can’t talk straight talk only self-pity and white worship.
Farewell to Manzanar is a cry of FORGET MANZANAR! It’s a piece of white racist propaganda. I apologize to Japanese American for having been an accomplice to this crime against their history, their language, their names, their soul. I’m asking you to strike my name from the credits.
If Japanese America doesn’t step up to you outraged and angry after Farewell to Manzanar airs, then we will both know the camps were successful in destroying Japanese America. You will have gotten away with murder. You’ll collect your Emmy for your version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfts, and I will mourn the loss of a great people from the face of the earth.
Mother Jones Magazine