Sunday, August 03, 2008

Racist Love

©1972 By Frank Chin & Jeffery Paul Chan

In: Seeing Through Shuck
New York: Ballantine Books, 1972

White racism enforces white supremacy. White supremacy is a system of order and a way of perceiving reality. Its purpose is to keep whites on top and set them free. Colored minorities in white reality are stereotypes. Each racial stereotype comes in two models, the acceptable and the unacceptable. The hostile black stud has his acceptable counterpart in the form of Stepin Fetchit. For the savage, kill-crazy Geronimo, there is Tonto and the Hollywood version of Cochise. For the mad dog General Santa Ana there's the Cisco Kid and Pancho. For Fu Manchu and the Yellow Peril, there is Charlie Chan and his Number One Son. The unacceptable model is unacceptable because he cannot be controlled by whites. The acceptable model is acceptable because he is tractable. There is racist hate and racist love.

If the system works, the stereotypes assigned to the various races are accepted by the races themselves as reality, as fact, and racist love reigns. The minority's reaction to racist policy is acceptance and apparent satisfaction. Order is kept, the world turns without a peep from any nonwhite. One measure of the success of white racism is the silence of that race and the amount of white energy necessary to maintain or increase that silence. Likewise, the failure of white racism can be measured by the amount and kind of noise of resistance generated by the race. The truth is that all of the country's attention has been drawn to white racism's failures. Everything that has been done by whites in politics, government, and education in response to the failure of white racism, while supposedly anti-racist, can be seen as efforts to correct the flaws, redesign the instruments, and make racism work. The object is to shut up the noise. Do it fast. Do it cheap. White racism has failed with the blacks, the chicanos, the American Indians. Night riders, soldier boys on horseback, fat sheriffs, and all them goons and clowns of racism did destroy a lot of bodies, mess up some minds, and leave among these minorities a legacy of suffering that continues to this day. But they did not stamp out the consciousness of a people, destroy their cultural integrity and literacy sensibility, and produce races of people that would work to enforce white supremacy without having to be supervised or watchdogged by whites.

In terms of the utter lack of cultural distinction in America, the destruction of an organic sense of identity, the complete psychological and cultural subjugation of a race of people, the people of Chinese and Japanese ancestry stand out as white racism's only success. This is not to say that Asian-Americans are worse off than the other colored minorities. American policy has failed in Vietnam, yet no one would say that the Vietnamese are better off than the people of Puerto Rico, where American policy has succeeded. The secret of that success lies in the construction of the modern stereotype and the development of new policies of white racism.

The general function of any racial stereotype is to establish and preserve order between different elements of society, maintain the continuity and growth of Western civilization, and enforce white supremacy with a minimum of effort, attention, and expense. The ideal racial stereotype is a low maintenance engine of white supremacy whose efficiency increases with age, as it became "authenticated" and "historically verified."

The stereotype operates as a model of behavior. It conditions the mass society's perceptions and expectations. Society is conditioned to accept the given minority only within the bounds of the stereotype. The subject minority is conditioned to reciprocate by becoming the stereotype, live it, talk it, embrace it, measure group and individual worth in its terms, and believe it.

The stereotype operates most efficiently and economically when the vehicle of the stereotype, the medium of its perpetuation, and the subject race to be controlled are all one. When the operation of the stereotype has reached this point, where the subject race itself embodies and perpetuates the white supremacist vision of reality, indifference to the subject race sets in among mass society. The successful operation of the stereotype results in the neutralization of the subject race as a social, creative, and cultural force. The race poses no threat to white supremacy. It is now a guardian of white supremacy, dependent on it and grateful to it.

For the subject to operate efficiently as an instrument of white supremacy, he is conditioned to accept and live in a state of euphemized self-contempt. This self-contempt itself is nothing more than the subject's acceptance of white standards of objectivity, beauty, behavior, and achievement as being morally absolute, and his acknowledgment of the fact that, because he is not white, he can never fully measure up to white standards.

The stereotype, within the minority group itself, then, is enforced by individual and collective self-contempt. Given: that the acceptable stereotype is the minority version of whiteness and being acceptable to whites creates no friction between the races, and given: fear of white hostility and the white threat to the survival of the subject minority, it follows that embracing the acceptable stereotype is an expedient tactic of survival, as selling out and accepting humiliation almost always are. The humiliation, this gesture of self-contempt and self-destruction, in terms of the stereotype is euphemized as being successful assimilation, adaption, and acculturation.

If the source of this self-contempt is obviously generated from outside the minority, interracial hostility will inevitably result, as history has shown us in the cases of the blacks, Indians, and chicanos. The best self-contempt to condition into the minority has its sources seemingly within the minority group itself. The vehicles of this illusion are education and the publishing establishment. Only five American-born Chinese have published what can be called serious attempts at literature: Pardee Lowe has a one-book career with Father and Glorious Descendants (1943), an autobiography; Jade Snow Wong, another one- book career with the most famous Chinese-American work, Fifth Chinese Daughter(1950), an autobiography; Diana Chang, the only serious Chinese-America writer to publish more than one book-length creative work to date, has written and published four novels and is a well-known poet; Virginia Lee has one novel, The House Tai Ming Built in 1963; and Betty Lee Sung, author of the semiautobiographical Mountain of Gold (1967). Of these five, four--Pardee Lowe, Jade Snow Wong, Virginia Lee, and Betty Lee Sung -- confirm the popular stereotypes of Chinese-Americans, find Chinese-America repulsive, and don't identify with it.

The construction of the stereotype began long before Jade Snow Wong, Pardee Lowe, Virginia Lee, and Betty Lee Sung were born within it and educated to fulfill it. It began with a basic difference between it and the stereotypes of the other races. The white stereotype of the Asian is unique in that it is the only racial stereotype completely devoid of manhood. Our nobility is that of an efficient housewife. At our worst we are contemptible because we are womanly, effeminate, devoid of all the traditionally masculine qualities of originality, daring, physical courage, creativity. We're neither straight talkin' or straight shootin'. The mere fact that four of the five American-born Chinese-American writers are women reinforces this aspect of the stereotype.

The sources of Chinese-American self-contempt are white Christianity, the sojourner's state of humiliation, overt white racism, and legislative racism. Each served to exclude the Chinese-American from the realm of manliness and American culture. The Chinese were the target of the largest missionary campaign ever mounted in the history of mankind. It's now in its fifth century. The American missionary movement is now in its second century. In 1871, the Reverend John L. Nevius wrote:

The Chinese as a race are, as compared with the European nations, of a phlegmatic and impassive temperament, and physically less active and energetic. Children are not fond of athletic and vigorous sports, but prefer marbles, kite-flying, and some quiet games of gall, spinning tops, etc. Men take an easy stroll for recreation, but never a rapid walk for exercise, and are seldom in a hurry or excited. They are characteristically timid and docile... While the Chinese are deficient in active courage and daring, they are not passive in resistance. They are comparatively apathetic as regards to pain and death, and have great powers of physical endurance as well as great persistency and obstinacy. On an average a Chinese tailor will work on his bench or a literary man over books with his pen, more hours a day than our race can.

The Chinese in the parlance of the Bible, were raw material for the "flock," pathological sheep for the shepherd. The adjectives applied to the Chinese ring with scriptural imagery. We are meek, timid, passive, docile, industrious. We have the patience of Job. We are humble. A race without sinful manhood, born to mortify our flesh. Religion has been used to subjugate the blacks, chicanos, and Indians along with guns and whips. The difference between these groups and the Chinese was that the Christians, taking Chinese hospitality for timidity and docility, weren't afraid of us as they were of other races. They loved us, protected us. Love conquered.

It's well-known that the cloying overwhelming love of a protective, coddling mother produces an emotionally stunted, dependant child. This is the Christian love, the bigoted love that has imprisoned the Chinese-American sensibility; whereas overt and prolonged expressions of hatred had the effect of liberating black, red, chicano, and to some degree, Japanese-American sensibilities.

The hatred of whites freed them to return hate with hate and develop their own brigand languages, cultures, and sensibilities, all of which have at their roots an assumed arrogance in the face of white standards, and defiant mockery of the white institutions, including white religion. One of the products of these cultures born of overt racist hatred was a word in the language for white man, a name loaded with hate. A white man knows where he stands when a chicano called him "gringo," or a black man called him "honky," "Mr. Charlie," "ofay," "whitey," or an Indian calls him "paleface." Whites aren't aware of the names Chinese-Americans and Japanese-Americans have for them. And it's not a little embarrassing for an Asian-American to be asked by a curious white what we might call him behind his back.

The first Chinese were sojourners to America. They arrived in a state of humiliation as indentured servants, coolie laborers to California to perform the labor of slaves, which were outlawed in this free state. They never intended to settle here. The whites encouraged them with overt white racism and legislative racism to leave as soon as they could. The first Chinese so loathed this country that they regularly burned all their letters and records of their stay, journals and diaries, and tossed the ashes into the sea in the hope that at least much of themselves would make it back to China. As a consequence of their total self-contempt, Chinese- America has no literary legacy. Of the Chinese who stayed not one complete account of one Chinese man's life in California, in diary, in journal, or in the form of correspondence, survives. Nor is there any oral history. All that survives from those old men is the humiliation of being foreign.

If life here was something to be erased from memory, death here was the ultimate humiliation. They were contemptible in life on American soil. Life they could endure. But death, no. So the practice of returning the bones to China for burial in hospitable ground, an eloquent and final expression of their loathing of America released after death, which the whites regarded as quaint and heathenish.

Legislative racism, the only form that openly survives, was invented to cope with the Chinese specifically and the first applied against them with success. Legislative racism culminated in the passage of The Chinese Exclusion Act by the U.S. Congress, giving the Chinese the distinction of being the only race to be legislated against by name.

The racist policy applied against the blacks defined them as nonhumans, as property without legal status. This resulted in political schisms among the white majority and contributed to a costly war, thus failing as an instrument of white supremacy. It also failed to control the blacks and condition them into white supremacist self-control. The policy of extermination and incarceration applied against the American Indian was another costly failure.

For the Chinese, they invented an instrument of racist policy that was a work of pure genius, in that it was not an overtly hostile expression of anti-Chinese sentiment, yet still reinforced the stereotype and generated self-contempt and humiliation among generations of Chinese and Chinese-Americans, who, after having been conditioned into internalizing the white supremacist Gospel of Christian missionaries, looked on themselves as failures, instead of victims of racism. This wondrous instrument was the law. They gave the Chinese legal status, access to the protection under the law as "aliens ineligible for citizenship." We were separate but equal under the supposedly blind impartiality of the law. Legally we were masters of our own destiny, limited only by our intelligence and talent.

The game was rigged. The Chinese were forced into Chinatown and out of American culture and society by laws supposedly designed to protect fish, secure safety against fire, and protect public health. One law stated that only "aliens ineligible for citizenship" of the laboring class would be admitted into the country. A fancy way of saying only men, no women. this law was designed to control the Chinese population. It discouraged Chinese from staying by denying them access to their women, underscored the state of their (supposedly voluntary) humiliation in America, and guaranteed that even should all the Chinese stay they would not reproduce. And eventually they would die out.

This law worked. At the turn of the century the ratio of men to women was 27 to 1. Then a little after the turn of the century the Chinese population took a sudden decline. White historians like to say that suddenly a lot of us went home to China. We didn't, but our bones did, six months after we died here. This law was doubly successful in that it contributed to the myth of Chinese-American juvenile decency and thus added to the effeminization of the racial stereotype. According to this myth, the reason juvenile delinquency stayed so low in Chinatown until the last twenty years was that maintenance of the strong Chinese family. Nothing less than Confucianist Chinese culture was making law-abiding citizens of us. The reason there was no juvenile delinquency in Chinatown has less to do with Confucian mumbo jumbo than with the law against the birth of Chinese kids. There were no juveniles to be delinquent.

What holds all this self-contempt together and makes it work is "The Concept of the Dual Personality." The so-called "blending of East and West" divides the Chinese-American into two incompatible segments: (1) the foreigner whose status is dependent on his ability to be accepted by the white natives; and (2) the handicapped native who is taught that identification with his foreignness is the only way to "justify" his difference in skin color. The argument goes, "If you ain't got Chinese culture, baby, all you got's the color of your skin," as if to say skin color were not a culture force in this country.

The privileged foreigner is the assimilable alien. The assimilable alien is posed as an exemplary minority against the bad example of the blacks. Thus the privileged foreigner is trained to respond to the black not the white majority as the single most potent threat to his status. The handicapped native is neither black nor white in a black and white world. In his native American culture he has no recognized style of manhood, in a society where a manly style is prerequisite to respectability and notice. His pride is derived from the degree of his acceptance by the race of his choice at being consciously one thing and not the other. Black, white, chicano, or a museum of Chinese culture. In his use of language, voice inflection, accent, walk, manner of dress, and combing his hair, the handicapped native steeps himself in self- contempt for being "quick to learn... and imitative." At worst, he's a counterfeit begging currency. At best he's an "Americanized Chinese," someone who's been given a treatment to make him less foreign.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Frank Abe of KIRO NewsRadio Seattle asked Cynthia Kadohata a question about her debut novel THE FLOATING WORLD. How did a Japanese family of migrant farm laborers find themselves in a car in 1950’s Arkansas? Instead of answering, “Camp,” she snapped her answer, “There’s activism. And there’s art. My work is art.”

The United States of America is the only country founded in “The Great American Experiment - Democracy.” If the American experiment absorbed the cultures of JACK AND JILL, RUMPELSTITLSKIN, THE UGLY DUCKLING, the hungry experiment would chew on the stories POON GOO, the giant, and NUR WAW, the Mother of Humanity welcome a new culture and grow, the yellows who came for gold, thought. Democracy would welcome THE WATER MARGIN, the story a China formed by alliances between regional families, races, and gangs bound by oaths that joined disparate philosophies in a fight for the land. In THE WATER MARGIN, in all of the heroic tradition, the government was just another gang. The American experimental democracy promised cultural integrity and political freedom.

Yellows know JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, CINDERELLA, RUMPELSTILTSKIN from their childhood as American stories. President Clinton has declared Kingston’s lies about Chinese history and Far Mulan the official United States version of Chinese culture .

For the ChineseAmericans the message is simple: serve the white man. You don’t believe me? Whites expect you to know the white THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA. You have the right to expect the whites to know Nah Jah the three headed boy. You didn’’t know you had that right did you? Thanks Socioology and Asian American studies for your ignorance about Asain America.

The Japanese have been in America, on the mainland for over a century. They have the right to expect their fellow Americans to know KAGUYA HIME, the girl who glowed like the moon. Japanese America had a Japanese Kabuki style stage and a production of a folk play, about the rise of a family of samurai against the government to avenge their judgment that their master’s death was unjust. This suggestion that every Nisei child of 1930’s Seattle knew CHUSHINGURA comes from a review of an all-girls production being staged at Seattle’s Nippon Kan, by James Omura, in a part Issei part Nisei paper.

MOMOTARO, the story of a boy found inside a large peach, is the Japanese match for JACK AND THE BEANSTALK. CHUSHINGURA is the plot to the opera of Japan, the grand Kabuki. References to both occur in John Okada’s NO-NO BOY, a JapaneseAmerican novel, published in Japan and a flop in America where it was written. Was it rejected by JapaneseAmericans as the lack of sales indicated?

The America that accepts MOTHER GOOSE, from England and The Bros. Grimm from Germany pointedly rejects Yellow children’s stories from Yellow cultures.

No art is lower than opera. No art coalesces the high and the low into singing the same song like an opera. An art –like an opera -- that is not activist, is an art without content. An art without content is entertainment. Verdi’s revolutionary operas rouses voices to sing like heroes, Wagner’s heroic Viking women singing on the mountaintops in winged helmets and armor. The heroic Peking and Cantonese operas. The Japanese Kabuki.

The JACL contends that Japanese Americans aren’t activist. That’s why the JACL exists as the entry into an America free of Japanese influence.

The Nisei might not be activist, but their parents the Issei had to be activists, or they wouldn’t have come. Issei Sessue Hayakawa had his own Hollywood studio. He owned Haworth Studios and starred in Haworth’s movies. He played an American Indian, a suave Mexican gigolo, Chinese, and Japanese and imaginary Pacific islanders. Rudolph Valentino came to him looking for work. Hayakawa turned him down. Hayakawa was the top of the Holllywood heap.

He quit Hollywood after he discovered the white partners in his Haworth studios conspired to split the insurance money following his death in an earthquake scene. Luckily technician told him not to stand where he was supposed to stand. He went to New York and wrote a novel, developed the novel into a night club act, took the nightclub act to France, the French made a movie of his novel and he became a French movie star and nightclub raconteur. When Germany and Japan signed an alliance and walked into Paris, he left the stage. That was another form of art as activism. When the Americans liberated Paris, he went out in the streets and met a group of American troops and invited them to dinner.

Hayakawa was born into a Samurai family in Japan. He was as an Issei. Kadohata’s vision of art being separate from activism was born in America.


Taro and Mitsu Iwamatsu were painters more known for their Fauvist action approach to drawing and painting till the militarists took over the state. They fled Japan after artist friends had been taken Gestapo style in the middle of the night. The Iwamatsu’s landed in New York, where Taro took the name “Yashima” and went to work drawing and writing for the U.S. Office of War Information. He was the author illustrator of the messages John Okada chucked, out of B-24 runs over occupied islands in the Pacific. He is known to American children for his children’s books. MOMO’S UMBRELLA has been in print since 1977. He published two “picture books” in America. HORIZON IS CALLING, the story of Japanese militarists driving him out of the country, and THE NEW SUN the story of his return and recovering his son, Mako. These were normal size books of full page illustrations and a caption of two lines in English and two lines in Japanese. If there is a Japanese American reading of Yashima’s combined graphic art and captions that justifies taking the works seriously as JA literature, I wish a JapaneseAmerican critic would argue that case. None did when the picture books came out. Too activist. But JapaneseAmerica has another chance to embrace or ignore Taro Yashima.

Momo, of MOMO’S UMBRELLA , is shepherding a university press though a reprinting THE NEW SUN according to her father’s design. The new, NEW SUN is due out next year.

Sessue Hayakawa and Taro Yashima and Mitsu Iwamatsu prove that the separation of art and activism was not invented by the Issei.

Mako, the son left behind as a baby by Taro and Mitsu was too sickly to travel. He was 16 when sailed alone to America. He’s an Oscar nominated actor, starred On-Broadway with PACIFIC OVERTURES and was the founding director of the Los Angeles EAST WEST PLAYERS. He wanted to be known as a great Yellow director of the great Japanese American play about camp. He slipped me $200 to write him that play. A play for him to direct, not act. He was an activist. He slipped writers a little encouragement, a little courage, with his money. His private gift bound us like brothers. I would send him sample pages of ideas that came to me. There was a play based on Hiroo Shinoda, the Japanese soldier that fought WWII in a Phillippine island until the 1970’s when Japan sent his former commanding officer and relatives to command him to leave. Mako as Shinoda and Pat Morita as a fictional draftee from America drew an enthusiastic phone call, but fizzled.

He let the world know that by a great JA play he meant a camp play, when he announced a whole season of four to be written plays dedicated to camp.

It’s not his fault the writers let him down, and the actors are busy kissing themselves all over.

A critic in the tradition of lone Jimmie Omura might see a parable of JA history in the story of art and activism from Japan come to America to have “art” separated from dangerous “activism” by the JACL.

Isn’t it curious that Omura considered the editor of the JACL newspaper the PACIFIC CITIZEN Larry Tajiri, a good friend? Memories of the San Francisco 30 club for Nisei journalists, and walks around the city where they talked of the Great JapaneseAmerican Novel they expected the other to race them to write.

Omura the lone champion of a free press in JapaneseAmerica and Tajiri the lover of books movies and writing, who turns against his love of art and leads JapaneseAmericans to write as a service to white supremacy as Sociologists. Sociology is white religion disguised as science. That explains why JA has had no newspapers, no magazines since CURRENT LIFE and the Rocky Shimpo.

Larry Tajiri was the spokesman for Mike Masaoka’s JACL policies, and confidential informant to the FBI code named “T-1”( Masaoka himself was code named Confidential Informant T-11) Why did Tajiri give George FurIya a moment of JACL fame in the pages of the PACIFIC CITIZEN?
Furiya was unpublished, unknown. Why praise for an unpublished writer who cusses the JACL out? Furiya wrote to Tajiri:

I notice those bastards in the JACL turned quisling when the invasion ran over 'em. What the hell's the matter with you guys out there on coast. The fact that had to evacuate you can't deny, of course: and it would have been sheer folly not to cooperate with the fascist military boys to make the evacuation as nice as possible. But the JACL boys didn't just cooperate; they actually went and kissed the army's ass.

Tajiri wrote in the Jan. 17, 1948 issue of the PACIFIC CITIZEN:

An Unpublished Novelist

"There are uncomplete novels in his trunk and one of these days George will be back to finish them. Maybe one of them will be published and he will be famous. You might remember the name. George Furiya."

Old fashioned literary research turned up a letter to the Tajiri’s from George Furiya. The letter is refreshingly written in the rhythms of spontaneous spoken language. This is a taste of the prose of George Furiya, Larry “T-1” Tajiri believed deserved a read.

Dearest Larry and Guyo,

Anyway, how are you? And you, Guyo. The bugs are well under control, so don't worry. The old saying about children would describe my bugs well if it had been written by Milton: The bugs are not seen, neither are they heard. Or something. Anyway, I'm fine. I notice those bastards in the JACL turned quisling when the invasion ran over 'em. What the hell's the matter with you guys out there on coast. The fact that had to evacuate you can't deny, of course: and it would have been sheer folly not to cooperate with the fascist military boys to make the evacuation as nice as possible. But the JACL boys didn't just cooperate; they actually went and kissed the army's ass. Not even a single protest, be it to the nisei's everlasting shame. By the fact of not protesting (not that it would have done ay go, of course) you actually gave recognition to necessity for evacuation when you knew damn well that no such necessity existed. What the JACL should have done was this: We recognize no necessity for evacuation, and we say to plainly †hat we are all following your orders under duress (whatever duress means). Then the JACL should have gotten busy to try to get that phony military order revoked. Because as long as that military order hangs over the heads of the dumb nisei, it's going to mean that the nisei have been guilty of what the military boys said they were guilty of. Worse the order is going to hang like sword Damocles over the heads of the nisei, poised to come down this time like a ghetto-system, this time like the hostages for the white-American prisoners o the Japs, ad infinitum. I know that safety from West Coast mob-rule was one of the arguments used in favor of evacuation by the JACL quislings-in-effect, but moving inland from the West Coast hasn't safety; they've just hung that sword of Damocles over their heads. Anything can happen as long as sword hangs there. Hell, the JACL didn't cooperate with the army. In France, they call that kind of thing collaboration. The invasion has come and gone, but what the hell is everybody doing? I think what the Pacific Citizen should start campaigning to get that military order revoked.---And for Christ's sake, tell the boys to cut out some of that flag-waving, will? It's really disgusting. Carl Craw came back and told Shiro: "That Mike Masaoka is sure some flag-waver, isn't he?"

South America? Wonderful, from this distance. The most charming people in Argentina were French. (God, how I love the French! One thing this war proved: I'm a damn good Frenchman and damn good Russian.) Padilla's Free Man of America really exists in Latin America--at least, so far as I'm concerned. I had only to mention that was North American. From then on, I was never a Japanese to these refugee Europeans and the Latin Americans. I was a North American. Not even an eyebrow raised. For the first time in my life, I was an American--with nobody to question or doubt that fact. I tell it was terrific. Can you wonder that I consider North Americans the worst kind dopes? These refugee Europeans and Latin Americans never spoke to me as Japanese. They always spoke to me as an American. They never doubted my loyalty to the United States. (Dangerous word, that loyalty. But not now. I mean I won't go into why that word's a dangerous one. What I mean is all this hullabaloo about loyalty this-and-that, disloyalty this-and-that in the evacuation business, no one from DeWitt and Roosevelt down to the least of the JACL quisling's (sic) quislings exactly described what they meant by loyalty disloyalty. What I mean is I am definitely against turning the Japanese people over to Wall Street and the No-dogs-And-Chinese-Allowed boys? Is that disloyalty I traveled eight thousand miles submarine infested waters to come back to the United States from a more or less good life-time job in B.A. with the Asahi. Does that constitute loyalty?- --Anyway, to Latin Americans, Padilla, and the whole French people, my love. Sao Paulo is still a wonderful city to me. Did tell you about my Turkish girl, 22-years, educated in France, widow of a French infantry lieutenant, with whom I was on tu -terms, Spanish and halting French? Lovely. I should have fallen in love with her. And so forth. Sighted two submarines, dodged two torpedoes the night, didn't even so much as get excited, and the navy gunnery crew was given orders by the ensign in command to shoot me on sight if they caught me signaling to any ship, the damn fool (the kind of thing that me despair for America.)

A long letter, but a well-meant one. I love you both, and thanks for letter. It was most touching. Now guess what I'm doing now. I'm on Long Island, stuffing dirt into pots at the Japan Nurseries, Inc., $50 a month with room and fish-diet, 11 hours a day. You should see me. Positively boorish. A muzhik, a muzhak--the Russian for peasant. Am getting my unemployment insurance soon, however. Then to work.


George Furiya

Japanese Americans will have to find George Furiya’s novel, and confirm or prove Omura’s memory of a firm friendship or wishful thinking.

Tajiri went from editing the PACIFIC CITIZEN to culture editor at the DENVER POST with the Czar of JA publishing, Bill Hosokawa. He wrote knowledgeably and appreciatively about operas, plays, movies like a white critic of white art in a white newspaper. Everything…every thing that JapaneseAmericans didn’t have.

These actors in the story of JapaneseAmerica were found in the course of separating fact from fiction to define and appreciate the art of John Okada’s NO-NO BOY.

Were we suckered by a good title NO-NO BOY that fizzed with personality and “style?” The subject was the American definition of the author’s Japanese blood. The flesh and blood existed in reality. Did the ideas, the city, the people exist? Were they still alive? A journalist’s questions preparatory to sniffing out an interview.

A visit to Seattle showed the Boys that Okada’s Seattle was still Seattle. The Aiiieeeee! Boys liked John Okada’s NO-NO BOY for its honest portrayal of tensions against No-No Boys tearing apart the Japanese Americans of Seattle.

John Okada volunteered for the army from camp Minidoka, and served in intelligence in the Pacific, he was a living example of the perfect JACL internee, volunteer, hero, but he didn’t write about himself. We liked that he wasn’t writing about himself. This was a true novel.

I do not remember one reference to the JACL in Okada’s novel other than his choice of th derogatory term invented by the JACL, “No-No Boy” to designate the internees that foiled the WRA questionnaire the JACL was so sure had been soo cunningly designed it trap thousands of internees into volunteering for the army from a prison camp that the JACL’s Mike Masaoka became volunteer no. 1 in August. In the 1957 that the book was published the “No-No Boys” was a JACL synonym for “traitors,” a term known only to Japanese Americans in the hush of conversation when John Okada wrote. NO-NO BOY was an operatically activist novel before Japanese America had an opera.

The Aiiieeeee! Boys liked NO-NO BOY so much, we re-released it in 1974 under our secret identity, CARP Press with cover and book design by Robert Onodera, and an afterword that willingly exposed Hajime “Jim” Akutsu as Okada’s model for his protagonist “Ichiro.”

We didn’t know it at the time, but by combining our names and races in AIIIEEEEE! we were re-enacting the meeting of three men of three different faces, three races, three walks of life becoming blood brothers, in the Oath in the Peach Garden to save China and die on the same day. A knowledgeable Yellow critic would have pointed out the similarities between the alliance of four Aiiieeeee! Boys and the 3 brothers of the Oath in the Peach Garden and racist significanse of THE FIVE CHINESE BROTHERS.

But we have no critics. We—Asian America haven’t had critics since Seattle’s Broadway High School graduate James Matsumoto Baking Powder Omura edited San Francisco’s CURRENT LIFE until Dec. 7th 1941, and Tetsuko Toda hired Omura to car to Denver to edit the ROCKY SHIMPO. In the ten camps Toda unleashed Omura in the ROCKY telling the news to that was shortly told and useful to the internees, and editorials that criticized the government and “the Constitution” was the code, to the JACL and the words he recommended in his editorials, be used. Omura was the only critic the people had to nag everybody as an objective Nisei outside observor of the ten camps. Each a city of ten thousand souls. The Issei subscribed and the Nisei gathered round to hear news from the ROCKY. Think of a movie peek at this news from the ROCKY scene at Minidoka, Idaho, the ROCKY at Heart Mountain, Wyoming, the ROCKY at Amache, Colorado.

If we had a critic, or at least a gossip we would know what Pat Morita the comic, remembers hearing a voice between the barracks at Tule Lake calling “Errr-Rocky here! Errr-Rocky Shimpo!” A magazine should have pulled that out of Pat in public, and not passed in private like a secret.

Take any avenue to check for the facts of NO-NO BOY. It will eventually lead to the conclusion that Seattle had an unusually large number of contenders for leadership of the American born Nisei and the JACL. James Sakamoto, the blind boxer turned publisher of the first all-English JapaneseAmerican newspaper, and a founder of the JACL, Bill Hosokawa, an editor on Sakamoto’s JAPANESE AMERICAN COURIER before the war, and the post war JACL Czar of JA publishing, James Omura, a cantankerous opponent of the JACL. Gordon Hirabayashi, the first to resist by violating tie Army curfew order. All come from Seattle.

Min Yasui of Portland was the second Nisei to violate the curfew. Though a lawyer and he should have known better, he agreed to attach his case Ex Parte to Hirabayashi’s.

I’ve heard that members of sainted Min Yasui’s Portland JACL say their venerable Japanese American Citizen’s League has differences with me. They don’t like me and yet they’re sponsoring my flight to Portland to talk to you.

The difference Portland JACL has with me, might be the Day of Remembrance they didn’t support as the JACL but as individual Issei, and Nisei everyone wanted to happen. No one wanted to organize, to lead but were willing to be one of a group of sponsors, they were willing, even anxious to be organized.

The first and only JapaneseAmerican use of the paid political ad in history, began at the 1979 Portland Day of Remembrance. The text to the OPEN LETTER TO SENATOR HAYAKAWA in favor of redress was on a table with a lined sheet for signing and a can for contributions to buy ad space in the Washington Post. Min Yasui read the letter, clapped his hand on the table, took out his wallet, and signed then and there. Later he asked that his name be removed from the letter but keep the five bucks for the cause.

George Takei, Mr. Sulu of STAR TREK signed. The Mayors of Seattle, Puyallup, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles and more mayors signed. Jane Fonda signed. And signatures from five dollar Japanese Americans that filled a third of a page in the Washington Post and caught Sen Hayakawa off guard.

Getting to the bottom why a vet John Okada wrote NO-NO BOY about a pariah and not himself, led to AIIIEEEEE’s! research into the book that led to Seattle and that led to the JACL betrayal of Japanese America into the camps and the JACL creation of the 442nd as the cowards of camp and their private JACL police at home. The JACL controlled JapaneseAmerican history, and suppressed knowledge of the resisters winning a Presidential Pardon that gave JapaneseAmericans their civil rights back into the time of camp. It was the resisters from Hirabayashi to the draft resisters of 1944, and Endo’s Habeas Corpus suit that demanded the governent tell her why she was interned, that opened the wire gates of camp. If it were up to the JACL JapaneseAmerica would have gone extinct in camp.

Aiiieeeee’s! conclusion about JapaneseAmerican history is the opinion of four rogue writers. JapaneseAmerica hasn’t been heard from. If JapaneseAmerica wants to celebrate it’s traitors and forget it’s heroes, so be it. That’s news.

Why don’t Yellow activist artists in Oregon know about artist activists California? Why are Oregon civil rights activists not linking the WWII Resisters refusal to be illegally drafted from camp, with Lt Ehren Watada’s refusal to obey the illegal deployment to Iraq? Watada’s right close. We don’t know Yellows a mile down the road because we have no newspapers, we have no magazines. Because we have no magazines. Activists in Portland don’t know that actress Momo Yashima has put together a presentation of resistance leader Frank Emi, and WWII draft resister from Heart Mountain Wyoming, Yosh Kuromiya, and Ht Mt internee drafted into the Army, with service in Military Intelligence, Paul Tusneishi, who resigned his membership in the JACL and has been a one man campaign for Japanese America’s recognition of the heroes of JA civil rights.

Ehren Watada called the resisters in Los Angeles from Seattle. It was put on You tube and licked a column in the San Jose Mercury-News. The resisters reached from the camps of WWII to today, men in their 80’s and 90’s to link up with Lt. Watada.

The activists in Portland might bring Momo’s show to town, and arrange a meet up the road at Ft. Lewis, between Lt. Ehren Watada and the resisters. Just a thought.

The Aiiieeeee! Boys all publish in white magazines. Some big. Some small. White anthologies, in white company, From Ishmael Reed adventures into book publishing and magazine publishing all kinds of publishing we learned the joy of publishing among a truly multi-racial American magazine. Made us conscious of Yellows having no publishers. The publishers faking it for us are like Lee & Lowe. Michi Weglyn approached them with the idea of doing a version of KAGUYA HIME. Lee & Lowe said all their Asian stories were sociologically accurate and they did not publish traditional Asian stories.

If we publish at all, we have no choice but to step into the white man’s pocket.




At least the Aiiieeeee! Boys have published books with their names on them. There’s no mistaking your reading a book by Chin, Chan, Inada or Wong. Stepping into a book by one of us is like stepping into my private Men’s room. You don’t have that book by Chin expecting to read about Britney, or Madonna, or Lisa Liu bragging about knowing nothing of Chinese children’s stories. True! The men’s room with my name on it, is in a White house. True the books come from White pockets. I’m grateful to be published. My ego bows to White generosity. But I’m bothered by the fact I’ve chosen to be a writer, of a people that have no publishers, no theaters...

A people has theater, and critics. Sessue Hayakawa took a job at “Toda” a Japanese theater company in Los Angeles, Little Tokyo run by a man named Toda. A people has magazines, movie stars, heroes, and Zippo lighters for making fire. No record of Toda. No reviews of Toda’s shows. THE LAST OF THE LINE, a William Ince film about Indians becoming drunks in the cities starring Sessue Hayakawa as a son of a chief that goes to the city and the worst happens. Hayakawa writes of being discovered by Ince at a performance of the HURRICANE at the Toda theater.

The Yellow magazine has yellow critics. Critics that know as much us, as we know about ourselves. We read each other and knew enough to detect a fake Chan, a fake Wong, a fake Inada a fake me. We were all you needed to know as long as we were the only AA writers.

Then Kingston said she learned THE BALLLAD OF MULAN as a child listening to her mother. Neither Chan, Inada, or Wong had said anything about Chinese or Japanese stories of our childhoods. Did we have childhoods?

If we call ourselves Chinese, or Japanese, as we do, and call ourselves American as we do, we should know the literary world of our people, we should know Chinese children’s stories and the national myth, in China’s case, the heroic tradition, the first novel of the Ming dynasty, ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS, the expansion of THE BALLAD OF MULAN into a rather bloodthirsty five hour play ending with taking off her armor and emerging a luminous woman), the novels THE WATER MARGIN, MONKEY, and GENERAL YUE FEI, to match our knowledge of white culture and children’s literature.

These are the heroes of yesterday’s history and today’s comic books that define China, as King Arthur defines England, Washington defines The United States of America, Fidel defines the Cuban Revolution.

At least have enough of the stories to not be faked by Kingston’s keeping secret from her readers that Mulan was not really tattooed. The Chinese mothers fuming over Maxine writing that Mulan was tattooed by her parents used to be normal in Chinatowns. Parents give birth to perfect children. Unmarked skin. Uncut hair. Tattoos are the mark of a criminal. Why would parents want to mark their child a criminal?

You saw Shawn Wong in WHAT’S WRONG WITH FRANK CHIN? say that Kingston had gotten me, meaning my writing, perfectly. That she had rewritten the “Chinatown Dreamgirl” scene from CHICKENCOOP into her WOMAN WARRIOR and had me “down to a tee,” meaning my “style” not my misogynist “content.”

She characterizes her mother dancing through her childhood chanting the rhymes of THE BALLAD OF MULAN . By characterizing her childhood, she had made every Chinese-American …at least every Chinese –American writer responsible for the literature of the Chinese childhood. Specifically, to answer the question: Is Kingston’s Far Mulan real? Thirty five years ago nobody yellow could answer. In 2008, you can read the reviews of WWWFC? and see that nobody Yellow can answer that question today. A Kingston-like voice reads that she took the tattoos off of Yue Fei’s back, went back in time to 550 AD and put them Far Mulan, because it was the feminist thing to do, and no one Yellow notices. Kingston gave the interview in 1986 to Kay Bonnetti. Pres Bill Clinton gives her his Humanities Medal in 1997, making her mutilated Far Mulan the official US telling of the Chinese children’s story and history. The first intrusion of a head of state into the folklore, history, and literature of another culture. As much as the US hated Nazi Germany, the government never endorsed a rewrite of RUMPELSTILSKIN.

Usually the imitator is forgotten or at best becomes Rich Little in Vegas and the original given a lifetime of steak dinners and free booze. But ChineseAmericans and AAmericans are different.

That’s why the AIIIEEEEE! boys need Yellow critics. It’s not up to Chin, Chan, Inada and Wong to speak in defense of their own work. It’s up to the people. It’s up to the people to claim their heroes. When they claim their heroes they make their writers reputation. The people sing the song we wrote about the heroes. The people cheer the operas we wrote about their heroes. The people commissioned an artist to sculpt a bust, a statue, paint a portrait, perform an inspired work and donate the statue, the portrait, the work inspired by the hero, to the people’s park, or people’s museum, or shopping center.

Until then we are hitching a ride in the white man’s pocket.

There is no great writer without a great people. Art elevates the people. And the people elevate their art. If AAwriters are that great AA’s should have heroes with names that cross every yellow’s lips every day.

The heroes and the writers are in the market for a people we call ours. A people with publishers. A people with critics. A people with readers. If we have all that, I’m proud to say that the single most mentioned name in 20th century AsianAmerica was Mike Masaru Masaoka. And I’d like see JapaneseAmerica prove itself a people by mounting an opera telling his place in JA history. And in writing, music, and JapaneseAmerican voice the opera taking charge of JapaneseAmerican history.

I can imagine MOSES MASAOKA with Randy Kim with his trademark acting rubber likeness of Masaoka’s large lips and cheeks and a wig of Masaoka’s wavy hair as Mike Masaoka. Glasses. His Masaoka looks like Charlton Heston wearing glasses. And his Shakespearean voice. A little W.C. Field’s twang and he’s Masaoka at his most Moses.

Randy Kim as he was called before the N.Y. Shakespeare in the Park production of Pericles and his name bulked up to Randall Duk Kim, was the increasingly celebrated Yellow actor in New York from around 1970 on till the end of the century. He had done a couple of Steve Tesich’s plays, and couple of mine at the American Place Theater and Shakespeare’s PERICLES at Joe Papp’s Shakespeare in the park.

Famous for his voice, his Shaksepeare in Missouri, Randy shook his head at ever doing a movie or tv because “they’re a director’s media. The live theatre is the actor’s medium.” And he was an actor. He knows theatre history. The history of Shaespeare. The history of Shakespearean actors. He believes he is the reincarnation of Edwin Booth, the actor brother of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

Imagine him as Masaoka, in MOSES MASAOKA. Kim’s Masaoka and Clyde Kusatsu as Bill Hosokawa. What did the JapaneseAmerica make of the apparent split between Sakamoto and Hosokawa? And what did they make of Hosokawa becoming Boswell to Moses Mike’s Dr. Johnson, from Heart Mounntain on to his death. It has to come from a JapaneseAmerican mind, a JapaneseAmerican writer. Perhaps a diabolical JapaneseAmerican writer could write the opera where Masaoka says, to Bill Hodsokawa, “Himmler sent pictures reports of Treblinka to American Intelligence and my friend and mentor senator Elbert Thomas, of Utah to my sight.”

“You’re not saying….”

“These are things I can’t talk about.”

A diabolical part JapaneseAmerican writer?

, Sen Elbert Thomas (played by George Washington), for advice.

“Because of December 7th, your future in politics is over. Read these.” The Senator might be written by the diabolical JapaneseAmerican as handing Masaoka State Dept files on what happened in Treblinka and Sobibor in 1939. “Taking over the JACL might be your only chance at eventually earning enough American trust to run for office.”

“I hoped to run for President of the United States in my lifetime.”

“Don’t worry White Americans are not the Nazis.”

“No, that’s not why…”

“If you were to lead the JACL with an official secret understanding with the government, like Jacob Gens, you realize that you would be as hated as he was by his own people.”

“A secret understanding?”

“Jacob Gens was the President of the Judenradt of Vilna Ghetto Lithuania. An organization similar to the JACL. ”

“The Field Executive of the JACL would secretly be, in reality, American?”

“The Judenradt posed as activists for Jewish civil rights in a Nazi ghetto.”

“A secret American, a secret agent, a secret G-Man,” Masaoka says.

“A secret American!” Bill Hosokawa says.

The Senator says, “ He gathered the names of those wanting to fight for their rights against the Nazis, and,” he snaps his fingers, “He turned them in. Unlike Gens, your Nazis are going to win this war.”

Masaoka laughs.

Bill Hosokawa points in the air, but says nothing.

The Senator continues, “Your organization will continue to exist under the wartime mandate: to drive the race to extinction.”

“The sociologists call it ‘assimilation,’” Masaoka says.

Bill says “assimilation” simultaneous with Mike’s story.

The good Senator says, “You would be leading your people to a better world.”

“I would lead my people to a better world, a better America!”

“Yes! You would be the Prophet that saved your people the wrath of the white race by voluntarily going extinct.”

“I would, wouldn’t I? I’d be Moses!”

“Mike, listen to me, Mike. I agree with you 100%,” Bill Hosokawa says. “But you can’t talk this way today.”

“But Greenwood, Oklahoma. I didn’t want the JACL mistaken for the NAACP,” Masaoka says.

“America’s changed what it says,” Hosokawa says.

“They burned Greenwood to the ground!”

“No one’s said they’ve changed what they believe.”

See Masaoka through Hosokawa’s admiring eyes to convince Randall Duk Kim that Masaoka is a role worthy of being explored by great actor’s great acting. The trick is to convince him he was chosen for his acting, and he was, and no one thinks for minute, not for a second that Randy’s anything like the thoroughly traitorous Masaoka.

Give a taste of Masaoksa:

Some of my friends and some who are not my friends, also call me Moses. Moses Masaoka. They say that like the Biblical prophet, I have led my people on a long journey through the wilderness of discrimination and travail. They say that I have led them within sight of the promised land justice for all and social and economic equality in our native America, but that we will not reach it within my lifetime.

Masaoka is larger than the life of the obvious craven self-interested slob Masaoka is, but Masaoka character of Shakespearean dimensions, because of the 110,000 Nisei that followed and trusted him. He led them to the promised camps. Can you blame him for not going in?

The US Gov’t gives Masaoka a people to lead, and right away, he betrays them. For their own good, Hosokawa says. The Japanese characteristic timidity, he explains. Once Masaoka has JA into camp, he betrays his people again by aksing they be drafted from camp. For his third betrayal he refuses JACL support to court cases to test the constitutionality of the Army’s orders, and turns against Yasui and Hirabayashi’s challenges. Next he joins the WRA in a questionnaire designed to trick the men into volunteering for the Army from camp. It fails. While he’s in the Headquarters of the 442nd in Europe, the JACL supports the gov reinstate the draft in all of its papers around the ten camps, and the gov reinstates the draft in 1944.

The JACL’s being FBI finks was the worst kept secret in in camp. After camp the fink rap kept the whiff of gov’t control swirling about everything the JACL did. As if to emphasize the point, Masaoka became successful as the JACL’s first Washington lobbyist. For years "The Japanese American Story," a Japanese American history by Bud Fukei, Minneapolis: Dillon Press. 1976 pp iv-xvii.
With Mike Masaoka guest writing the chapter titled "Why the Japanese Americans Cooperated," and Bill Hosokawa’s NISEI : THE QUIET AMERICANS , Boswell adoring Dr. Johnson were the first and for a long time the only Japanese American in the trade books. Being editors of respected papers. Fukei of the Seattle Times, Hosokawa of the Denver Post made them anonymous readers publishers use. But being Nisei readers of Nisei books compromised their anonymity.

He shepherded his people into extinction without a whimper without a sigh. He died a fat and happy quisling.

The Portland JACL brought me to town in 1979 to fulfill a promise I’d made to Dr. Jim Tsujimura, ophthomologist and Nat’l Pres (they love that title) of the JACL, in the plush soft leather of his new black Continental Mark V.

He wanted a Day of Remembrance to pair up with the Day he’d seen celebrated in Seattle over the last Thanksgiving Day weekend. Seattle had never done anything like it before and neither had Portland.

Both Portland and Seattle were the main feeders of the concentration camp at Minidoka, Idaho and Tule Lake. Califorinia. The fits of activism that took over a day in Seattle and Portland occurred because a number of Japanese Americans had read NO-NO BOY by John Okada. The combining of groups and individuals for the cause of redress, smacked of the combining of outlawed talented men and women to fight for their China against the Imperial gov on the inside, and the horsemen invaders from the outside.

In doing literary research into what makes John Okada’s NO-NO BOY great we had stumbled on the real history of Japanese from the newspapers of Okada’s hometown of Seattle into the camps. I handled the paper, the tools of the libraries to research to verify the facts, to separate fiction from fact. For a limited time we had access to the people, to everybody he knew, everybody real in his book, combined and created by John Okada. The greatness of NO-NO BOY does not rest on how well he imitates the favorite writer of the moment, or triple tongues the tropes pleasingly, alone, but on how well he manipulates the facts to his purposes. Whatever those purposes are. I don’t know what those purposes are, but I know they weren’t the same very plain purposes as the JACL. To aggrandize their wartime leader Mike Masaru Masaoka as the savior of the race! All the JACL publicity piped to bigshots was designed to make Masaoka famous.

Famous for leading the JA to volunteer for camp in 42, famous for being Volunteer No. 1 in 1943, famous for lying about themselves, their leader Mike Masaoka and the 442nd freeing the JAs’ from camp in 45.

Okada leads the reader to Akutsu to the editorials of James Omura, that encouraged the JA’s resisting the draft in the ten camps to stand on the Constitution. The vigilant Yasui who understood “Stand on the Constitution” as code for the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee stand on resisting the draft from camp and blew the whistle on Omura.

It was Omura’s journalism, his dissemination of the news from Heart Mountain in the Denver ROCKY SHIMPO to reach Noboru Taguma at Amache. Min Yasui interviewed Taguma for the FBI as he awaited trial for resisting the draft. Noboru’s son Kenji learns his laugh-all-the-time father was one of a group of Amache resisters who referred to themselves as Amache Indians and he turns his life in a new direction toward journalism. He is the editor of the San Francisco Nichi Bei. News of Amache reached Heart Mountain through the pages of the ROCKY. I learned of the existence of the organized resistance at Heart Mt from the front page of the ROCKY.

The discovery of the Heart Mountain Resistance, is the inevitable effect of reading John Okada’s NO-NO BOY, a novel, a fiction set in a real Minidoka and a real Seattle that reaches a climax at a real “Club Oriental” known in the world as the Wah Mee Club in Maynard Alley. And ends thirty pages later with Ichiro all smiles warmth and sunshine into the dark of night zooming into California.

We know more about Jim Akutsu, Okada’s model for the protagonist “Ichiro” than we know about Okada. We know that Okada went to Minidoka and volunteered out in 1943, he served in Military Intelligence, with frontline units in the island hopping campaign. He was always accompanied by a guard. He was to be shot dead rather than risk capture by the Japanese enemy. The only glimpse we have of his service in the elite of Nisei, M-ID the first to get shot no matter what. Good going Nisei! The preface on board a B-24 four engined bomber with a “blond giant.” An unidentified Nisei explains why he volunteered. “If they put me in camp, they could kiss my ass,” the white giant says. “I have my reasons.” The Nisei answers. We don’t know the missions he was on, his decorations, has arms qualifications, his rank because his family has never seen a photo of him in uniform.

Might the blond giant been Okada’s guard sanitized of his mission? Might the dialog be the key to the book? Questions better asked and answered by Sansei, or Yonsei, or Gosei. Better hurry. You’re below 100,000. Below 98,000. You’re down to 92,000 including Hawaii. You were 123,313, all mainlanders when the camps let you out 60 years ago. If you were chipmunks and had gone from 123, 313 to 92,000 you’d be declared a protected species.

But you’re not chipmunks.

I wonder if Akutsu told his story to John Okada exactly the same as I’ve heard him recite to people several times in several places.

I mentioned all the names that I’ve associated with Akutsu, first. Like Min Yasui the Portland curfew violator. I mentioned Min fikrst, then Akutsu told me he went to Min Yasui, after he was released to Minidoka for advice on his stupid idea of writing to the Japanese gov through the Spanish consul, to come and get him.

Frank Emi has a letter from Akutsu trying to sell his repatriation to Japan as strategy to resist the draft. The carbon copy of his answer says the FPC stands on the Constitution and get yourself a lawyer.

If Akutsu had told Okada about his trudge through the snow to Yasui’s barrack and his letter to the leader of the organized resistance at Heart Mountain, I have no doubt that Okada would included them in NO-NO BOY. Why did Akutsu leave out of his memory that Jimmie Omura at the ROCKY SHIMPO refused to forward Akutsu’s letter to Ht. Mt. Fearing a trap set by the FBI with the JACL help of Min Yasui of the Denver office of the JACL was about to snap. Min Yasui, a curfew resister in 1942 was a JACL shill and FBI fink in 1944. Omura came out with his LET US NOT BE RASH to distinguish between crazy tricky thinking draft resisters saying “repatriate me” and those whose resistance to being drafted from camp rests on constitutional grounds.

Had John Okada known about the ROCKY, and Omura’s Lone Ranger news and “Hi yo, Silver,” editorials coming through the mail every week, with news releases from Ht. Mt by the Emi bros. Had Okada known about the handsome, self-effacing, third degree black belt in Judo then, he’s sixth degree now, leader of the FPC in Heart Mountain. Okamamoto the leader of title, was being held at Tule Lake from 1944 on. The leader from the super hero cartoons of men. Superman. Batman. Nisei Man. Emi the man vs Project Director Robertson “May I have a transcript of the proceedings?” Emi vs the JACL’s Nobu Kawai in six weeks of dedbate in the Heart Mountain Sentinel.

Emi was tried as one of Okamoto, the six leaders of FPC and the accused a co-conspirator journalist James Omura of Denver versus the USA. He’s accused of talking people into resisting the draft. His strategy is to admit to the charge. No one asks the identity of the leader who forced the line “We won’t go” in their public bulletins. They knew Frank would admit it was him. In the course of the trial he only takes issue with Jack Nishimoto falsely testifying to having witnessed Frank Emi promising a young man, in the men’s room that the FPC would take care of the young man’s mother, if he’s sent to jail, for not appearing for his pre-induction physical.

Frank Emi and Okamoto’s FPC were convicted and Omura acquitted but socially and financially ruined. Then a fairy tale ending. The leaders of the FPC win an appeal. The draft resisters are pardoned by Pres Truman on Xmas Eve 1947.

THE GREAT JAPANESE AMERICAN NOVEL might be a version of NO-NO BOY written with the camp story JapaneseAmerica that completes what John Okada began.

But the author of the JA history now being taught “throughout the land” to use Masaoka’s prophetic words, is the JACL. No mention of Omura, the Rocky, Okamato, Emi, the FPC or the draft resistance.

James Omura saw his nemesis as JACL leader and Volunteer No. 1 and secret agent Jr. G-Man Mike Masaoka. On the field of publicity, in the world of white newspapers, and Japanese vernaculars, in wartime, Omura was the lone defender of freedom of the press - Omura was so obviously right in everything he published. The authoritative white histories of Japanese America admit what Masaoka did was probably illegal and his claims to freeing the Japanese from camp are wrong, but he was right to volunteer for camp because Americans are bigger and stronger than any little Jap. But Americans aren’t Nazis. You the JACL are the Nazis. You’ve done the white racist work to become more “American,” that’s why you keep your wartime name. The Nazi’s have changed their name. Is it arrogance, loyalty or stupidity that explains JACL’s refusal to repudiate their corrupt WWII leader Mike Masaoka. They admit, they boast that he led JapaneseAmerica into camp for good reasons. They admit that the JACL betrayed JA into camp.

Why hasn’t JapaneseAmerica taken charge of their own history and seen that James Omura’s best writing was bronzed by, dare I say it, a “grateful”people?

No wonder JapaneseAmerica’s going extinct. Before you go, I want you to know you had artists, strange sorts of person to be sure, who are so few, especially when

of person to be sure, who thought that what Okada led to, should be celebrated as the fruit of knowing how to read

compare to the number of books fiction and non fiction by Jews about their European camps that existed about the same time as the WRA camps in America, and ended at about the same time at the end of WWII.

In the 60 years since the close of camp there have been three JA works. Okada’s NO-NO BOY, A novel, Michi Weglyn’s book of bitchy gotchya fact and history YEARS OF INFAMY, Lawson Inada’s DRAWING THE LINE, a book of poetry, with title poem DRAWING THE LINE about a young architecture student, sketching Heart Mountain the volcano shaped like a heart from an angle not available to him in camp and the poem contemplates the young artist’s resistance to the draft.

The continued existence of the JACL might appear intimidating to some former internees, or the JACL might really intimidate JapaneseAmericans and control JapaneseAmerican publishing and that explains why JapaneseAmericans so few have written about or talked about camp.

There are two documentary films by JA’s on the JACL, the camps, James Omura and FPC. Emiko Omori’s RABBIT IN THE MOON and Frank Abe’s CONSCIENCE AND THE CONSTITUTION. Both aired on PBS. Both have close-ups of Frank Emi answering an interviewers questions. Both agree on basic facts. Both back way off from making a JA judgment about whose the good guy and whose the bad guy.

The JACL aren’t shy about whose good and whose the bad.
From Bill Hosokawa’s "JACL: In Quest of Justice" New York: William Morrow & Co., 1982.

JACL had in fact made considerable efforts to help some of the draft resisters. Joe Grant Masaoka and Min Yasui first met with Nisei from the Amache camp at Granada being held at the Federal Correctional Institution outside Denver. Yasui, who had gone to jail to challenge the curfew order as discriminatory, endorsed restoration of Selective Service because it ended discrimination. Next they visited Amache to talk with confused young men being pressured by activists to resist military service. Then they traveled to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to talk with some fifty imprisoned draft violators from the Heart Mountain camp. (To put the number of resisters in perspective, it is necessary to note that more than seven hundred men from Heart Mountain signed up for the draft and took their physical examinations. (p.273)

Hosokawa writes pure fiction here. No threatening activists at Amache. But Yasui talked to Noboro Taguma. Masaoka and Yasui spoke to six out of sixty three Heart Mountain draft resisters in Cheyenne, Ike Matsumoto and Yosh Kuromiya were interviewed by Min Yasui. Accounts of Taguma, Matsumoto verify each other form different camps. "Visit to Cheyenne County Jail with Japanese American Draft Delinquints. JACL Report to the FBI" April 28, 1944 authored by Yasui differs greatly.

The three non-JACL works proclaimed the existence of an honorable resistence in camp. Moses Mike responded in his last book, THEY CALL ME MOSES MASAOKA:

"Some historians, writing from the isolation of their ivory towers, have contended the draft resisters were the real heroes of the Japanese-American story because they had the courage to stand up for a principle. These historians are wrong! The significanse is in the relatively small number of dissidents in the face of gross injustice. The heroes are the men and their families who demonstrated their faith in America."

A 4th JapaneseAmerican work fights its way to currency from a fabled outskirt of Chicago. David Mura’s FAMOUS SUICIDES OF THE JAPANESE EMPIRE is about to be released. At least a part of the novel is set in Heart Mountain. It may have a set of facts that differ from everything known in the facts of Heart Mountain, and all the JapaneseAmerican fictions about Heart Mountain.

What survives of JapaneseAmerica has time to read and view dvd’s on tv and decide how much the facts Heart Mountain really mean to the reputation of a people that landed here five generations ago.

What if Mura’s book says, as fact An alien called FPC burst into the barrack and turned all internees into horny toads?

It will be JapaneseAmerican response that will make everyone’s reputation as spokesmen.

Frank Chin

Monday, June 23, 2008


If Amerasia Journal was a real magazine, it would have published my response to Frank Abe’s review of my book BORN IN THE USA: A Story of Japanese America: 1889-1947. The book came out in 2002. It was reviewed in 2004. My response was never published. Since this is my blog, I’ll publish it myself.


Frank Abe claims to have found confirmation Masaoka’s “contingency plan” in Bendetsen’s speech, cited by Mike Masaoka.

In his review of BORN IN THE USA in Amerasia Journal, Volume 30:2, 2004, he writes:

The author (Frank Chin) wants to catch Masaoka in a lie about an Army “contingency plan” to round up all Nikkei at gunpoint within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, which Masaoka knowingly used to scare Nisei audiences into submission with exclusion. Masaoka overreacted and embroidered the threat with images of “guns, bayonets, and tanks,” and James Omura and Joe Kurihara call him on that. But you can read in Major Karl Bendetsen’s own words confirmation of just such “a plan for immediate evacuation if developments required a complete evacuation, practically overnight, in the event of an emergency” (221), a plan entirely consistent with a military force instructed not to distinguish citizen from alien.

“a plan for immediate evacuation if developments required a complete evacuation,” is not a “contingency plan.” Bendetsen’s “practically overnight,” is not Masaoka’s “Within 24 or 48 hours.” Bendeten’s “in the event of an emergency” doesn’t say whether the “emergency” he envisions comes in the form an invasion or “raid” by the Japanese, or from an American uprising in reaction to the military orders. Nowhere does Bendetsen suggest, much less confirm is his speech one word of what Masaoka said to the JACL convention, on August 10, 1982:

"Col. Bendetsen pointed out, and it was told to us much more in cruel detail, that the Army had two programs for removal of the Japanese. One, if you will cooperate then the Army and the United States will do its best to make that movement as humane as possible. Two, if you don't--and this is the thing to remember--the Army has a contingency plan to move you out within 12 or 24 hours.

"What are you going to say in a situation like that?
"You want people murdered on the streets? You want tanks to come in and destroy the little ghettoes we have enjoyed? I think we had no alternative."

In his "Final Report" to the JACL National Board of 1944, the JACL's Mike Masaoka cited this speech by Colonel Karl R. Bendetsen, G.S.C., United States Army, Assistant Chief of Staff, Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, as his "proof" that the WDC had a "contingency plan" to round up all the Nikkei on the West Coast within “forty eight or twenty four hours” using "guns, bayonets, and tanks..."

James Omura seems to be the only Japanese American writer to have actually read the speech and found Masaoka to have put ideas and words into Bendetsen's mouth. To check Omura’s reading and Masaoka’s “proof” I sought out Bendetsen’s speech.

After reading Bendetsen’s speech, and checking the number of troops under arms, and the state of arms available, I determined that Masaoka lied. I found no indication in Bendetsen’s speech that the Army had a “contingency plan” to round up the all Japanese Americans in Washington, Oregon and California “within 24 or 48 hours.” Bendetsen’s speech does not have the words that threaten Japanese Americans that Masaoka says are contained in the speech. No “guns.” No “Tanks.” No “bayonets.”

I asked the Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians if they had any information of Bendetsen’s “contingency plan.” On April 28, 1981 Bendetsen wrote the Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians:

Your question relates to an allegation that the Western Defense Command issued a preemptory order that Japanese and Japanese Americans must cooperate and that if they did not, the Army would come without notice, "with bayonets drawn, backed by tanks and artillery to force them out of their homes or hiding places one by one."

The allegation that such order was ever issued by WDC is totally false. The truth is that to their eternal credit all such persons cooperated from the beginning.

I cannot bring myself to believe that Mike Masaoka would himself fabricate such a falsehood; most certainly not one as base and demeaning as this. If it is true that he has made such an allegation, I would be compelled to conclude that someone has deceived and misled him for mischievous purposes.

Falsehoods about this regrettable episode abound in the books of self-appointed historians, of which there are several.

Bendetsen was courteous even generous to Masaoka, without revealing that he had appointed Masaoka an intelligence agent of Army G-2 on December 17, 1942, in a three page PLAN FOR IMMEDIATE SEGREGATION OF JAPANESE EVACUEES because, thanks to Masaoka “all such persons cooperated from the beginning.”

The three page long PLAN FOR IMMEDIATE SEGREGATION OF JAPANESE EVACUEES was signed Gen. DeWitt the Commanding General of the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, and initialed by Major Karl Bendetsen, Chief of Aliens Division; to the Chief of Staff, on December 17, 1942. This is the plan that Mike Masaoka inflates into a “contingency plan,” to take all the Japanese Americans out of their homes with “tanks, guns, and bayonets,” within 24 or 48 hours.

Actually the plan consisted of DeWitt’s cover letter (page 1) a page of the Wartime Civilian Control Agency (WCCA) designating individuals “R” for repatriation, “P” for parolee, “G-2” for Army Intelligence, “S” for WCCA Subversive; and “Gr” for WCCA Police” (page 2); and “LIST OF DETAINEES” by number of projected prisoners in each camp(page 3).

No “guns” no “tanks” no “bayonets” to drive the prisoners running for the protection of camp. All the Army had to scare the Japanese Americans into obeying Army orders, was agent Mike Masaoka’s mouth that said anything he wanted public, because he was (shhhhh!) Army G-2. Besides being two “Confidential Informants” to the FBI. T-11, to spy on the Japanese Americans, and SLC-167 to spy of on his own JACL.

Below is the whole of Bendetsen’s speech that Masaoka and Frank Abe claim contains the “contingency plan” as published by the Commonwealth Club.

"The Story of PACIFIC COAST JAPANESE EVACUATION: An Address Delivered Before the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, on May 20, 1942, by COLONEL KARL R. BENDETSEN, G.S.C. United States Army, Assistant Chief of Staff, Western Defense Command and Fourth Army."

From: "Proclamations, Exclusions, Restrictive Orders and Collateral Documents." Western Defense Command and Fourth Army. Office of Assistant Chief of Staff, Civil Affairs Division, Wartime Civil Control Administration. San Francisco, California. 1942

The problem of evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific coastal frontier is one that interests the people of the United States. Especially is it one that interests members of the Commonwealth Club, as well as all persons resident in this coastal area.

First, I should like to tell you something of the reasoning behind the evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry from this coastal frontier.

There are three principal dangers--hence, the three principal problems bearing upon internal security in time of war. These problems, and the methods used to combat them are described, ordinarily, in these terms: Anti-sabotage, counter-espionage and counter-fifth column. By the latter is meant action in concert by well-organized groups under raid or invasion conditions.

The relationship of the Japanese population to these dangers, following the outbreak of the war, became a problem peculiar to the West Coast. The Japanese community presented a group with a high potential for action against the national interest—

By design, or by accident, substantial numbers of the Japanese coast frontier communities were deployed through very sensitive but very vital areas.

Now, if you and I had settled in Japan, raised our families there and if our children and grandchildren were raised there, it is most improbable that during a period of war between Japan and the United States, if we were not interned, that we would commit any overt acts of sabotage acting individually. Doubtless, in the main and irrespective of our inner emotions, you and I would be law abiding.

But when the final test of loyalty came, if United States forces were engaged in launching an attack on Japan, I believe it is extremely doubtful whether we could withstand the ties of race and the affinity for the land of our forebears, and stand with the Japanese against United States forces.

To withstand such pressure seems too much to expect of any national group, almost wholly unassimilated and which has preserved in large measure to itself, its customs and traditions--group characterized by strong filial piety.

It is doubtless true that many persons of Japanese ancestry are loyal to the United States. It is also true that many are not loyal. We know this. Contrary to other national or racial groups, the behavior of Japanese has been such that in not one single instance has any Japanese reported disloyalty on the part of another specific individual of the same race.

There has been no substantial evidence of manifestation of nationalistic fervor exhibited by any Japanese group in the United States since the outbreak of the war. Even on the Emperor's birthday there was no visible evidence that the day was remembered in evacuee centers.

This attitude--well illustrated, I think, by the fact that there has not been a single instance when any Japanese has reported disloyalty on the part of another of the same race--may be, and can be a most ominous thing. Chasing specters of fear is merely exhausting. It accomplishes nothing. The Army least of all will expend its energies in that direction. But it must be realistic--the nation must be realistic. The real contingencies must be taken into account. The contingency that under raid for invasion conditions there might be widespread action in concert--well-regulated, well-disciplined and controlled--a fifth column, is a real one. As such, it presented a threat to the national security and therefore a problem which required solution.

Here, in brief, is a timetable of how that problem was met.

On February 19th the President of the United States delegated to the Secretary of War the power to exclude any person, alien or citizen, from any area which might be required on the grounds of military necessity. This delegation of power included the authority to carry out an evacuation program.

The following day these powers were delegated by the Secretary of War to Lieutenant General J.L. DeWitt, Commanding the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army. Responsibility for a solution of the problem relation to Japanese along the frontier became his.

The development of a program depended in part on enactment by Congress of the necessary sanctions, upon which enforcement could be predicated. This was done on March 21st with the approval of Public Law 503, 77th Congress, making it a misdemeanor to violate any published regulations made applicable by Commanding General under the Executive Order to the right to enter, remain in, or leave the military areas.

On March 2nd, General DeWitt by Public Proclamation Number One designated the West half (roughly) of Washington, Oregon, California and the South half of Arizona as Military Area No. 1. There were created certain prohibited and restricted zones. In establishing these military areas, General DeWitt announced that Japanese aliens and American born persons of Japanese lineage would be the first required to evacuate certain critical points to be designated. At this time it was also indicated that following the evacuation of critical areas there would be a gradual clearance of all the coastal area and all prohibited zones.

By order of the Commanding General on March `10, the Civil Affairs Division of the General Staff of Western Command and Fourth Army was created. It was charged, under the Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Affairs, with the responsibility for formulation of plans and directives for "control and exclusion of civilians, including the designation of military areas." On March 11, 1942, the Wartime Civil Control Administration was created by order of General DeWitt. It is the operating agency of Civil Affairs Division under command of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Affairs to carry out such plans and directives.

On March 18, a Presidential Order established the War Relocation Authority. It is charged with responsibility of selecting, preparing and operating permanent centers where evacuees may live and work for the duration of the war, and to supervise all work and employment of evacuees both in and out of such centers.

On March 29th an order was issued by General DeWitt prohibiting voluntary migration by the Japanese. This date marked the beginning of planned, supervised evacuation.

On May 31st the interim evacuation of the Japanese population to temporary Assembly Centers will have been completed, except for 2000 who will be evacuated by June 6th.

This timetable represents the highlights of the undertaking.

The evacuation program itself consisted of three interim steps and a final solution.

The first step was designation of military areas from which the Japanese were to be excluded and the voluntary migration which followed....

The second interim step was a plan for immediate evacuation if developments required. The Army needed time to prepare a permanent program and the situation called for an emergency plan. It was impossible, of course, at this time for the Army to reveal the fact that it was prepared to affect a complete evacuation, practically overnight, in the event of an emergency. Plans were made to move the 113,000 Japanese into already established Army cantonments in a Mass Movement which could have been undertaken immediately. Prepared in this way against the possibility of fifth column activity, or for any outbreaks of anti-Japanese feeling, the Army continued with its plans for a permanent program.

The third interim step was the selection and preparation of eighteen temporary Assembly Centers to which the Japanese could be quickly removed for later transfer to permanent locations. The decision to remove the Japanese to temporary assembly Centers was based upon several important considerations. In the first place, the use of fairgrounds, race tracks and other public properties which provided installations of utilities as well as convenient locations, contributed to greater speed in the evacuation program. The use of these properties also made it easier to protect the evacuees' welfare and property. Moreover, evacuation through these centers could be accomplished with the use of a minimum number of soldiers.

The final step in the program is the settlement of evacuees in the permanent centers operated by the War Relocation Authority. This is the phase of the program that has taken more time than was available considering the necessity for early evacuation. It was primarily to prepare for this concluding phase of the evacuation program that the methods described were employed in the preliminary or interim steps.

The actual operation of the program is under the Civil Affairs Division of the General Staff of the Fourth Army and Western Defense Command. In direct charge of the evacuations operation is the Assistant Chief of Staff who serves as head of the Civil Affairs Division of the Fourth Army Staff and of the Wartime Civil Control Administration.

This brings me to the actual details of how the evacuation is carried on.
There are 64 W.C.C.A. stations on the coast through which the Japanese are given necessary assistance. In each station there are representatives of each Federal agency directly involved. For example, the Federal Security Administration provides a receptionist; a social worker who is prepared to assist in family problems and in preliminary plans for housing. The Federal Reserve Bank provides consultants to advise on property protection, auto and truck transportation, household goods, storage, etc. Representatives of Farm Security Administration advise on crop loans, handling of farm equipment and matters relating to the purchase or management of farm lands.

The exclusion order is the first step in actual evacuation procedure. It has required careful advance planning down to the smallest detail by the Army staff comprising the Wartime Civil Control Administration. The task of each agency, whether civil or military is carefully prescribed to fit the evacuation project involved. Careful synchronizing must be assured by this advance planning. Following this, the order for the evacuation of a given, desirable area is given and the team starts functioning.

Notices are posted advising the Japanese population of the limits of the area to be evacuated and advising them to report to a Civil Control Station and to be prepared to moved by a given date.

Each Civil control station functions about five days in a particular evacuation area. The team which makes up a given "station" then moves on to its next assignment--it spends about 4 days in advance reconnaissance. Such a team comprises civilian agency representatives including a medical examiner from the U.S. Public Health Service and a team captain from the U.S. Employment Service. They have been trained in advance for the job by the Wartime Civil Control Administration.

The next major phase of the evacuation procedure is the transportation of evacuees to the Assembly Centers.

On the date of moving the Army takes full charge of the movement and determines whether the evacuation is accomplished by train, bus or automobile caravan. Evacuees may sell their automobiles to the Government or have them stored temporarily.

Upon arrival at the center the evacuees are registered and assigned living quarters by the civilian personnel. Much of the detail work connected with resettlement in the Assembly Centers is carried on with the assistance of the Japanese themselves. A small army contingent guards the camp but the Army has no other personnel involved in the operation of the Assembly Centers after the evacuees have been brought into the grounds.

The accommodations at each of the Assembly Centers include living quarters for family units, group dining halls, milk stations, show baths, toilets and laundries. A post exchange in operation at each center and a modest program of recreational activities to supplement work projects is being provided. Each center has its own hospital and staff.

The evacuees are supplied with food, housing, hospitalization, medical and dental care and necessary clothing. During their temporary residence in the Assembly Centers, Japanese are given nominal allowances for incidentals. Upon application the evacuees may secure coupon books which may be used for the purchase of merchandize at the center exchanges or stores. These books entitle a single adult to $2.50 merchandise per month, a couple to $4.00, an individual under 16 years $1.00. The maximum allowances for any family is $7.50.

Compensation is given to those evacuees who work in the Assembly Centers upon this basis: unskilled workers $8.00 a month; skilled workers $12.00; professional and technical workers $16.00 a month. No wage schedule for evacuees who are assigned to administrative and maintenance work has been determined. The wage schedules in Assembly Centers are based on a 44-hour week. The compensation to which I refer is provided only for work done in connection with the operation of the Assembly Centers.

The eighteen temporary Assembly Centers were selected for the accommodation of all Japanese in the Western States. These centers are located in four states as follows:

Arizona: Mayer,

California: Fresno, Marysville, Merced, Pinedale, Pomona, Sacramento, Salinas, Aracadia, Stockton, Tanforan, Tulare, Turlock, Tule Lake, Manzanar.

Oregon: Portland

Washington: Puyallup.
The largest is at the Santa Anita race track in Aracadia, with a capacity of 17,000. Next come Manzanar and Tule Lake with a capacity of 10,000 each and Puyallup and Tanforan with 8,000.

Fresno, Merced Pinedale, Pomona, Sacramento, Stockton and Tulare have capacities of 6,000 each, Salinas and Turlock 4,000 each, Marysville and Portland 3,000 each, and the more less isolated Mayer center, 250.

The complete job of preparing the Assembly Centers and actual removal of the Japanese to these centers will have been accomplished during a period of about two months. During this time housing for 112, 000 people has been erected, supplied and equipped. The construction, equipping and supplying of the eighteen Assembly Centers and the whole evacuation procedure have been accomplished under the direction of only 35 Army officers.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Ruby Chow- Chow Mah Serng Gum died of congestive heart failure the morning of June 4th surrounded by her husband, five children, two brothers, one sister, six grandsons, three granddaughters and three great grandsons.

At her last public appearance last September, at a fund raiser for the new Wing Luke Asian Museum building, her "favorite (and only daughter) daughter" Cheryl read the following for her:

Thank you. Special thanks to my friend Faith Ireland for reasons that take too long to tell, like all long time friendships. But I want say I’m happy be your friend, in public, on the street, anyplace, any time.

Standing up here, among the most prominent citizens of Seattle in the city where the Asians have shone the brightest stars in American politics, entertainment, industry and... restaurants... I only wish my mother were here to see the company I’m in.

Chinese restaurants were --- to be honest --- considered dumps when my mother raised ten children all by herself, in the back room of a Chinatown store.

And sliding down the banister of our building, head first, I realized I wasn’t the brightest of mother’s ten children. But I was the fastest. I crashed into the marble floor with my eyes open, and I saw stars.

I saw Seattle’s Keye Luke become a Hollywood pioneer. Wing Luke become the first Chinese to be elected to office, in America, in 1957. I saw Warren Chan fight newspaper prejudice with dignity and become a distinguished judge of the King County Superior Court. I saw Chinese restaurants rise from slophouses to places of Seattle’s haute cuisine.

I saw Asians rise from copy boys to reporters and anchors on Seattle and the nation’s media. I saw the creation of the Chinese Girl’s drill team, with their own 125 foot long dragon appear in celebrations and parades around the world bearing Seattle’s name. I saw the town erect the beautiful Wing Luke Asian Museum to tell our history. (Your name won’t be forgotten, Mom.) And I saw Seattle’s political stars rise to the highest office in Washington State, with the election of Gary Locke, to Governor. And the end isn’t in sight.

My mother revived me, and I told I had seen stars. Real stars.

And she said something very wise. “You would have seen as many stars if you had come down the banister the other end first.”

I have been up and down many banisters, both ends first, and, you were right Mom. I wish you could see me, now, married to Ping who gave up opera stardom to raise your five grandchildren and cook in my restaurant. The least I could do was take his name…Chow…and take it to the highest banister. We’ll take this one together, Ping.

Thank you, for this evening.

Thank you all for 80 years of Chinatown. Thank you

Monday, May 26, 2008


OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HOLLYWOOD DECREES: As God the Father gave up a son in the image of the perfect white man, to lead whites to walk the path of righteousness toward salvation, and praise God, so the White Man gave up a son in the image of the perfect Chinese American to lead the yellows to build the road to acceptance toward assimilation. Ah, sweet assimilation. Charlie Chan was his name.


Wayne Wang, director, and Amy Tan, the writer, and famous actors George Takei, Rosalind Chao, James Shigeta, Miko Taka gush on the joys of accepting the stereotypes, writing the stereotypes, being the stereotypes, acting the stereotypes on-screen and living white off-screen, over TCM previews their upcoming movies . John Wayne, as Genghis Khan, Katherine Hepburn with slanty eyes and choppy English in a Pearl Buck story of Christians saving Chinese orphans, after the Christians have killed their parents.

Separate your false on-screen persona from your off-screen true self as Mike Masaoka distinguished between his public identity as the leader of the JACL, and champion of Japanese American history and culture against white racism of WWII, from his secret, his real identity his Superman identity as an official Intelligence Agent of Army G-2, an official Confidential Informant of the FBI code named T-11 to spy on the JA’s, and SLC-147 to spy on the JACL.

Being a Hollywood insider is like a white secret agent wearing his yellow skin as a disguise. You’re not completely white, but whites recognize you as knowing more than the yellows know about themselves.

But the actors and agents of white supremacy and the trappings of their white success are only half the story of white racist love and hate so visible in the movies. It’s not how the agents and actors behave that counts. It’s what the white characters say that really counts.



Longman Kwan

It's a long long flight from Hollywood to China on Pan American Airways' China Clipper. I never made it, never went back to China to fight the Japanese before they bombed Pearl Harbor. My publicist's Hollywood myth about me says I was about to catch the Clipper back to China and make my way to the Chinese air force to fight for China against the invading Japanese. No such thing. But people enjoy thinking of me as a hero of my people. Everyone agrees, my people need a hero.

The flight from Hollywood to Honolulu via United Air Lines is long enough for me, though I have another flight to another island to make yet to make exteriors for HAWAII FIVE-O. There's word of a new Charlie Chan movie in the air. NBC Vice President David Tebet is on a much publicized round the world search for a Chinese actor who speaks English well enough to be understood by American audiences to become the first Chinese to play Charlie Chan the Chinese detective. The sons of Charlie Chan, Keye Luke, Benson Fong, Victor Sen Yung and me all feel the magic of the movies we made, setting us aglow. We strike casual poses by the phone, waiting for the thing to ring, just in case God happens to walk from one room to another with a camera.

I've come to meet my movie father, Anlauf Lorane the Charlie Chan to my Number Four Son. We are old men when we are the money stars in the B's of twenty years ago, though I always look, and photograph younger, much younger than my actual age. And we are older old men now. He's too old to play the new Charlie Chan, and probably looks it, and doesn't want to. I don't understand.

I don't look too old, of all the sons of Chan I look the youngest still, and want to be the first Chinese to play Charlie Chan on the screen. Keye looks and acts too old, and the older he gets, the more foreign he seems. Not Chinese foreign. Some kind of European foreign with a pseudo-British accent. Benson is just too rickety. And Victor looks awful and has lost it. Of the four sons who've lived to take over the part of Pop in a Hollywood movie, I'm the only one. My time is near. Big screen or little screen: I want to be the first.

I land in Honolulu in one of those island rains with drops of falling water as big as eggs breaking on everything. The air is so thick with water it seems United Air Lines has landed me under the sea and I'm breathing watery goo, and can't tell if the mud is falling on me or it's splashing up at me. All I hear is water and squawking muck. Through the water washing sweat and hair in my eyes all I see are blobs of grays and blues and vague greens and bluish reds. What is airplane and what is airport, what is slipping rainwater and what is glass and steel, I can't see. Five blobs distinguish themselves from the mass by calling my name and vague aloha shirts come into view.
A very wet toasty brown skinned hula girl in a plastic hula skirt and toothpaste smile drops a wet orchid lei around my neck that immediately makes my nose run, and presses her wet gooey lips against my wet gooey cheek. The hula girl disappears and the five vague aloha shirts pat me on the back and laugh.

There is no difference between air and water, land and sea until I am in the dry quiet insides of the limousine the brothers from the tong hired to meet me. Old time Honolulu brothers of the good time Boom Boom tong are more good time Charlie American than my Boom Boom brothers on the mainland. Not that they don't own and run honkey tonks, bottle clubs, and see girls run through their business and take their share during the war, but there was law in Seattle, and San Francisco and Los Angeles. In Hawaii the war is the law and boys of the Boom Boom tong are happy soldiers, judges, juries and executioners of the law.

The brothers from the good time Boom Boom tong tell me sometimes late at night when they get home from their business and turn on the TV and flip the channels through the old movies, looking for one to watch awhile, not often, but sometimes, around four or five times a year, a movie I die in is broadcast from every station in Hawaii. The brothers think of me as a bigshot star of opera and movies still. Though I am here as a Guest Star on a two part episode of HAWAII FIVE-O and expected McGarrett would send a limo for me, the brothers were only too pleased to meet me at the airport and escort me to my Waikiki hotel, and too happy to let HAWAII FIVE-O publicists take pictures, and write stories about the old tongs of Honolulu looking on Chang Apana, the detective sergeant in the Honolulu police and the fat Charlie Chan the detective as the creators of the happiest memories of childhood and wartime businesses in their Honolulu Hotel Street Chinatown, on the piece of island real estate that suddenly is the bleeding end all be all of American honor. And in the movies of the time, I was, I am Charlie Chan's Number Four and most American born and Americanized son. In real life, whatever that is, I am born in China. The South. Tang People. Cantonese. It all blends into a nice story about me the newspapers and publicists blurbing me want to believe. I love it.

"The part I've come to Honolulu to play is nothing special," I tell the brothers. "But it is paying my way to party with my brothers in Hawaii, and visit the last white man to play Charlie Chan still alive."

"You mean he's on the islands?" the brothers ask. "We had no idea!"

"I seem to be the only one he trusts with his address. He craves anonymity," I say. "He wants his privacy. I have several offers from advertising companies for him to put on the white duck and Panama straw hat of Charlie Chan again and sell a few products for them. I'm going to try to talk him into coming out of hiding and make a little money."

They're impressed at my humility and loyalty and still want to know about my part in HAWAII FIVE-O. Do I live? Do I die? Am I Chinese? Am I Japanese? Am I southern artist? Am I northern bureaucrat? Does it make any difference? Am I squinty? Am I swishy? Am I bald? Do I have big eyebrows? We laugh a lot, stirring up old laughs, old short sleeved Hawaiian shirts, old memories of old movies and happy days in the war. This ceremony over, the brothers grin at me, open mouthed as catfish, their old bottomfeeder's eyes shine as if they'd swallowed strong drink, in the eye of their swirling wait, they're ready to know about my part on HAWAII FIVE-O.

I tell them, "I'm another cultured slimey warlord smuggling drugs into the United States through Hawaii who runs afoul of McGarrett, Chin-ho, Danno, Zulu and the whole Five-O show, and, of course, I die in the shadow of Diamond Head."

They love it. HAWAII FIVE-O has really perfected the Charlie Chan formula, they say. They love the villains from WWII movies finding new life on the show. It's a breath of the old days.

"And it gives me work," I say and we all laugh.

On the way to the hotel I see that Tora! Tora! Tora! is still playing in a big first run Honolulu movie palace. "Ah, yes," I say, "A peace movie."

"A peace movie?" a brother asks.

"A war movie made in peacetime. I remember playing in war movies made during the war, with John Wayne, Van Johnson, Cary Grant."

Yes, the Hawaiian brothers remember the names and the stars who partied here after Pearl Harbor. The brothers ran restaurants or bars, or honky tonks during the war and remember me flying over from Frisco or L.A. to play an ugly Japanese spy or sadistic Japanese officer who screams "Aiiieeeee!" when I die then head down to Chinatown for dinner and rice before painting Honolulu red, with the other sons of Chan and Willy, and Kam chasing the tails of our fame and all the Chinese and Japanese women we can find from club to club from Chinatown to Waikiki. And the soldiers and sailors on the town and off-limits recognized us, grinned and laughed, put their arms around us, and we put our arms around them, they patted us on the head and we patted them on the head and watched them totter away to the whores or back to their bases.

Aiiieeeee! Aloha! Gung ho! Goong hay fot choy! The movies and Chinatown were exciting then. It had a future waiting for it after we won the war. There was an electric light night life. There was a Chinatown class and style. Padded shoulders. Wide lapels. Double breasted suits. Straw hats. They were happy days for me too.

"There are people in Hawaii who object to the Charlie Chan movies and John Wayne war movies, and WWII movies on the late night TV," the brothers tell me. "No sense of history."

"The younger generations don't remember when Americans thought all Chinese were sex perverts, opium smugglers and torturers of women," I say.

"That's right, you and Keye, and Benson, and Victor were a more positive and real life like image of the Chinese," a brother says.

"As was our father, Charlie Chan," I say.

Yes, turn on your TV late at night to any old Charlie Chan the Detective or WWII in China movie and you are reading my life story. Every night from some tower over Honolulu or New York, or Chicago one bit of my life or another unspools like smoke. I still like turning on the TV to get away from it all, in another town and being pleasantly surprised with the best days of my life.

For nearly fifty years, half a century, I am the most famous Chinese in America: an actor. I am Charlie Chan's Number Four Son; the Chinese nicknamed Die Say or Say Die. Yes, I am the rhythmic Christian of Charlie Chan's movie sons; the martyr, the one famous for saying nothing but "Gee,Pop!" and "Gosh, Pop!" I am The Chinaman Who Dies.

Fifty years of acting movies and TV has washed out a better me, a bigger name, a set of brighter memories from the mundane, ordinary facts of my life. I am no longer born in a village in south China and apprenticed to a floating opera company on the Pearl River, I am born and last seen being carried off by Hollywood alleycats into a dark soundstage. I cry bald and naked in a bombed out railroad station in a Shanghai air raid scene. William Bendix stumbles in the rubble of a Chinese village during another Japanese air raid in my next movie, and hears me wail. The baby is a doll. The closeup is me with my cheeks stuffed with cotton and my eyebrows shaved off. Movie magic! I'm at my dead momma's withered tit. I wail high long long wails that end in sputtering lungs. The movie is China. The baby in the wideshots is a doll. The closeup of the wailing baby is me.

I am the symbol of helpless, struggling China in the arms of William Bendix. He says I'm a "cute little fella." He names me "Donald Duck."

Alan Ladd and William Bendix leave me in the arms of a Chinese convert to Christianity played by a white woman who looks me in the face and coos, "Who but monsters would want to kill one such as this?" and from this shot on, I am known forever to people who go to the movies, as the Chinaman Who Dies.

I take a breath. Then another wail from my endless lungs goes from movie to movie, Jap air raid somewhere in China scene to singing America the Beautiful with Kate smith on the radio into the homes of Americans who cherish the memory of me dying when they buy one more War Bond.

Kate Smith smelled as sugary as she looked, and a little spicy, like a hot pan of huge friendly cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven.

I sing "My Old Kentucky Home," in Cantonese and am adopted by Gary Cooper and his girlfriend, the Red Cross nurse, in a missionary movie, a Japanese officer with slime on his teeth, slicks the long straight blade of his samurai sword into me, jolting me to scream, "Maaaaaaamaaaaaaaaa!" and slick on through my body into my mother's body heaving screech and out of her back, as the camera turns to see my face just behind the blinding gleam of the pulling of the long sword slurping out of us. It sucks against lips of our long wound. I scream the one word the poet from the Office of War Information says crosses all languages, all ages, all time, "Maaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" until the sword is all the way out of my little body, and unpinned from my mother China, I thump to the ground at the officer's feet like a large broach. And there we are, the triplet, the poetic form of the war movie as emotional weapon: A bloody dead Chinese mother. A bloody dead Chinese son. A leering Jap wiping his blade clean of blood.

The Japs torture me into giving up John Wayne's secret position, throw me into a truck and bounce the little life of me left in my little battered body over bumpy roads. Out to get the jump on John Wayne, leading my missionary teacher from Indiana and all of my Filipino guerrilla friends through the jungle. I grab the wheel of the truck. The Jap soldiers scream. I wail in the key of tears and pull the truck off the edge of the world and down we go into the darkness.

My body rolls out of the burning truck to the feet of John Wayne and all my surprised friends working their stealthy way through the jungle with Anthony Quinn. America sees my face by the flamelight of the burning truck full of burning Japs. They see me trying hard not to cry out in pain. Tears stream down my cheeks.

"Don't try to talk," John Wayne says softly. Anthony Quinn turns away, sniffles, and loads his Tommy gun. And John Wayne and the missionary teacher who failed to teach me how to properly spell "America" A-M-E-R-I-C-A instead of A-M-E-L-L-I-C-A exchange looks and shake their heads. All the soldiers and all my friends are getting down on their knees around me. The music also rises.

"I failed," I gasp. "I guess I'll never be promoted to sergeant now," and my eyes roll back into my skull and my breath, shrieks like tearing sheets in a windstorm. My lungs sound like a man filing a steel girder on a steel bridge with a long file. I cough. A half pint of blood rosebuds out of my mouth. By the light of burning Jap bodies sizzling, sputtering and bursting like sausages in the background, women in the shoppers matinees with their papersacks and red meat tokens, see tears in John Wayne's eyes. He removes the bird colonel bird insignia off his collar and pins it on me.

"You didn't fail," John Wayne says, and has to lower his eyes and gulps down a sob before he can say, " He-yeck! You get that promotion!" He adjusts the little bird on my bloody shirt and says, very low, very soft, "I got orders from the President himself to promote you all the way to colonel!"

My eyes open. I struggle for breath. The music rises just so.

"Teacher?" a tiny voice climbs up out of me. "I can't see!" And I can't see.

And the missionary teacher from Indiana has to put her ear to my mouth to hear me agonize my last words out.

"Ayee!" I say, "Emmm!" My eyes come open and shine gleaming silver like something crazy. The missionary teacher wipes blood from my lips, from my eyes and arranges my hair, a bit at a time, avoiding the patches of matted blood and open wounds, as I continue. "Eee!"

"Easy, champ," John Wayne soothes. He shrugs violently and looks back into the flames of the burning trucks.

"Ell! Ell!" I scream from out of my croak. My chest heaves like the back of a mating dog. "Eye! See! Ayyyy!" I cry triumphantly and struggle up to my elbows. "AMELLICA!"
The missionary teacher screams.

John Wayne says, "At ease, colonel," and I fall back into a shot of John Wayne sighing and furrowing his brow and am dead dead dead in his arms.

John Wayne turns to the missionary teacher from Iowa and says, "I oughta shootya for not teaching him how to spell America with an 'R'."

"Cut!" the director shouts and directs me to spell "America" properly with an "R" and no "L" I think of wishing him a joyeux Noel too, but contain myself.

The brothers of the Hawaiian branch of the tong like my stories of making the movies they see me in.

They want to know if I ever played the part of a pilot. Did I ever fly in the movies.

I tell the brothers I always played children much younger than my real age, in the movies. I had to fight to play young men, except when they think it will be funny to play me against my type, and I am a fanatic treacherous babyfaced Jap pilot.

The old men want to hear about that. Stories of Chinese who fly in Hollywood movies are rare.

One day flying my Zero low across the water in a fog, I see Cary Grant's American submarine the USS Copperfin sailing toward Destination Tokyo. I drop a bomb on the sub but it doesn't go off. I turn around and rake the sub with my machine guns, sew a line of bullets across the conning tower and knock down Alan Hale, Jr.

John Garfield shoots me down with the deck gun. I trail smoke and sing a nasal swan song into an out of sight crash, only the yanks in closeup see as something wonderful. They blink in the light of an explosion that washes me over to the side of Cary Grant's submarine. A sailor jumps off the deck into the water to pull me in. I flash my eyes, show my teeth and knife the American sailor in the back.

The skinny full lipped pharmacist's mate who will disarm the bomb I dropped then perform an appendectomy on a very nervous Elisha Cook, Jr. on a mess table with a boning knife and a potato peeler during a depth charge attack, is fresh from the bacon and eggs, sunrise to sunset three squares a day Iowa where he has obviously never come across anything so rude, impolite and ungrateful as someone like me stabbing my rescuer in the back. "Welcome to World War Two, kid," I say at the kid's stupid look, and scream "Aiiieeeee!" as the kid's first bullets crash into my body. The same William Bendix who found me as a baby in the rubble of my village watches the skinny kid machine gun me into goo floating on the sea. My ad lib becomes gutteral nasal gibberish in the release print, and the kid's good Christian Thou shalt not kill upbringing is sick with Freudian shadows from having tasted real hate and enjoyed killing a man.

Captain Cary Grant pats the kid on the back, lights his pipe, and says "You killed a Jap, not a man."

The kid's too young to shave, never been kissed, never been laid. He doesn't quite know the difference between boys and girls. He has Lana Turner's voluptuous lower lip. He doesn't understand. The machinery hums inside the tight little submarine. The steel walls sweat. Cary Grant gleams and shines, but does not sweat.

Cary Grant puffs his pipe and thinks, then takes his pipe from his mouth and says, "This is not just a war of one nation against another nation. We are in a war that will decide whether or not decency will survive in the world. This is a war of good against evil." The captain muses and puffs his pipe.

The kid's Adam's apple bobs as he swallows hard, and blinks. Alan Hale leans in to listen, wiping his hands on his apron.

"I identify with that kid," Benson says in the office of one of his Polynesian fantasy restaurants around L.A, watching Destination Tokyo, a black and white on TV "I wish I were that kid when I was a kid," he says hesitantly but without his usual stutter that slows his emotion and makes him seem less than spontaneous.. "I could have joined a fraternity. Gone to frat parties, danced with sorority girls."

An officer puts his hands on the table and bends closer to Cary Grant. It looks a little like Da Vinci's The Last Supper humming underwater toward Tokyo. Cary Grant lets out a deep breath, and says, "It makes one wonder about these Japanese who sell their daughters off at thirteen to be married -- or worse." He shakes his head and hardens his voice, "The Japs know nothing of the love we hold for our women."

The smart pert bright eyed Hyacinth teaches me that even before there is Pearl Harbor to make the difference between Japs and Chinks there is Pearl Buck sorting out the good Christian "Chinese-Americans" from the evil Chinese "Chinamen."

I was young. I converted, and the other opera men stranded here by the tide of war did not. I was too young, a mere apprentice. I shouldn't have come over. I wasn't a real star of the Cantonese opera. My sister born of a mother in America is an American citizen and helps me. The real opera stars Wong the Handsome, the Great Kwan, Lee, the voice, wait out the war going from Chinatown to Chinatown performing Cantonese opera, getting cheated and robbed, and shooting Chinese movies in the Sacramento Delta. Now, it's as if no one had ever heard of them and I was the greatest and the only star of Cantonese opera star to land in America before the war.

Unlike the other sons of Chan I have lived the part of Charlie Chan. I have crossed from Cantonese opera and Chinese movies to Hollywood. I have converted to Christianity. I have become Americanized. I have used the ear and voice trained by Cantonese opera to sound looser and more at home with jivetalk than stiff stuffy old Keye Luke trying to make his voice sound deep. I could play anything, any age, from a one year old baby in diapers to a hundred year old leper, unlike the pouting, stuttering, choking Benson Fong. For that shot of me wailing in the bombed out rubble of a Shanghai railway station they padded me in a flesh colored suit and built an oversize set, so I would look like a barebellied baby. I am more American than the very American-born Victor Sen Yung. Keye, Benson, and Victor.

Being married to the Chinaman Who Dies is not good enough for my wife, Hyacinth. She's an American born girl, fourth generation American born, and more old country Cantonese and serious about opera than I ever was. Her American born mother speaks nothing but Chinese all her life. A Kwangtung dialect so old I've never before heard it spoken. The old woman agrees with Hyacinth. She is not happy with the idea of her grandsons growing up watching me die in the movies. "What kind of example is that to set for your sons?" she asks.

"That's just what I ask him, ma," Hyacinth says.

"For our sons," I tell her, "I promise to be the first Chinese to play Charlie Chan in the movies."
"Charlie Chan?" Hyacinth and her mother ask.

"You are not Christian, but as you see, I do love you anyway. As Charlie Chan I shall lead you to your great salvation. For, it is written: As God the Father gave up a son in the image of the perfect white man, to lead whites to walk the path of righteousness toward salvation, and praise God, so the White Man gave up a son in the image of the perfect Chinese American to lead the yellows to build the road to acceptance toward assimilation. Ah, sweet assimilation. Charlie Chan was his name. "

"Of course Charlie Chan. Where would any of us be without Charlie Chan?" the brothers say and we laugh like the dreams and hallucinations of a star alone in his limousine. The privacy, the intimacy me and the five brothers feel inside the unreal quiet and cushiness of the limo turns us into laughing fools. And it's nice to feel like a movie star again.