Interior secretary wrongly used 'konnichiwa' at hearing on Japanese-American internment camps

House Natural Resources Committee Democrats  YouTube

House Natural Resources Committee Democrats YouTube

After Rep. Hanabusa, a fourth-generation Japanese-American, shared that her grandfathers were forced into internment camps during World War II, Zinke replied "konnichiwa", which roughly means "good afternoon" in Japanese. She said her grandfathers did not speak about their experiences until late in their life.

Japanese American Senator Mazie Hirono criticised Zinke's response via Twitter.

"No better example of why we need continued support for historical sites where the rights of Japanese Americans were violated b/c of race".

"Secretary Zinke's gaffe demonstrates how little we have learned from our history and why the administration must continue to fund these memorials", Asian Americans Advancing Justice said in its statement.

"Oh, konnichiwa", Zinke said, smiling at the congresswoman.

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"I think it's still 'Ohayo gozaimasu, ' but that's okay", Hanabusa said, using the Japanese phrase for "good morning". "Whether intentional or not, his comments invoke the offensive stereotype that Asian Americans are perpetual foreigners regardless of how long their families have lived in the United States".

Rep. Grace Meng, D-New York, called the remark "blatantly insensitive". "What you thought was a clever response to RepHanabusa was flippant and juvenile".

Hanabusa - whose were sent to the internment camps by the American government during World War II - understandably appears to take the issue of remembering these grievous wrongs very seriously.

Speaking at a meeting for the House Committee on Natural Resources on Thursday, Zinke made the inappropriate comment in response to Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. The congresswoman had mentioned that President Donald Trump's 2019 budget proposal, unveiled in February, would eliminate funding for the program. Mitchell Maki, president and chief executive officer of the organization, said that Zinke's remarks suggest an "inability to distinguish an American of Japanese ancestry from a citizen of Japan".

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