Back to Index

Back to Main

Three for May
By Jean Ikezoe-Halevi

- An online campaign by Japanese-Americans helped stop the auction of nearly 450 arts and crafts objects created by Japanese-Americans in internment camps during WWII. More than 6,000 people signed a petition organized by the Japanese American Citizens League and other advocacy groups on various social media.
o The Rago Arts and Auction Center in New Jersey was set to auction the collection of the late author Allen Eaton on April 17, 2015. Eaton collected art from Japanese Americans who had been in internment camps. More than 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds who were American born citizens, were incarcerated after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941.
o In 1952 Eaton authored a book, ”Beauty Behind Barbed Wire: The Arts of the Japanese in Our War Relocation.” After his death his collection was passed down to his daughter, who willed the collection to a friend. It was the friend who decided to auction the collection and declined a $50,000 offer from the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation. After the Foundation stated they would file a lawsuit, the auction center made an announcement of the withdrawal of the items for auction.
o The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, located on the site of the former internment camp issued the following statement: “The Foundation and the many people who have supported us in the last few weeks are thrilled that the immediate risk to the collection has been averted, and we are appreciative of the wider Japanese American community’s concerns,” said HMWF Chair Shirley Ann Higuchi. “We now turn to the challenge of securing the future care of the collection and protecting it in collaboration with all concerned Japanese American-related institutions.”
- Here’s a follow up to last month’s mention of a Chicago Tribune story by Kevin Pang, which dealt with criminal damage to property at a new Lake View restaurant called Chop Chop Chinaman by an area resident disgusted by its name.
o Jeannie Harrell, 26, who is half Japanese and was raised in Tokyo, wrote her complaint in lipstick on the restaurant’s window. For her actions she was charged with criminal damage to property, which is a misdemeanor carrying a possible $2,500 fine and a year in jail. The restaurant’s owner, Larry Lee, is three-quarters Chinese, and has said that he doesn’t believe the term “Chinaman” is offensive or racist. He compared it to the use of “Irishman” or “Englishman.”
o Harrell had a court date for April 8, but due to a scheduling conflict by her attorney, the case has been postponed until Tuesday, April 28. Since this column is being written on Sunday, April 25, the results won’t be known until after its publication.
o Since the story broke, and Pang’s story was printed in the Los Angeles Times, there has been a lot written about the incident on various websites. Most of the stories give a pretty straightforward telling of what happened, such as DNAinfo.com and Chicago.eater.com.
o The Asian American websites, such as the blog angryasianman.com and reappropriate.com are highly critical of Lee’s restaurant’s name. In fact the title of Angry Asian Man’s story is “Who the Hell Calls Their Restaurant ‘Chop Chop Chinaman?’” On its website, Reappropriate, states, ”Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web’s foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and popular culture blog!” It questions why the 46-year-old Lee would be so “tone deaf” in creating a restaurant with this name.
o There are also others who thinks that Harrell is making a big deal out of nothing. On other websites, she’s been called a “liberal” and a “retard.” And there are other phrases so vile that they can’t be printed in a family newspaper.
o She’s been criticized for her weight, her sexual orientation and the fact that she lives in the Lake View area that is known as “Boys Town,” which has a large gay population. None of these things have anything to do with her actions. They are just a lot of cheap shots taken by people who don’t have to reveal their real names when they write nasty comments on-line.
o -WBBM-TV’s new channel 2.2, is showing a diverse collection of classic television shows under the name “Decades.” These shows are being run in a marathon, that is, all of the shows from a series are being shown one after the other, although sometimes not in the exact order in which they were made. In recent weeks, they’ve shown all of the episodes of “Route 66.” “Love American Style,” “Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “The Millionaire.”
o Last week they featured the popular 1970s western, ”Kung Fu,” starring David Carradine as the Shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine, who came from China in search of his American relatives. Each week Caine was subjected to physical violence, racial slurs and taunts, such as being called a “Chinaman” and “heathen.”
o It was reported that the lead role was originally supposed to go to Bruce Lee, but studio officials balked at the idea of an Asian in a starring role, so David Carradine, who is Caucasian, was selected to play the half-Chinese monk. Since the mid-70s, how many shows starring an Asian American male can you name?
o Maybe if Larry Lee sat through a “Kung Fu” marathon, he’d finally get why Asian Americans and others are so upset with his restaurant’s name. Or maybe he just doesn’t care.
----------------------
• Jean Ikezoe-Halevi is a Chicago area journalist who has written for television and newspapers.