Not too long ago, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made headlines for saying “konichiwa” to a Hawaiian lawmaker while she told him about her incarcerated grandfathers. Now, he is defending his untimely comment by saying he has Japanese friends.
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a Democrat from Hawaii, was sharing a heartbreaking story of her grandfathers who had been imprisoned in Japanese internment camps during the Second World War because of their heritage.
She wanted to know if Zinke would encourage funding for a federal program that preserve the sites where Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during World War II.
Zinke, who apparently thought it was OK to stereotype the lawmaker, said “oh, Konnichiwa.”
“I think it’s still ‘Ohayo gozaimasu,’ but that’s okay,” Hanabusa replied after a few seconds.
The phrase means “good morning,” meanwhile what Zinke said was “good afternoon.”
He was majorly criticized for making this comment when in fact he should have addressed her concern.
Months after the matter, the lawmaker has defended his comment, claiming he believes the greeting was appropriate. He told Breitbart Radio he had “lived through the years of the internment camps,” and “has long since had friends that were Japanese families that went through that.”
“I grew up in Montana saying ‘good morning,’ saying ‘good afternoon,’” Zinke added. “I think it’s an appropriate salute.”
Zinke also added how he has been to Japanese war college at Etajima and felt his greeting to Hanabusa was no different from “greeting anybody else in a language that’s respectful.”
But that’s not what Hanabusa felt.
“I will continue to ask this question because I have yet to receive an answer, does Secretary Zinke greet any other member of Congress in their ancestral language during official hearings or while conducting official business on behalf of Trump?” she said. “Does he generally greet people he does not know in their ancestral language? Racial stereotyping is an ugly reality in America. We have to call it out and push it away from the policymaking process.”
On the other hand, Zinke defended the comment in the past asking the press how could it be bad to greet a person “good morning.”
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: Reuters, Yuri Gripas