Updated for 2013
China’s Empress Dowager Cixi
Okichi, The Tragic Geisha
Who is India’s Joan of Arc?
Don’t Cross the Dragon Lady
Did Empress Wu’s Reign Change China?
The Trung Sisters vs China
Remembering Hank Oyama
Dr. Henry “Hank” Oyama passed away on Tuesday [March 20, 2013 at the age of 86].
The last time I saw Hank Oyama was about two years ago. I ran into him at an event Downtown and he asked me to walk him back to his car. It quickly became obvious that he really needed no particular help, but that he just wanted some company while he wandered around the heart of the city he loved to share some stories, and he was certainly someone who had more than a few stories to tell.
Hank was born and raised in Barrio El Oyo. Though his parents were immigrants from Japan (via Mexico), Hank was Catholic and spoke plenty of Spanish growing up. He sometimes joked that he thought he was Mexican until the day in 1942 that he was sent, with his family, to a desolate internment camp for Japanese-Americans on the Colorado River.
Though such an injustice would be enough to sour most folks on the American experiment, it seems to have had an opposite effect on Hank. His great faith in his country drove him to work to make things better. He joined the Army toward the end of World War II, where he was assigned to the intelligence corps for his language skills, though, he joked that he thought at the time that this was due to some sort of misunderstanding as his Spanish was better than his Japanese. Eventually, he became an officer as the Army Air Corps was spun off into a military branch of its own. He remained in the Air Force Reserve until his retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1985.
Having returned to Tucson to earn a degree at the University of Arizona, he became a teacher at Pueblo High School, where his students included numerous Tucson luminaries such as Art Eckstrom, former State Representative Phil Hubbard, and my mother. My mother tells me that at Pueblo, Hank told the largely Mexican-American student body that the language and culture that they learned at home was just as important and valuable as what they were learning in school. To a woman whose mouth had once been washed out with soap as punishment for the high crime of speaking Spanish on the playground, this sentiment was heartening.
(An ironic note here: The Tucson Unified School District named a school for Oyama in 2003. A southwest-side street also bears the name of the bilingual-education advocate. There is also a TUSD school named for the aforementioned teacher who punished my mother. Tucson is a complicated place.)
It was in this spirit that Hank worked with fellow Pueblo teachers Adalberto Guerrero and María Urquides to create what became one of the first bilingual education programs in the United States. Their revolutionary work became a national model, gave rise to an entire generation of Mexican-American leadership, and turned the public schools away from the idea that culture should be embraced and integrated rather than actively suppressed.
It was at about the same time that Hank got involved in another fight of national importance, though it seems now like it should have been a minor thing. In 1959, he tried to marry his college sweetheart, Mary Ann Jordan. It turned out that it was illegal in Arizona for a Japanese man to marry an Anglo woman, so they sued. They won in Pima County Superior Court, but the state was eager to appeal. The legislature, however, being a saner institution than it is now, was not eager for what promised to be a drawn-out battle that would likely lead to the law being declared invalid at the United States Supreme Court, repealed the statute. Had the legislature not been so ambivalent in this regard, Loving v. Virginia would have instead been Oyama v. Arizona and might have happened a few years earlier.
In 1970, Hank became an administrator at the infant Pima College, where he spent the remainder of his career. By the time he retired it was one of the largest and most well-regarded community colleges in the country.
Though Hank slowed down considerably over the last few years, he remained active and visible with regard to the causes he cared about, such as when he spoke out against the very misguided new admissions policy at Pima Community College. He always remained a humble, very principled man who was always available to dispense wisdom, encouragement, or a joke. In my own career in politics, I was always thankful for his support during difficult times (we shared a taste in guayabera shirts), and I know that I am not alone in this sentiment. He was a hero and example to me and many others.
Hank lived to see much of his work, perhaps too much, reversed in recent years. This did not seem to faze him, though it was clearly a disappointment. There are generations of Tucson leaders who are where they are because of the work he did, and this was his real legacy. I think he was quite happy with that, and that is why he always seemed to be smiling.
This piece was first published on Rum, Romanism and Rebellion.
Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) was a physicist. She worked on nuclear fission in the 1930s, and worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University during the second world war. After the war, she continued to research at Columbia Uni. Wu and two of her colleagues disproved a law of symmetry in physics, but while her two male colleagues were awarded a Nobel Prize, Wu was not recognised.
Forty-five years after American troops murdered men, women and children in a village in Vietnam, LIFE.com bears witness to the horror by republishing the story of My Lai as it ran in LIFE 20 months later
(Ronald L. Haeberle — Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
The My Lai Massacre is an iconic 20th century event which reflects the USA’s attitude toward Asia and Asian people. On March 16, 1968, roughly 500 unarmed civilians in the Vietnamese village of Son My — mostly women, children, babies, and the elderly — were massacred by US troops. Many of the women were raped and some were gang-raped before being mutilated and dumped in ditches. Three US soldiers attempted to halt the massacre and were denounced in US Congress as traitors.
In my opinion, part of the contempt we see toward Asians from some US Americans (including from some other people of color who are supposedly anti-racist) is a manifestation of this political history, which also includes: (1) the invasion and colonization of the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, Samoa; (2) the internment of Japanese Americans; (3) dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; (4) the invasion and partition of Korea and the establishment of a permanent military base; (5) the destruction of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
This weekend I was schmoozing at an event when some guy asked me what kind of history I study. I said “I’m currently researching the role of gender in Jewish emigration out of the Third Reich,” and he replied “oh you just threw gender in there for fun, huh?” and shot me what he clearly thought to be a charming smile.
The reality is that most of our understandings of history revolve around what men were doing. But by paying attention to the other half of humanity our understanding of history can be radically altered.
For example, with Jewish emigration out of the Third Reich it is just kind of assumed that it was a decision made by a man, and the rest of his family just followed him out of danger. But that is completely inaccurate. Women, constrained to the private social sphere to varying extents, were the first to notice the rise in social anti-Semitism in the beginning of Hitler’s rule. They were the ones to notice their friends pulling away and their social networks coming apart. They were the first to sense the danger.
German Jewish men tended to work in industries which were historically heavily Jewish, thus keeping them from directly experiencing this “social death.” These women would warn their husbands and urge them to begin the emigration process, and often their husbands would overlook or undervalue their concerns (“you’re just being hysterical” etc). After the Nuremberg Laws were passed, and after even more so after Kristallnacht, it fell to women to free their husbands from concentration camps, to run businesses, and to wade through the emigration process.
The fact that the Nazis initially focused their efforts on Jewish men meant that it fell to Jewish women to take charge of the family and plan their escape. In one case, a woman had her husband freed from a camp (to do so, she had to present emigration papers which were not easy to procure), and casually informed him that she had arranged their transport to Shanghai. Her husband—so traumatized from the camp—made no argument. Just by looking at what women were doing, our understanding of this era of Jewish history is changed.
I have read an article arguing that the Renaissance only existed for men, and that women did not undergo this cultural change. The writings of female loyalists in the American Revolutionary period add much needed nuance to our understanding of this period. The character of Jewish liberalism in the first half of the twentieth century is a direct result of the education and socialization of Jewish women. I can give you more examples, but I think you get the point.
So, you wanna understand history? Then you gotta remember the ladies (and not just the privileged ones).
Yup - and our understanding of the holocaust itself is hugely effected by gender. Why? because the VAST majority of holocaust survivors were men. Women were several times more likely to die in the camps than men were, because they were not considered as useful for slave labour so were much less likely to be kept alive. Thus most of our direct, eye-witness accounts of what the holocaust actually WAS come from a very specific demographic: Jewish men aged 16-40, the demographic the Nazis were most likely to use in their labour camps instead of gassing. The vast majority of those outside of this demographic became what Primo Levi, a survivor, dubbed ‘the drowned’ - people whose experiences are rendered totally inaccessible because they died in numbers so vast that we don’t even have individually marked graves for them.
Those women who did survive were also less likely to be listened to, less likely to have access to a method by which to record and broadcast their experiences, since those who studied the holocaust in its immediate aftermath were also almost all male academics operating under particular biases.
There’s been a lot of chatter about the movie Django and how it touches upon slavery and the resistance to it..Lots of debates have sparked off talking about what’s accurate, what’s fantasy etc etc.. I say use this excitement around Django and the hype machine that director Quentin Tarantino has around him to turn folks onto other projects they may have overlooked, forgotten about or not seen at all..It doesn’t have to be an either or thing.. See ‘m all.. Contrast, compare and build..
- Hip Hop and Politics
Empress Nam Phương (14 December 1914 – 16 December 1963), born Marie-Thérèse Nguyễn Hữu Thị Lan, later Imperial Princess Nam Phương, was the first and primary wife of Bảo Đại, the last emperor of Vietnam, from 1934 until her death. She also was the first and only empress consort (hoàng hậu) of the Nguyễn Dynasty.
by Judy Dow (Abenaki) and Beverly Slapin
What is it about the story of “The First Thanksgiving” that makes it essential to be taught in virtually every grade from preschool through high school? What is it…
November is Native American Heritage Month. And this photo comes from Table Rocks in the Rogue River Valley where people are estimated to have lived for at least 15,000 years.
The Takelma Indians (pronounced “Dagelma”) lived along the middle and upper Rogue River, including the Table Rocks area.
To learn more about those who lived here thousands of years ago, check out more of their story online at: http://on.doi.gov/YKxRfN