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Friday, May 20, 2011

Saltzman Apologizes to Japanese Internee; Sore Feelings Linger

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 12:59 PM

Earlier this month, I reported about a harsh letter aimed at Dan Saltzman after Portland City Council's Joint Terrorism Task Force vote. It was sent by the son of a Japanese internee who spoke at the meeting, and it seized on comments by Saltzman that some saw as dismissing the concentration camp experience that Japanese Americans endured during World War II.

This week, I got a copy of the apology letter (PDF) that Saltzman sent back to the man who spoke at council, Henry Sakamoto. The letter, as you can read in the excerpt below, gets pretty personal in how the apology is framed.

Screen_shot_2011-05-20_at_12.34.15_PM.png

Saltzman's office told me before sharing the letter that it believed the gesture had eased tensions over Saltzman's comment. That may not be quite the case.

Some prominent figures in Portland's Japanese-American community say they'd still like a public apology, given the public forum where Saltzman's comments were uttered—not just a private letter.

"Although he sent this really sincere, heartfelt letter to Henry," says Jeff Selby, co-president of the Portland Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, noting that a letter also sent from his group was unanswered, "he didn't address the community's concern. We draw attention to it because comments like that don't show a lot of respect for the history of the Japanese community."

Says Scott Sakamoto: "I don't want to discount that letter. It's a very important step. But take one more step and say 'I'm sorry' to the community. That's going to go a long way.

"Culturally, they're not going to make waves. But they'll foster that feeling of disrespect."

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