Rising Up To A Challenge

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Transcripts available in the following languages:

What I did is I wrote a letter to the Supervisors in Inyo County, to say that let’s sit down and talk about creating this historic designation. I got a phone call from the newspaper, Inyo County reporter saying that this board member threw my letter on the floor and said, “Never going to happen over my dead body! Never happen!” So I went up, the board members all arrived—the town only has maybe two restaurants— I walked in and said, “Which one is Keith?” The reporter told me this Keith Bright was the one who was angry. I said, "come here." I pulled him outside and I said, “Okay, tell me what you don’t want.” He said, “I don’t want any embarrassment…” Let me just add there was a lot of strife, racial conflict, as a result of the handling of the state historic designation. It was not one that required congressional or even legislative action at the state level. It was by a commission. It was a friendly process from the government’s side. But the way it was handled, there was a lot of division and racial hostility towards Japanese Americans. That was the backdrop we needed to address. And I asked Keith and all of them to come together and asked, “What don’t you want?” He said, “We can’t have all this racial conflict. We cannot have all this antagonism.” And so I said, “Okay, tell me what you need.” I said, “You need economic development. You need to bring tourists here. You need people to buy gas, people to stay at the motel, people who are going to eat.” I said, “This site will draw people. What other choices do you have? Mining? Fishing?” He’s a wonderful man. He said, “Well, let’s get to work.” And this man helped— you know, I had with the mayor, and connections with all the democrats. Keith is a Mr. Republican from Inyo County.

Date: July 17, 2013
Location: California, US
Interviewer: Sean Hamamoto
Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum; Japanese American Bar Association

Inyo County manzanar national historic site politics

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