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The Fred Yamamoto Scholarship Fund

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A friend of mine, Steven Lee, who is a Palo Alto resident and involved in city government is helping to raise a scholarship fund in memory of Fred Yamamoto and provided a prepared statement:

“As a 3rd generation Chinese-American and a Palo Alto Human Relations Commissioner, I was strongly in favor of the committee’s recommendation to name a school after Fred Yamamoto, and was disappointed by both the opposition raised by certain members of my Chinese-American community as well as the decision by the school board not to name a school after Fred Yamamoto. We have to move forward, however, and I am committing myself to be part of the larger and continued discussion, which this incident exposed, that we disparately need in this community, to listen certainly, to educate and correct unconscious biases or historical prejudices when necessary, and to ultimately take action when needed to keep Palo Alto a truly safe, welcoming and inclusive community, where no one is unfairly judged by their name, ethnicity or their other identities, even when such action may be deemed “controversial” or “divisive” by those who oppose such action.”

Back in March, there was some opposition to renaming a Palo Alto middle school in his name:

“Backlash to a proposed name for a Palo Alto middle school has provoked surprise and confusion among Japanese-American residents who don’t see the connection between Fred Yamamoto, the Palo Altan who was held in Japanese internment camps and later died in combat, and Isoroku Yamamoto, the reviled marshal admiral who ordered the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Tamie Yusa-Ogawa, a Mountain View native who now lives in the Los Angeles area, called the protest “racism, plain and simple.”

“Yamamoto is an extremely common name. I understand why these people don’t want a school named after Isoroku Yamamoto, but Fred Yamamoto shouldn’t lose out just because he has the same last name,” Yusa-Ogawa, a Los Altos High School graduate, told the Post.

Several dozen parents and residents, including many from Chinese communities, spoke out against renaming Jordan or Terman middle school after Fred Yamamoto at a meeting of the school district’s Recommending School Names Committee on Monday.”

When I had heard about this, I was completely dumbfounded, but not totally surprised. I know some first generation Chinese Americans that harbor anti-Japanese feelings due to World War II. However, first and foremost, Fred Yamamoto was born-and-raised in the United States and is an American of Japanese decent – and died in combat for our country. As far as I’m concerned, Yamamoto is an American hero.

I think a lot of Asians in Asia and Asian Americans still confuse or conflate race with nationality. Fred Yamamoto was not related at all to Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. I’m sure most Americans don’t even know who Admiral Yamamoto is! My Japanese and Japanese American friends noted that Yamamoto is a very common Japanese last name.

To remember Fred Yamamoto, there’s an effort to establish a scholarship fund in his name:

“At the close of the 2017/18 School Year, we will use the donations to award and recognize a student (or students) who have demonstrated civic leadership, inclusion and service reminiscent of Fred’s spirit. (Depending on the sum raised, we might be able to keep the Scholarship active for more than one year.)

We believe this is an effort many in the community can come together to join: those who supported Fred’s nomination and those who opposed it.  For anyone who was inspired by Fred Yamamoto’s service and sacrifice and wants to work to keep his memory alive: Thank You!”

Please consider donating here:
https://www.gofundme.com/fred-m-yamamoto-scholarship-fund

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