A Couple Back-Pats for a Couple of Asians

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Speaking of people of colour who don’t get the appropriate kudos they deserve for a job well done, at least some folks are breaking the race barrier and getting the spotlight they deserve.

I don’t follow sports, but thankfully my Google! Alerts do. Seems that Yankees player Hideki Matsui, who is playing his last season with the team this year, helped score six runs to lead the Yankees’s first World Series victory since 2000. No small feat, even for a talented player like Matsui; his performance earned him the first World Series MVP honour to be awarded to an Asian or Asian American player. Congrats, Hideki!

Also, a post office in San Francisco’s Chinatown may be renamed for Lim Poon Lee, who was postmaster for the area since 1966. During his tenure, Lee established the post office that will likely bear his name, and worked tirelessly to increase the representation of Chinese Americans in the postal service. This article has a full biography of Lee, who passed away in 2002, but sufficed to say, being postmaster was only part of Lee’s great accomplishments during his life.

Lee enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943, and after training as a counterintelligence specialist, he served in the Philippines and then Japan. Lee used to recount, Chan said, his company’s dispatch to Hokkaido, where they found that Chinese war prisoners in Japanese labor camps had launched a revolt against the Japanese.

The Army asked Lee to stop the riots because he was the only soldier who spoke Japanese and Chinese. His solution, as a representative of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, was to swear in the Chinese troops as members of the U.S. Army with their same ranks.

After World War II, Lee entered college and received his law degree in 1954 from Lincoln University. He continued his community advocacy while working in court systems in San Francisco, and in 1959, he helped found the Chinese American Democratic Club.

“He was ahead of his time and was very influential,” said former state Sen. John Burton. “He was one of those that encouraged the Chinese community to stand up for their rights and not be intimidated by the government.”

Chan said naming the Chinatown post office after Lee “will remind people of my children’s generation that there were Chinese Americans who, when called upon, made a difference.”

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