The superintendent of the Las Virgenes Unified School District, whose reference to “slant-eyed” Chinese during a recent public appearance prompted an inquiry by the Japanese American Citizens League, apologized Tuesday night at a Board of Education meeting.
In a brief prepared statement, Supt. Albert D. Marley apologized for using the term during a March 21 presentation of slides, taken on a trip to China, in which he contrasted “slant-eyed” Chinese with the “round-eyed” Caucasians in his tour group.
He also apologized for offending a Japanese-American attorney, Lyn K. Philipps, who attended his presentation before the Optimist Club of Calabasas.
“During my slide presentation, I made a reference which Ms. Lyn Philipps found to be offensive and derogatory,” Marley read. “Ms. Philipps states she was both offended and hurt by my remark. For that offense and hurt, I apologize. For the use of the term, which Ms. Philipps found to be offensive and derogatory, I apologize.”
Marley did not elaborate at the board meeting and refused to comment on Wednesday.
“I see no reason why I should discuss the matter any further and do not intend to,” he said.
The superintendent’s initial failure to apologize after Philipps wrote him of her concern prompted the San Fernando Valley chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League to pursue her complaint.
Last week, the chapter wrote Marley that Philipps’ anger was shared by “many other Asian-Americans as well.”
The term “slant-eyed,” which was used as an anti-Japanese insult during World War II and against Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, symbolizes anti-Asian racism to many Asian-Americans.
“I urge you to now show the sensitivity and largeness of heart to apologize, and at the same time be an example to your entire district,” Phil Shigekuni, legislative chairman for the league’s Valley chapter, wrote in a May 15 letter to Marley.
Philipps could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
But Shigekuni said he was gratified by Marley’s response.
“Marley is not an isolated person that we can pick on. I think he is the tip of the iceberg,” Shigekuni said. “A lot of those attitudes are out there and if we can teach it’s not acceptable, that’s all we’re trying to do.”
Shigekuni said the league remained concerned about the response of the Optimist Club, which last month adopted a motion dissociating itself from Philipps’ objections.
But Shigekuni said it was Marley--because of his position as a superintendent of schools--who had been the league’s main concern.