Las Vegas Restaurant Critic John Curtas Blames Japanese/Japanese Americans For Being Offended By “Jap”

This is a follow-up to a commentary piece by Gann Matsuda. It is not an official statement by the Manzanar Committee.


LOS ANGELES — On June 21, Las Vegas restaurant critic John Curtas was called upon to issue a public apology for using the racial slur, “Jap” as an abbreviation, and promise to refrain from further usage (see Sorry John Curtas, But Use Of The Racial Slur, “Jap” Is Not Acceptable, Even As An Abbreviation).

Today, Curtas posted the following that he tried to pass off as an apology:

I offend people for a living. I am also something of a humorist, satirist and social commentator (as well as a restaurant critic). Political correctness is not my thing, but neither is racism.

Hyper-sensitivity, on the other hand, is something I don’t care for either. Making fun of a YouTube video by calling it: “The best Jap-German collaboration since 1941″ would seem to me to rank somewhere down there with “I don’t like your dog” and “How about those crazy Asians” in terms of offensiveness. (and it was on Twitter fer chrissakes–where abbreviations are both arcane and necessary!)

And I love Japan, Japanese food and the Japanese (just ask dozens of Japanese restaurateurs in Las Vegas), despite the fact that it/they spent the years 1943-1945 trying to kill my father (the people not the food). The fact that the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of that generation now take umbrage at an innocent, slight, and Twitter-appropriate condensation of the English spelling of their country, is really something I cannot sympathize with.

I’m sorry if I offended anyone, but I do think the world would be a better place if we all stopped taking language (and our respective cultures) so seriously.

In other words, Curtas did not even come close to apologizing for his actions and words. Instead, he, like so many others of his ilk, blamed those offended by his words for being too sensitive, pushing the responsibility onto their shoulders, freeing himself from that burden.

As a public figure, and a writer, maybe even a journalist, that is certainly not how it works. Indeed, a person in that position must take responsibility for his words and actions. That is one of the tenets of journalism.

Not only did Curtas try to shift the blame onto the shoulders of those offended by his words, his “apology” only makes what he did that much more offensive. Indeed, his “apology” seems to indicate that he does have some resentment of the Japanese people, based on his family’s history. This may explain why he has deliberately chosen to use “Jap” instead of the accepted abbreviation for Japan/Japanese, “Jpn.”

Again, John Curtas must issue a public apology (on his own web site), one that does not shirk his responsibility for his words and actions, and he must pledge to never use slurs, epithets and other derogatory language that targets any group in the future.

Nothing less is acceptable.

The views expressed in this story are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.


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33 Responses to Las Vegas Restaurant Critic John Curtas Blames Japanese/Japanese Americans For Being Offended By “Jap”

  1. To Lee says:

    Unbelievable that this stuff still goes on! I was infuriated when I read his insensitive, racist response.

  2. A campaign should be started to have him removed from NPR! Food Network removed its racist.

  3. Pingback: So You Didn’t Know (Or Didn't Care) That “Jap” Was A Racial Slur. Okay. But You Continued To Be An Asshole About It. | Angry Asian Man

  4. N.D.S. says:

    John Curtas has a television show for The Travel Channel in production, called “All Forked Up” (6 episodes order by the Travel Channel as of Dec. 2012). They might be interested in hearing what Curtas has been up to…

    • To Lee says:

      Thank you N.D.S. I sent Travel Network a letter, but there was no specific person or email address. I hope it gets to a responsible person.

      Added this to my letter.

      It is of great concern to the Asian community that you have a person of John Curtas’ character employed by your network, on “All Forked Up”. His recent insensitive and racist comments should not be tolerated, especially by The Travel Channel.

      • To Lee says:

        Sent letters to Patrick Younge, President and General Manager and Laureen Ong, President of Travel Channel via their facebook page.

        If anyone can find their Travel Channel email, please post it for us.
        Thank you

  5. To Lee says:

    Response to my letter:

    Florence Rogers

    Dear Lee,

    Thank you for writing. John Curtas occasionally appears as a guest on our local talk program and we expect and insure all our on air guests, callers and those posting online comments maintain a civil dialog.

    Florence M E Rogers
    President / General Manager
    Nevada Public Radio

    1289 S Torrey Pines Drive
    Las Vegas, NV 89146
    702-258-9895 x133

    flo@knpr.org

  6. John Togashi says:

    I posted this tonight.

    John Curtas of Eating Las Vegas used the word Jap in a recent tweet and remained unmoved after requests for an apology. I have little leverage with which to change him, but after reading his retort, the little I can say and do to affect him (read, tap him on the shoulder) are bad-mouth his business and tell his community that Mr. Curtas enjoys using racist names and refuses to admit their hurtfulness to victims, even after being told so. I am surprised that KNPR continues its association with Mr. Curtas and ask that readers here think twice before pledging until the radio station provides their rationale for this continued association. I know Mr. Curtas wants to project an image of being Las Vegas’s Anthony Bourdain–that’s only good business–but making a living offending and belittling fellow citizens is craven. I must apologize to Mr. Bourdain because he will not appreciate my linking him to Mr. Curtas at all. Here’s a good read.

    http://eater.com/archives/2012/07/17/bourdain-calls-john-curtas-a-fucknut-over-idiotic-lazy-steakgate-reporting.php

    Instead Mr. Curtas has become a cross between the beloved Archie Bunker and the equally beloved Paula Deen, both being clueless as to the times and realities in which they live. I don’t know how else I can undermine– er, tap Mr. Curtas’s shoulder. I must admit, I’m a bit miffed with him.

  7. John Togashi says:

    KNPR lady got back to me. Should this mollify you or me? Please advise.

    Dear Mr. Togashi,

    Thank you for contacting us. My understanding is that the comments that have caused offense are via Mr. Curtas’ personal social media account.

    John Curtas has appeared on our air as a guest on our local talk program when we cover dining from time to time the most recent being March of this year. It is some years since he provided regular commentary as a freelancer, November 2010 in fact. All guests who are invited to participate in our programming adhere to our standards of civility and those imposed by the Federal Communications Commission. It is a core value of Nevada Public Radio that we present local radio programming that fosters understanding on issues by hosting interviews and discussions with experts, decision makers and those involved in the topics we cover.

    Sincerely,

    Florence M E Rogers
    President / General Manager
    Nevada Public Radio

    1289 S Torrey Pines Drive
    Las Vegas, NV 89146
    702-258-9895 x133

    flo@knpr.org

  8. John Togashi says:

    I just let her off the hook.

    Dear Ms. Rogers,

    Thank you for the response. I won’t belabor the point. I can’t really expect to change your business dealings with Mr. Curtas–all I want to accomplish is make you aware of just who you are dealing with–a food pundit whose shtick involves continuing and defending use of hurtful racial epithets. If you work with him in the future, please take extra care that he adhere to FCC standards.

    • Gann Matsuda says:

      For the record, I haven’t heard of anything he’s done outside of Twitter involving racial slurs, or other derogatory language.

    • Andy says:

      You may want to inform the Food Network of Mr. Curtas’ insensitivity since he has occasionally appeared on Iron Chef as a judge.

  9. Pingback: INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Paula Deen — You Call That an Interview, Matt Lauer? – Rafu Shimpo

  10. John Curtas says:

    I just saw your “demand” for an apology….when it is you calling me a racist.

    I therefore demand that you apologize to me for calling me something that you know isn’t true.

    I will accept nothing more than you publicly admitting that you know I am neither a racist nor insensitive to racial issues, and that all I did was use what you have called a erroneous abbreviation.

    My demand stands Mr. Togashi. You are wrong and you know it…..and I don’t owe you an apology, you owe me one for taking a tiny little mistake and using it for whatever axes you live to grind.

    • Jessie Young says:

      So you admit that you made an “erroneous” abbreviation, which is your attempt at sugarcoating your racist error, but let’s start there. After you knew that you had made an error and had offended people, instead of sincerely apologizing, you acted defensively as if what you did was not very severe. It’s definitely ok to make mistakes. We all do. We are all human. But it’s how we respond after we realize (or people make us realize) those mistakes that define us. And since you are clearly not apologetic for your use of racist language even after you had been told it was racist, then yes, you are a racist and a bigot.

  11. John Curtas says:

    ….and by the way….just some food for thought: When did you and your ilk corner the market on getting their feelings hurt?

    Am I not allowed to point to a bit of family history (in a weak attempt at humor) to point up that there are many sides to having one’s feelings hurt or having a history with slurs, slights and even worse at the hands of another culture?

    You took what you admitted was an oversight (your exact words were: “I know you probably didn’t mean it….”) and have used it to pump up your own agenda.

    It is you Mr. John Togashi, who should be ashamed of yourself.

    Please let me know when you post an apology. You should also send said apology to whomever you sent word of this tempest in a teapot…..since you have gone out of your way to defame my name in the public eye…in the name of your cause….which you have also shamed.

    • Linda Shishino-Cruz says:

      Mr. John Curtas,

      My parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts on both sides of my family were thrown into concentration camps because they were of Japanese descent. My grandparents were immigrants and even before WWII, were not allowed to become citizens due to the Asian Exclusion Act. My parents and their brothers and sisters were all born in the USA and were citizens. All of them were illegally imprisoned and had 2 weeks to discard any property they could not sell and pack their lives into 2 suitcases.

      Many of the young men illegally imprisoned, including 2 of my uncles, volunteered for the army and joined the 442nd RCT/100 MIS, which became (and still is) the most decorated regiment in the history of the USA.

      When they finally got out of concentration camps, they had difficulty finding jobs. In the greater Los Angeles area, you will find large concentrations of Japanese American communities in the Culver City-Venice area and in the Gardena-Torrance area because Japanese Americans were not allowed to buy houses in other areas.

      During this whole time, my family was referred to as “Japs” and NEVER tried to kill your father. In fact, they may have assisted in US intelligence and translation, if your father was in the Pacific theater, and may have fought alongside him if he was in Europe.

      You refer to Germans as “Germans” and not as “Nazis” or “Jew-haters”, or any other offensive terms. Why should we NOT be offended by your use of “Japs”?

    • Kristine says:

      John Curtas:

      You used a racial slur without remorse. Sure, you may have been ignorant to the bitter discrimination and history behind the word, and may have unwittingly brought negative attention on yourself.

      However, that is not the fault of those that are offended as you assert, and is not a case of being “too PC”–it is a racial slur in the English language. The blame rests with you–how many African Americans would you call “unreasonable” for being offended by the N-word?

      Please provide a sincere apology. There is no shame in admitting you were wrong because you simply did not know. However, if you fail to do so, I will be forced to forward all information regarding your racial incensitivity, and use of ethnic slurs, to urge all of your affiliates to reconsider their associations.

      Thank you for your time.

  12. Ken Narasaki says:

    John Curtas:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jap

    You claim to “love Japan and Japanese people”? Then stop using the derogatory term for Japanese people that has been a nasty invective for decades – indeed, for most of the 20th Century. You have been asked to stop using it by several Japanese Americans and rather than apologizing, you’ve instead chosen to attack those people, calling them “hypersensitive language police” and with unconscionable arrogance, have demanded an apology yourself! You say you are not a racist, but guess what? After reading your above note to John Togashi, you have proven to me that you are a racist who is as clueless Paula Deen, who also seemed to have no clue that the racial epithets she used WOULD PISS PEOPLE OFF.

    You do not deserve to have a public forum for your casual racism.

  13. narasaki9 says:

    By the way, for those who would like to follow up on Andy’s suggestion, here’s contact info for the Food Network: http://www.foodnetwork.com/contact-us/package/index.html

  14. Jeff Ecker says:

    Curtas is a well known racist according to many people surrounding the food industry. He bashes the hell out of very reputable establishments that almost always seem to be ethnic. Problem is, he has a reputation of being a drunk. Flo Rogers will defend him no matter what he does or says. That is a proven fact. He has zero cred as a food critic. He is a washed up, bitter attorney that makes a living off of insulting others. He is a cowardly punk!

    • Gann Matsuda says:

      Can you provide evidence of what you claim to be fact? Regardless of what some might think, without evidence, what you said are only allegations without corroboration.

    • Michael Hammond says:

      Talk about cowardly punks, you should look in the mirror. Like you’ve never made a racist remark in your lifetime (and that’s a lot of years). Give me a break. You make up stories about people to fulfill your own agenda. Are we feeling a little schizophrenic, Jeff???

  15. Would it be appropriate for us to run around calling blacks “nigs” because it’s short and cute? Anybody? No? Unfortunately, the people who spout racist slurs don’t get to dictate whether or not others get to be offended by them. Facts are facts: “Jap” was a racist slur used against persons of Japanese descent during WWII, a period during which we also happened to arrest Japanese American citizens and lock them away in poorly disguised concentration camps for no other crimes than being Japanese. You being a comedian who likes to make a habit of insulting people doesn’t excuse you from being a racist bully:

    http://www.abcsofattraction.com/blog/the-racist-bullying-crisis-why-54-of-asian-american-children-are-targeted-by-bullies/

  16. John MP says:

    Well, John Curtis became a white version of Kanye West. Another white nagger trying to play down unacceptable racial behavior via one-upping his own petulant feelings.

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