Camera Rolls: 318:52-56
Sound Rolls: 318:28-30
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Tom and Sadako Kawaguchi , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on March 12, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.*
Kawaguchi, take one. We were talking about the Depression and the coming of the war, I'd like to start earlier in the period and get both of your senses of what it was like growing up in San Francisco in the early '30s. Mrs. Kawaguchi first, tell me what it was like being in a hotel in Chinatown as a little girl.
It was, it was a hard time, but we didn't know any differently because so many of our friends lived the same way. We wore hand-me-downs from my biggest sister down to my sister below me, and we ate a lot of rice with a little bit of meat, a lot of vegetables. We went to school with books laden down, walking miles—it seemed like miles—to school where we met so many of our other Japanese-American friends, as well as I did have some good Caucasian friends too. But outside of that we had a fairly happy childhood.
In other words, you could be poor but happy?
Tommy, your family grew up actually closer to the Japanese community.
Well not actually, we first started out living in a Jewish community. In fact, there were a lot of German Jews and Russian Jews, and in fact I first learned how to swear in Yiddish. And practically all of my friends were Caucasian at that time, until I started grammar school and then, for the first time, I met my first Japanese-American. The school fortunately was only about four or five blocks from the house and so invariably I'd stop by and see some of my friends as I'd go to school.
What, what was the Japanese community like then?
At that time, well Japantown was, oh gee, about six or seven blocks away and we hardly went there, maybe once a month for grocery shopping or whatever.
But was it a little self-contained world?
It was very much a—
I'm sorry, I interrupted you, go ahead.
It was very much a, it was about four blocks east and west and about four blocks north and south, which contained the majority of the Japanese stores and hotels, businesses, and residents. And we moved into Japantown in 1935 and I also started delivering Japanese paper about that time, and I was delivering it in Japantown and at that time I think I was delivering something like 150 papers.
Did you have a sense of how San Francisco was doing in general, would you see problems in other parts of the city?
Well, most my friends were, their parents were working for either another Japanese or doing domestic work primarily because jobs were scarce and very hard to get, and somehow or another, well we were relatively poor, and our friends were about in the same boat and we didn't give it a second thought. We had our community activities, we had our boy scout troops, the YMCA, so we had a pretty good program going as far as the community was concerned. Also our parents had their clubs and organizations which had picnics annually or some sort of gathering and even the YMCA and YWCA would put on shows—
When you were a kid during that period would you have to go to the Japanese language schools and what did you think about doing that?
[smiles] That's been a very sensitive subject with my parents. [laughs]
Well I mean that was an important part of—
Right, well my father, he went to high school in San Francisco and so he spoke English, and whereas my mother was too busy raising seven kids and so she spoke broken English, but then at the same time, when we conversed with her was primarily Japanese. And one day they decided that I should go to a Japanese school. I fought against it, but I lost and I went, but I didn't last very long because—
Hang on for a second we've got a plane. Cut.
Take two, three minutes until-
OK, start off with when your parents decided you had to-
Yeah, my mother and father decided that I should go to a Japanese school and I fought against it and lost, so I went to Japanese school. And it was kind of embarrassing because here I was already about thirteen, fourteen years old, and here I'm competing against eight or nine year old kids. And I was starting from scratch, and I studied, but I just didn't like it at all and I lasted exactly six months and I finally quit. [laughs] And, in fact I was sort of goofing off by going there and all I did was play football or basketball with the kids, and when we went to school, their system was so archaic, I tell you it was terrible. We'd stand in front of the teacher and be reading aloud, whatever the Japanese characters were and so forth, and sometimes I didn't even know what the character was, [laughs] but I just kept mumbling along and got away with it I thought [laughs], until the teacher says, "Wait," and then says, "Kausan[?], would you repeat that again?" And I said, "I don't know what this is." [laughs] So one day I got a visit, my parents got a visit and the teacher says, "Your son hasn't been to school," [laughs] and my parents finally relented about my not going because they saw I was fighting against it. But I regretted it later, believe me.
Let's cut for a second. How are you on the—
Kawaguchi, take three.
OK, let's shift gears and move on a couple years in the decade and move on to Treasure Island. Mrs. Kawaguchi maybe you can tell us how it was that you came to get the job at the Island and what you did there?
Well I didn't go to work-
Can you, can you turn a little bit more so you face me.
I didn't go to work until 1940. The fair itself had—
Could you start again?
OK, let's start all over again. OK, go ahead.
Well, the fair didn't open, I mean the fair opened in 1939 and I didn't go to work until 1940, and I think I also only went to work because the bulk of the ladies that worked there in '39 were busy going to school, they all were going to Cal Berkeley, but I didn't, I was going to a business school and I was free during summer so I went to work there. It was a good time in my life, I enjoyed it, and it was a beautiful place to go to work. But
you could tell that things were going to change. One by one the big pavilions that was [sic] open from Europe closed. The French,
** I don't think the English had a different pavilion, but the Swedish, the European pavilions closed because of the war,
** and so I think it was only a handful of Asian pavilions open. Chinese, Japanese, and I don't know if any of the, the Southeast Asian pavilions were open at that time, but it was a wonderful time of my life. It was pretty. Now with the theme parks like Disneyland, I guess you can't compare it like it was when we went to, up to Vancouver a few years ago. What else do I remember about—
But you hadn't seen theme parks then, you hadn't seen anything like this before.
No, but I'm trying to think of the way it looks like now.
When we were talking before you said something that really summed it up. I don't want to put words in your mouth but before you said, you said, "that being at Treasure Island was the last beautiful moment that you remember,"-
And it's true.
Can you say that again for me?
Well, when I think of Treasure Island I think that it was the last perfect time of my life
** because it was something I had never seen before, very international, saw things from the other countries. The Japan pavilion where I worked was also very—what's the right word?—I guess it showed me the kind of things Japan had that I hadn't seen. They had beautiful pearl necklaces, silk materials, opies, lacquer boxes, porcelain cups, saucers—
So this was important because it was learning about your own culture?
Mr. Kawaguchi, you, you spent some time over there. You performed and you visited, tell me what you remember there.
Well it was like going to a fairyland. It was kind of a make-believe feeling and I think the nearest thing to that today probably would be Disneyland or Epcot Center. And we used to go there almost every other week. I was playing in a drum-bugle corp, and I was also playing in a band, and so we'd go over and [coughs] march in the parade and stuff because they used to have a parade almost every other week. But what I really enjoyed watching was the 30th infantry during their retreat program. They had these beautiful colors—the American flag—and the infantry would be one company would line up below it and they would do the manual of arms, which was letter perfect, I've never seen it done that perfect before. And the band itself, it was probably about a hundred piece band, and it had a bugle corp right behind it and I was just fascinated. Every time I'd go there I made sure I got there in time for the retreat.
Tell me a little bit about the rest of the fair, about the exhibits and the Gateway, what was all that like?
Well, I'll tell you that the
one pavilion that we kind of enjoyed was the French pavilion and we enjoyed going out to eat lunch, and especially the waitresses. They wore these real petite outfits and the fellows all used to enjoy that [laughs].
** But in the Gateway of all things, if I'd be there with my business suit on, I'd be walking up the Gateway and happen to pass a Sally Rand's Nude Ranch, the barker there would try and drag me in and, but when I'm in my band uniform or boy scout uniform, he says, "Go away son, go away," and so, you know, it's kind of a—but the Gateway was really a fun place for the different kinds of games that they had there, and rides.
Were you attracted to the Japanese pavilion at all, did you-?
Oh yes. We used to go there all the time.
Could you say, "We used to go to the Japanese pavilion" because we don't know where "there" is. Just start over and say "We used to go..."
Yeah, we used to go to the Japanese pavilion, and generally we [sic] run into our friends, and at the same time, they had a tempura bar there and when you eat a tempura bar there it was really hot, I mean he was cooking it right in front of you so that you could eat it. And, fortunately at that time I was working so I could afford to go ahead and do that.
Do you have any of the same sense for the period that Sadako had, that underneath this wonderful surface there was some tension. Were you thinking about those other things?
Yes. Well I felt that because, since I was working for a Jap—
What did you feel? I felt that—?
I felt the tension and some anxiety because I was working for an import/export company—Japanese import/export—and at that time already many of the products was [sic] being embargoed, and the Treasury department was there to make sure that only certain things were on the bills of ladings and so forth. And so, the tensions were there and somehow or another I felt that it was going to come to something much, much larger than what I expected of course.
Well that brings up an interesting question because a lot of people who were worried in 1939 and '40 were worried about Europe, was, were you, when you felt the tension were you thinking there might be war with Japan or were you thinking that the European war was gonna [ [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] ]?
Well, I didn't think Japan would be foolish enough to attack the United States, that's one thing, because I knew it's capabilities and Japan was just the size of California and they didn't have the resources. But yet we were selling them scrap iron, aviation gas, crude oil, and somehow or another I kinda felt that someday they're gonna throw this thing back at us. And so I had made plans to quit my job and go back to school, but then of course Pearl Harbor happened.
Let's, let's move over to Mrs. Kawaguchi. You were telling me that you didn't believe the war would ever come with Japan either.
Right, probably it was, maybe because we felt that it wouldn't, it shouldn't happen so we just felt that it wouldn't happen. I was, we were all pretty politically naive, we only knew what we read in the papers, they didn't have television then so that television really gives out a lot of information that—
You were telling me that you remember talking with one of your friends who thought differently, who thought—
He was a far—
Start, start, start all over again. Tell me.
Our friend was a far deep thinker than the rest of us. We would be sitting around when we were going to school and talking about dances and what we were going to do when we got out of school, and to him we were talking very frivolously, and he said, "You mark my words, we're going to go to war." And we said, "Well we're already at war," this was back in '39, he said, "Well I'm not talking about war in Europe," he says, "It's going to be with Japan." And we all cruded [sic], just laughed it off just like we knew better than him, but it ended up that he probably knew a little more about what might happen than the rest of us.
Let's cut for a minute.
Kawaguchi, take four.
The last question I have, I don't know if either one of you has any thoughts on this, and I'm still talking about the prewar period before Pearl Harbor, were you, for example Mr. Kawaguchi, were you aware growing up here of any sort of on-going anti-Japanese sentiment, did you, did you notice that or feel it?
Yes, I, well I first noticed it when I was in the boy scouts. We had gone to a swimming pool and they wouldn't allow the Japanese-Americans in the swimming pool, they were forbidden and that was it. And also barber shops. I was wondering why my father always cut my hair, and then I found out why. The barber shops wouldn't cut any Japanese hairs. That was until I moved to Japantown, then of course we had our Japanese barbers and that was the first time I got a professional haircut. And so I did notice these things and generally during my high school time, when I go to high school I'll have my Caucasian friends and so forth, but when I come home it's all my Japanese friends. And so the activities that I got involved in were primarily a boy scout troop consisting only of Japanese-Americans, and in fact last year they celebrated their 75th anniversary and they've been invited by Washington D.C. for the Fourth of July Independence Parade.
How about you Mrs. Kawaguchi? Did, growing up in San Francisco were you aware of any problems directed towards Japanese or any bad feelings?
No, I can't say that I could remember any special incidents that makes me think that there was anti-Japanese incidents, only what I read in the paper.
You didn't ever have any problems yourself?
Well let's go on to, to the day everything changed, December 7th. Mr. Kawaguchi you, you told me that you had been in the library that day and you never really noticed-
I was in the library, I was in the library that day and when I came out
the first thing that hit me was the newspaper. It says, "Pearl Harbor Bombed," and
** I said, "Where in the world is Pearl Harbor?" And then when I looked at the headlines very carefully it says "Jap Bombers Bombed Pearl Harbor. And I had the funniest feeling all of the sudden, I felt like everybody and their uncle was looking at me so I hurried home. When I got to Japantown the place looked as though it was deserted.
** No one was out in the streets, and some of the stores were still open, and as soon as I got home my parents said, "Stay home, we don't want you to be wandering around," and as I looked out the window, I could see extra police cars in the area. And suddenly I began to see,
** I guess they could either have been detectives or FBI agents
** because they were in the area, and had a completely different feel all of the sudden. I suddenly felt insecure.
** I don't know quite how to describe it but it was a funny feeling, it was the funniest feeling I ever had. And that was on December 7th, but gradually it wore out as public information began to come out.
Now you saw some people that looked like agents and police on the street?
But you [Mrs. Kawaguchi] actually saw them come to the house.
Yes. They must have come maybe about four or five days after Pearl Harbor. My father was very active in the Japanese community and belonged to the Japanese Association, which acted like a middle-man between the City Hall and the Japanese community so that when they had things like, in those days called Community Chess Drives, or if there were any Japanese important person who came to San Francisco, the City Hall would approach Japanese Association to put on a reception—that kind of a thing—for them. But because he was active his name was probably on the list of those that the FBIs were alerted to pick up. They also had a list of former Japanese army or navy people who had since left the service and come to America, and we had a friend who lived only a few blocks away and he was picked up almost immediately by the FBI right after Pearl Harbor. And there were some others who also were gone to immigration I guess-
[ [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] ] three of four days, were you worried about your father?
Yes, we did. We kind of felt that if his other friends were—I hate to use the word picked up—taken away by the FBI it would be a matter of time. My father was halfway prepared. He had a suitcase packed, and when they came—two men came—it was by then no surprise. He had already told my mother and my older sister, who was in charge, what to do about keeping the hotel that my father was running, how to keep it going, how to take care of it financially, and he went prepared, my father did.
Well tell me, I mean you, you had been worried, you'd been expecting it, and so it finally happened, did it seem fair?
Well we never stopped to think that there was fair or unfair, unfortunately because his friends went it's almost like we thought, well inevitably Papa will go too.
Now, now let's talk a little bit about the two or three months between Pearl Harbor and the evacuation. First of all, between December 7th and whenever the evacuation order was issued, did you have a sense that things were going to get worse, when did you feel vulnerable?
I really felt vulnerable was when the Executive Order 9066 came out, but at that time we kind of felt that our parents would be primarily the target.
Yeah, let's stop for a second.
OK, I was asking if you felt apprehensive but let me put the question a different way. What did you feel when the order came out? How did you react?
When the Executive Order 9066 came out we were astonished really. At that time I was doing some volunteer work for the JACL in San Francisco because it was a couple doors from my house, and when the Executive Order came out and we were trying to interpret what they were trying to say, we kind of felt that it was primarily for our parents, who were not citizens. But then we looked at the Order that says Aliens and Non-Aliens and we said, Non-Aliens, I wonder who they could be? And finally it became quite obvious as to who the Non-Aliens were. And so it meant that the citizens would also be incarcerated. And we finally got our word a week before May 1st, to gather our materials together and-
But even, even before that, I mean, did it, did it—
I'm sorry I didn't do that long enough, I didn't mean to—
[ [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] ]
That's OK, that's OK. I mean, how did you respond to the fact that you as a United States citizen were going to be locked up?
Well, it's really, somehow or another, our parents had always taught us to respect the laws and so forth, and at the same time the JACL had stated that we'll cooperate with the government any way we can for the war effort and so consequently we accepted that fact and says [sic] well, that's what they want us to do, I guess this is our way of proving our loyalty or whatever. And so when we received our notice a week before, we then began to gather all of our property together and so forth and they told us that the government will protect our property, place it in storage and so on, which turned out to be just a few words because we lost just about everything. We was [sic] looted and it was gone. But it was on May 1st that we actually moved to Tanforan Assembly Center, which is the race track down in San Bruno.
Wait, back up a little bit. I understand how in terms of the value of your respect for authority and how that works in Japanese society, but—
—was there another part of you that said, well I know I have to do this, that there's something wrong here?
That's roll out.
Let's change. I'm asking for a moral judgment.
Kawaguchi, take six.
I guess I wanted to get one more, one more level of your thoughts. I know that you felt that you had to cooperate and that in fact that was expressed that that was how you were supposed to help the war effort, but on a moral level what did you think of the situation?
At first I was angry, I was very angry at first. I says [sic], well I'm an American citizen, why should I be going into an internment camp and so forth? But then, of course the cooler heads were telling us that, well it's the law right now and we don't have much choice, and they're stating that it's a military necessity and of course you can't challenge that. And at the same time I guess we were kind of naive too because the military, as long as the military...as long as the city government was operating or the state government was operating, military law had no effect. But we didn't know that. Much of this came out later when they had the investigation and so forth, but at that time most of us were a little bit upset, and, but the word came out from our community leaders at that time, the younger—well actually there was the older Nisei's—said, well there's only one way to go. We've got to cooperate and at that time we were told that the army was ready to move in if we didn't cooperate.
People, other people have talked to me who certainly weren't forced to go into camps said that it's very hard to understand the atmosphere of fear and almost hysteria at that time, that people were really afraid. Do you think that that would be a sufficient justification for what happened?
No, no because the thing is, I myself, and my brother and I, we were prepared to volunteer to go into the service and the word came back that they would not accept any Japanese-Americans for the service. And, we knew very little about Japan actually and at the same time our parents had told us that this is your country and this is your home, you've got to protect your own home and you're own country. And there was no question in their minds which made it easier for my brother and I to later volunteer for the services because my dad especially liked it here and he just, he never did go back to Japan, nor did my mother, and at the same time they never spoke about ever going to Japan. They found that this was their home and that they were going to build it.
Were there, were there any voices raised to support the Japanese during that period, did you have any friends?
We had a couple Caucasian friends who were very kind and tried to assist us in any way that they could. And there was one fellow who was more or less our music director and he worked very closely with us, but he was finally threatened by the FBI that he could no longer visit his Japanese friends and that he must leave San Francisco. And he ended up in Salt Lake City himself.
Well you've told me that there was a lot of, I mean once the evacuation, that there was a lot of anti-Japanese feeling, that the Chinese wore buttons saying "I'm not Japanese."
Tell me about that.
Well that was one of the first things that the newspapers began to publish about the evacuation and so forth, the Chinese felt threatened so they start wearing the buttons that says, "I am a Chinese-American," and that kind of hit us in the wrong nerve because we didn't have our friends or not even the ACLU did come to our rescue. Except, the director of Northern California, the National Group did not come.
I don't know if either one of you saw, there's a photograph that Dorothea Lange took in that period of a Japanese-American store in Oakland, and it has a sign across it saying, "I am an American."
Wait, that's the one time [?] company—
That Japanese-Americans were Americans too, weren't they?
How did you [Mrs. Kawaguchi] feel about going in the camps? Did you feel you didn't have any choice?
Right, it's that Japanese shitakani[sic], it was, it became the law at that time so we just abide, and went and abide by it. My father was already away, he was sent to North Dakota I think. My mother was not the leader of the family, my sister took that role, and she's the one that did all of the registering of the family, getting all-
Let's stop for a second. We have a—
No, no, mark again. I didn't have the pre-roll up.
OK, second mark.
Second slate. Take seven. Mrs. Kawaguchi tell me, can you remember the actual day that you packed up and left for the camp? Tell me a little bit about what you felt and what you went through that day.
Wait a second, let the motorcycle...OK.
OK, go ahead.
We actually left San Francisco on April 6th. I had two married sisters, one living on the, in the Japantown. We were living on the outskirts so we were the first to go, and another sister living in Berkley and she could not come over to say goodbye to us because I think they were, they were limited where they could travel to. So my sister in San Francisco and her husband came down to help us bring the hand baggage that we were allowed to carry. And we ordered a taxi and we all piled in there and we went out to Venice Avenue. It was a big Red Cross building there and there were buses waiting for us over there. And they took us down to the waterfront where the trains were waiting for us.
Did you, did you have a sense that day that that was the end of a certain way of life or that everything would be different?
Well, you just felt that something different was going to happen, the fact that we were going to go on a train, we didn't know where we were going to go, my two oldest sisters didn't come with us, my father wasn't there, you just knew there was going to be something different in the future. However, ultimately we did all end up in the same relocation camps.
Mr. Kawaguchi can you talk a little bit about the day you were evacuated?
It was on May 1st, 1942 that we were evacuated to Tanforan Assembly Center, and we assembled on Bush and Buchanan Street in the early morning and the buses were there to take us to Tanforan. And we arrived at Tanforan and were greeted by some of our friends who were there earlier. And that first day was a daze of horror, believe me. When we arrived there the baggage was piled high and we were told that they will be delivered to our barracks—whatever barracks we will be in—and so we arrived in the barracks—the room was twenty by twenty—and five adults would be in that particular room. And we were more fortunate than some of the other people because the others were in the horse stalls—
And you at least had a room.
—and I had a regular barracks that was just constructed, newly constructed.
Before you talk about that let me, let me ask you, when you were waiting there to be evacuated did you really understand then, in terms of what that meant, that this was the last chapter of that one period of your life?
I think most of us felt that we more or less psychologically treated it as an adventure because many of us didn't travel too much in those days and it seemed like it was just going to be an adventure, and we tried to approach it that way. And my father being an invalid took most of our attention, especially helping him on a bus or making sure that he was comfortable, and my mother, so that—
—we were too busy trying to take care of each other to really give it some—
Cut. We have to change film.
OK, again, time, time to think about things, time to figure out what really happened. Sometimes one's view changes and as you were saying you were both going through the process, even if you wanted to think you didn't have time to think because you were trying to keep your lives together, and it was probably better to be positive because that was a better way to get through it. But now, looking back at it, do you have any, do you have a different thought about it now than you did then?
No, I still have the same feeling of anger that such a thing did happen, but I was never bitter. The one thing that I realize about America is that there are a lot of good people here and it's just a few that happened to be in power at the time and playing their game as they were. And it was primarily the political leadership was poor and they succumbed to the pressures of some oppression groups, and of course it was economic gain by many of the farmers and property owners and so forth, and so they saw an opportunity to take over. And a good example also is in the Chinatown, San Francisco. The majority of the better stores were owned by the Japanese, but once the Japanese had moved out the Chinese had literally taken over. And today I believe there's only one or two Japanese art good stores in Chinatown. And the other opportunities of course, the farms were taken over, the businesses were taken over, and some people never recovered. Others were fortunate enough to have friends take over and had the property maintained until they returned.
When I think of what really happened, the destruction of the Japanese community, the destruction of the family relationships, the price that was paid by the Japanese-Americans was very high.
** And my father, for example, died shortly after he came out of the camp. He was an invalid at the time when he went in, and of course medical care was minimal at best, and if it weren't for the doctors, the Japanese-American doctors who brought their own medicine and their own equipment in order to maintain some sort of medical services, again, it was these kinds of things that really made me angry. They talked in terms of that we were comfortable and so forth and it was to the contrary. In fact when I joined the army it was just like seventh heaven. The food was good, the accommodations were fine and so forth, whereas in the camp it was just the opposite. The food was terrible, the accommodations were almost primitive.
Mrs. Kawaguchi have you thought more about it, I mean, obviously it's there and, let me put it his way, when you've thought about it more have you thought about it differently than you thought about it then?
Well the unfairness is always in my mind of the whole evacuation, but it also, the evacuation also opened up other areas to us. With the bad came some good, and my father encouraged us to leave the camp—he didn't in the beginning. He wanted us all to be together—but he encouraged us to leave. And leaving camp and going to other parts of the country opened our eyes to the opportunities for us here. But the fact that we were evacuated, the unfairness is always there. The feeling of unfairness.
Do you, do you think America learned something from that?
Well I hope so. I do get encouraged sometimes by what I read in the papers, the open letters to the editors, that there are some who still writes very bitter and tight Japanese or anti-Japanese-American letters. But every time you read one of those, the following week there'll be another one who writes really encouraging words of understanding and support for what the Japanese-Americans have gone through.
Mr. Kawaguchi, let me ask you the same question, do you think America learned the right thing from that experience?
Let's wait for—
Oh, let's cut.
Kawaguchi, take nine.
I guess I was just starting to ask, or you were starting to answer, whether America learned the right lessons from that experience?
I hope so. Somehow or another I wonder because, especially when the Iran deal came along, or the Iraq deal, they were prepared to take anyone of the Middle East and lock 'em up, and so—
Well I imagine you would like people, the lesson you would like people to learn is that it should never happen again.
It should never happen again.
Can you say that again?
That it should never happen again.
No just say, "It should never happen again."
It should never happen again. And the one thing that makes me angry, especially with these hate letters that come out and these anti-Japanese-American things that come out, is that I know the price that we paid, I know that we fought during World War II, we fought in Korea, we fought Vietnam, Grenada, and we've paid the price, and the maximum price. Some of those young men that I remember who died on the battle field, they were only eighteen, nineteen year old kids, and they never had a chance to see what was happening. I doubt if they'll ever know what we had achieved during that period. And when I think about it, when I was serving in Vietnam, again it was the same way. I felt that somehow or other we need to educate the young people and let them know the price that we pay for racism, and essentially that's what it was. When you get down to basics, more recently on a television program someone says, "Why do you call yourself Japanese-Americans? Why don't you just call yourself Americans?" Well, you know, when you look at a person's face and—
Let me turn the question around the other way. Why do you think America can't allow people to be different, as we saw in the '30s? The Japanese were locked up because they were different.
Well, I really don't think that they were different really because it isn't the way you look or the color, it's what's inside of you and how you feel. And more recently, the more recent immigrants that have come in, they tells us, "There's no place like the United States," they says [sic], "You don't know what freedom is until you live in the other countries." And says, "You come to the United States," and says, "gee, you're really your own person."
Well would you agree with the statement that some people have made about the '30s that one of the things that happened from the decade and America going to war was that democracy was strengthened?
Somehow or other. Was strengthened for who? That's essentially the question that I come up with because many times when I meet some new Caucasian friends, their immediate reaction is, "Where are you from?" And I says, "Well I'm from San Francisco," and he says, "No, where are you really from?" I say, "Well I'm really from Tacoma, Washington, that's where I was born." "Oh, well no wonder you speak English well," you know, and one time I just responded, "So do you." [laughs] "So what do you do?" I mean this essentially is where the problem is. They look at your face and says, gee, he must be from China or Vietnam or Japan or some place.
Well, I could, I think racism is a good way to describe it.