Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kara Kondo Interview
Narrator: Kara Kondo
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Gail Nomura (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 7 & 8, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-kkara-01-0029

<Begin Segment 29>

AI: What, what came to your mind about your identity as an American at that time? Your feelings about your country?

KK: Well, I think, the thing we noticed was some of the guards were Chinese and they would wear their "I'm Chinese" buttons and, although we looked a great deal alike. And so the identity became... I don't know. I think it becomes almost a personal kind of thing. You do value your own identity. But I don't think, ever, that we would dream of, saying, being repatriated, although I'm sure some people felt that way. And, and you just --

AI: You mean, for example, your parents, being repatriated to Japan. Or you being expatriated.

KK: The, whole families, later. Some of them felt that strong. But I, I don't think... I think we felt eventually we would be released, but we never knew just exactly when. And I know that the sentiment was, "Well, you're just going to be like the Native Americans. You're going to be put on the reservation and you'll never get out," or whatever. That was the kind of attitude. And I believe that the government, our government didn't want that, either. So...

AI: You know, that is so interesting to me because I had heard about this idea that some people were thinking about reservations for the Japanese Americans and the Issei parents, but it's interesting to hear it from you because you lived right there at the reservation --

KK: Yes. Uh-huh.

AI: -- unlike many of the other West Coast Japanese Americans who were nowhere near a reservation.

KK: Yes.

AI: So, for you, did it sound like it could have been more possible?

KK: I... you, you heard all kinds of rumors, and you entertained all kinds of ideas. I think the main attitude was the, that your freedom was taken away, and what would replace that? I don't think one could worry whether it would be reservation, whether you would stay there forever, whether you were going to be shipped somewhere else. And then, certainly, I don't think we were aware of what was happening in Europe like the Holocaust. It was never that clear to us, nor was it publicized to us as much. And I recall that the sergeant who was in charge of the, our evacuation in Wapato, had taken me aside and said, "Why are you letting them do this to you?" And I was so -- I was stunned. And he said, "We go into a community and we check the police files. We find nothing. We check the, go to the school and check their files and reports and we find nothing. And we see no reason why they should do this to you." And here it was his job to, to help us entrain and evacuate. I was really stunned and, and he was very serious. And, but he probably, he was from Brooklyn. He was Jewish. He probably knew, understood what was happening in Europe and Germany. And I'm sure he felt the injustice being done, but... and I can remember. And that was part of my testimony to the redress committee, that experience with him.

And, and then I realized that not everyone -- even those who had to perform the task of helping us evacuate or be responsible for our evacuation -- felt the same way. So I think the idea of freedom is very important to everyone. And sometimes, you know, we, as Japanese, were probably -- even having gone through the experience -- probably are not as, not as enthusiastic or supportive of other groups or individuals or races who have, who have endured similar kind of deprivation, whether it would be for civil rights or because of a war that is unpopular or in the current time when there's such emphasis on Muslim, Muslims. So, and I don't think the Japanese were so -- we as Japanese did not, were very reluctant to enter into the Civil Rights movement, for instance. And there were not many Japanese who, who... who may have been sympathetic, but I don't think they were very open about it. And some of us are very prejudiced, too, very critical of other races, as well. Aren't we? [Laughs]

AI: Well, you know, you had mentioned, I think a little bit earlier about how through this early so-called "evacuation" period that, that some of the, the Issei had more of a stoic attitude and shikata ga nai or, in other words, "this can't be helped." But that some of you, of the younger Nisei generation, were a little bit more vocal about your thoughts about it. And so, among yourselves or even at North Portland, did you have some discussion about that this wasn't right or what was being done to you?

KK: In North Portland it was, we were so close together it just seemed like we were just living on top of each other. There wasn't a period of time where there was any really quiet time where we could even get together and talk about it. But in Heart Mountain there were those of us who talked about some of the freedoms and the lack of freedom and what might happen to us, too. In Heart Mountain, we, there were groups who talked about it. And, of course, then, the next issue was the resisters and the --

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.