Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hiro Nishimura Interview
Narrator: Hiro Nishimura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: April 28, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-nhiro-01-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: And so describe, for you, as you go to school like at Garfield, you're mingling with other ethnic groups. How did --

HN: No, no mingling. No, no mingling. No, no. No such thing. No, no. It's an entirely different world from your world.

TI: Describe that. What do you mean by this?

HN: We Nikkei, my friends, to my knowledge, none of us had hakujin friends, meaning they didn't associate with us. No Nikkei that I knew of, my Nisei friends, boys and girls, had any hakujin friends or black friends, for that matter. We were classmates, we may say "hello" in the hallway, but nobody had hakujin friends. There was one guy in Tacoma, hakujin, Hall, in Tacoma, that I used to see him mingling with Japanese. That's the only hakujin that I knew that mingled in the Japanese community. Seattle, nobody that I knew, my friends, had hakujin -- nobody had hakujin friends.

TI: So explain to me, I don't understand why. Why was this?

HN: Because the first generation whites are discriminatory, prejudiced. That's why the kids didn't associate with us. We didn't go to prom, high school prom, no reason to. We were outcasts. Well, it's not so much that, we won't enjoy ourselves, why should we go there?

TI: And these, your classmates that were white, how did they treat the Japanese?

HN: Just ignore us. They weren't discriminatory, they just ignored us. They weren't racist, they just ignored us. Well, that comes from their parents. Their parents, the first generation, were very, very prejudicial. Not the kids' fault, now, I don't blame the kids. But anyway, I understand why they don't associate with us. So I tell my kids, and I'll tell you, you say, "What? What? You didn't... so what?" Well, it's not like, it wasn't like that. But what changed it? What changed that? What changed that scenario? How come the Sanseis had a lot of white friends now?

TI: And why do you think?

HN: Why do I think? Because of what you call the past hurts of the Issei and Nisei. Of what we went, what the Issei and Nisei did, our achievement, individual and collectively, our achievement.

TI: So that because of the achievements of the Issei and then the Niseis, that made it much easier for the Sanseis to have friends?

HN: No, no. Well, that, too, but mostly the whites, the general society's acknowledgment, understanding of the virtues, you might say, the virtues of the Japanese people, the Nikkei.

TI: Got it. Okay, good. Well, so we talked about the whites. How about other ethnic groups like the Chinese or the blacks? How did the Japanese get along?

HN: You know, speaking of the Chinese, for whatever reason, they were like this. [Makes a 'V' sign with fingers] Chinese and Japanese were. Now, there was really prejudice there because of the past history Japan and China had. They didn't have a very good relationship, right? They were at war most of the time. So for that reason, I don't blame the Chinese. But the Chinese were very prejudicial, and they didn't want anything to do with the Japanese. I don't blame them, I don't care, personally. So Chinese were in the minority anyway, compared to...

TI: And how about blacks? At, like, Garfield, was there...

HN: Yeah, a lot of blacks, but you know, I think the Nisei, the Nikkei, we were not too much into intermingling with other minorities. I think today it would be a little different, it's very diversified. At those times, everybody kept to themselves, especially the Chinese.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.