Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Akiko Kurose Interview I
Narrator: Akiko Kurose
Interviewer: Matt Emery
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 17, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-kakiko-01-0008

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ME: I'm curious, your family, for back then, when the four of you were younger, seems like it was very progressive for the time. I don't imagine that if you went into the Japanese, the Japanese American community, that you found the Jewish, the Chinese American, the African American kids and families over at those homes?

AK: Not that much. And also, we didn't talk about classism. And until I was married I had never heard about the Ainus, or the etas or whatever. We just never discussed things like that. And then I noticed that there was prejudice against the etas, for instance, they considered them lower class. And I think all these kinds of concepts maybe came up in camp. And I don't know if that was regular practice of criticizing; or looking down at people of that group or not... but, yeah. And we didn't get into the kenjinkais like... kenjinkai is the groups where people go and form their social clubs by the prefecture that they lived in, and the area they lived in. And we weren't that much involved in that as such, you know, my folks were always working. And my father believed in cooperatives and he... no, after we came back from the camps, he helped form the Porter's Railroad Worker's Union, you know, the Porter's union. So that the blacks and the Japanese worked together and there wouldn't be the pitting against each other, which happened when -- all the porters, before the war, were Japanese. And when we were all incarcerated, then most of the porters became blacks. Then when they came back, when the Japanese came back from the war, they wanted their jobs and the railroad would give them their jobs and then there was this pitting against each other. And so my father thought it would good to form a union. And then they worked together. And so that was really nice.

ME: And he helped form that union?

AK: Yes. And so I was the secretary for that union. [Laughs]

ME: How do you think that other Japanese households viewed your family, knowing that you were so accepting of other races?

AK: Well, I don't really know. Except that I'd hear like some of the parents saying, "Well, they shouldn't bring a black to the house," or something like that. Or, "So-and-so is going with a black," and it was very, like almost a shame kind of thing, you know. And also, we didn't go to the traditional Japanese school. We went to a school that was run by a couple that had a... well, the other people would say it was an inferior school. It wasn't. We went to a Japanese school where one of the Japanese language teachers was black. And it was Evelyn Whistler, was our Japanese school teacher. So there was a lot of progressive people around. And Mr. and Mrs. Ishii, who ran the school, just hired for, what do you say -- competence. And so, with Evelyn's qualifications, they felt, they felt it was very natural to hire her as a teacher. And I don't think it would have happened at the other Japanese language school.

ME: But if you go just a little bit outside of the community, you see things like that happening.

AK: Uh-huh.

ME: That is quite unheard of, for the most part. Especially, this is in the '30s right? A black Japanese language teacher.

AK: Uh-huh. And I don't know where Evelyn learned her Japanese. She was excellent. And so here she was, a Japanese school teacher. And I think she was in college or something. And she was doing this as part-time work.

ME: You don't know where she learned, huh?

AK: She may have learned from Mr. and Mrs. Ishii. Who knows?

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.