Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Roger Daniels Interview II
Narrator: Roger Daniels
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 21, 2013
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-415-11

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So we're at UCLA, you now know...

RD: Know Harry.

TI: ...Harry.

RD: And Harry had an existing contract with Prentice Hall to write a book about racial prejudice in California, and he asked me if I would like to participate. I said that might be very interesting, and he talked about how it would work, and this sort of thing. And I remember we went up to Berkeley to see the academic editor for the series, a distinguished sociologist called Neil Smelser, S-M-E-L-S-E-R. That may be wrong, but you can find him. And he gave us some good notions, and we put together, I think, a very, very nice book. This was fairly late in my time at UCLA. I remember I finished my part of the writing in Wyoming. Harry and I, as I said, just had no problems. To our surprise, Prentice Hall changed the title. I forget what our title was, but it was about California because that's what the book is about. But they made it American Racism. I think we called it California Racism, but I'm not sure about that. Or I think we called it Racism in California, and they changed the title to American Racism. I called up the editor in New York, not Smelser, because he didn't have anything to do with it. And I said, "What's all this about?" I said, "Are you going to change the content?" "No, the content's the same." I said, "We're talking mostly about California." He said, "That's all right. This will sell books." And he was absolutely correct, because it sold. It was the first paperback book available for adoption to use the term "racism." Came out right at the start of the '70s, and was really hot stuff, and it lasted for a long time.

TI: And who would buy this book? When you say it's "hot stuff," was it other universities?

RD: This was for adoptions. I mean, we used to get these computer printouts of everybody who'd bought 'em. And one of the things I kept noticing was that semester in and semester out, we were selling hundreds of copies in Anchorage, Alaska. Well, I eventually put some inquiries, and it turns out that there was a course that everybody in that college had to take. This was the big campus of the University of Alaska which is in Fairbanks, it was a subsidiary, although Anchorage is a much bigger city. And there was this course that everybody had to take about... I forget what they called it, but something about "varieties of ethnicity in America," and this was it. Later, all kinds of books, there were many, many competing books. And Harry and I went on to write a book that was really about American racism with separate chapters on every Asian American group.

TI: So that was later on, Asian Americans.

RD: Yes. But that was a term that I don't think we used in the first book. That was a new term. And that book changed over the years. Because when we started writing about it, Japanese Americans were the most numerous group. By the time we did our last edition, Japanese American population was declining, and five other Asian American ethnic groups had over a million persons.

TI: So Japanese Americans were then number six, I think it was.

RD: Yes.

TI: It's amazing when I look at the differences. But going back to the book American Racism, so it sold well. How important is that to a young professor? I mean, did that provide a pretty good revenue stream for you in those early days?

RD: Well, it was not so much that it dwarfed my salary, but it significantly supplemented my salary, and it was like found money. In the early days, we had our budget and this sort of thing, and we knew we could do that. And then these checks would come in, and they were, you'd get two a year, and there were two of us. But my checks would be, except for the first one, which was very big, my semi-annual checks were never as much as a thousand dollars. But they were several hundred dollars, and they came twice a year, and that was very, very convenient money.

TI: And so did it surprise you how well the book did?

RD: Oh, couldn't believe it, couldn't believe how well it did. And at the same time, by that time, The Politics of Prejudice -- on which I hadn't made a penny -- had been picked up as a quality paperback, and that began to have significant income. Never as big as the American Racism book, but there was another energy stream.

TI: And so I noticed, in Politics of Prejudice, that was reissued several times. Originally '62, second edition '78, enlarged 1981, and then another one in 1999. American Racism, that didn't happen. Why wasn't that reissued?

RD: Because the field had gotten beyond it. Asian America took its place. It was reprinted many times, but we never changed it.

TI: And tell me about American Racism. So it's about racism in California, so what did you focus on? What was the new ground covered with this?

RD: Well, it was all new ground; nobody had done anything like that. We talked about Indians, native peoples; we talked about Hispanics; we talked about Chinese; we talked about Japanese; we talked about Filipinos; we talked about racism as a phenomenon; we talked about prejudice. And "prejudice" is in the subtitle, but what is the subtitle exactly?

TI: Exploration of the Nature of Prejudice.

RD: Yes. So this was new stuff.

TI: And with this new material, did you and Professor Kitano go out and speak more about this? Or what roles did the two of you play?

RD: We began to be popular for interviews and this sort of thing. Harry and I also put together the first academic exploration of the incarceration. We had a meeting on the UCLA campus, public meeting, with a number of outside speakers, a conference, for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the incarceration at a time when nobody was talking about it.

TI: Right, so you talked about this last at the last interview.

RD: Okay, we know all about it.

TI: But I was thinking, so the book American Racism came after that conference. Was that being written, or was this combination happening with you and Harry at this point?

RD: I can't date it precisely. The book did not take a hell of a long time to write, we were both pretty quick. So I can't date that. My wife probably has the contract in our files and can date it. I'll call you and you can insert it here if you want to do that.

TI: But at the same time, it was interesting going back to the title, you were thinking this was about California racism.

RD: I think the original title was something like Racism in California: Exploration of the Nature of Prejudice. And they just changed to American Racism.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2013 Densho. All Rights Reserved.