Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Randy Senzaki Interview
Narrator: Randy Senzaki
Interviewer: Frank Abe
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: May 5, 1996
Densho ID: denshovh-srandy-01-0005

<Begin Segment 5>

FA: It was fifty years ago that all this happened, when the JACL cooperated with the government, the resistance, the JACL opposing resistance. Why has it been so hard for the leadership of JACL -- and I want you to mention them in your answer -- so hard for JACL now to still apologize to the resisters?

RS: I think the problem is that they personalize this whole experience.

FA: Why don't you say "the JACL"?

RS: I think the JACL personalized this experience, those who did challenge the resisters, who are still alive, carried bitterness in their hearts and they were unable on a human level to forgive. That's what I'm sensing. I'm sensing a dysfunctional part of the personality of those who were not in a healthy way willing to let go of something that happened fifty years ago, and that's the problem. They were not been willing to let it go, and the personal undercurrents overrode their ability to be wise and intelligent and make the right choice. So I was appealing to intelligence, reason, and reason and principle. I was talking to people who were responding totally in a closed, emotional, one-dimensional, short-sided way, and wouldn't let go of past animosities.

FC: If the JACL does not face civil rights issues confronting Japanese America, what are the consequences for the community at large?

RS: Consequences for the community are the escalating racism, violence, belittlement, animosity, the very things that we fought as Asian Americans to overcome in this society, and we need to be still fighting today. Those elements out there are going to overwhelm this community eventually. Because if the community does not stand up for itself and what it believes in, then it's fair game, fair game.

FC: Once again, just start it with, "Without leadership..."

RS: Without, without leadership, the Asian Pacific American community is going really suffer. In this time right now, where racism, anti-immigration policies, all of the legacy of what we faced as Asians coming to this country, each Asian American group, is going to be thrown right back in our faces. We need leadership to keep the agenda of civil and human rights moving forward for everybody.

FA: I mentioned to you on the phone that we had uncovered the Articles of Incorporation and 1957 doesn't mention a single word about civil rights organization, just talks about promoting Americanism. Does that surprise you?

RS: No, it doesn't because, well, as an Asian American Studies professor now, I realize that JACL's history really has been stated by Ronald Takaki for one, accomodationist and conservative in its strategies. And I do agree that that's, that was what it was. So I don't, I'm not surprised that that wasn't in there, with this effort to prove how patriotic we were and how loyal we were to this country, which every Asian American group tried, took some degree with limited success to do so. So that's how I feel about it. I don't think it matters whether it's in the writings now. I think there is a mention in the beginning of the JACL handout about what we stand for, it does say human and civil rights, I believe, now. The point is, why does it need to be legislated? It should, that's an issue, a principle and character that we all know doesn't have to be put in words and passed by a board resolution to, to defend and to live off those principles. So civil rights, human rights are a part of what this whole organization is all about, and we cannot ignore that. It's like an ostrich putting his head in the sand, you know, you're very vulnerable, part of you is very vulnerable when you do that. [Laughs]

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1996, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.