Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Clifford Uyeda Interview
Narrator: Clifford Uyeda
Interviewers: Frank Chin (primary); Frank Abe (secondary)
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: May 5, 1996
Densho ID: denshovh-uclifford-01-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

FC: How does what Japanese American, what JACL did, how Japanese Americans responded to the evacuation and the camps, how does this affect Japanese American self-respect today?

CU: Well, you know, part of the way Japanese Americans, or possibly the Nisei reacted to the evacuation -- I hate to use the term "evacuation," but, say, to the incarceration -- was, part of it was almost cultural in a sense, that is, the Japanese American culture. We were taught by our parents to respect and obey the orders so much that even if the order turns out to be a bad one, they said, "It's the right thing to do, is just to obey the orders." I think that had part of it, partly to do with it, and also it was told to us by the Issei parents, also not to be visible, too visible, to protest, and all that, it's not the right thing to be doing. "That's not the way we brought you up. We didn't bring you up to become a protester." So I think that had something to do with it. But at the same time, the more you look at it, there were people who did protest, even people who protested the idea of going into camp. But they were not encouraged to stick to your stance, but they had no support when the, there was absolutely no support from the Japanese American leaders. And they were, told you that you were really unpatriotic for resisting, then the resistance, the resisting, resisters movement does not have any support at all. They felt that they had no support, so they just went along, just like the POWs would go along if you were told to get into camp.

FC: Do you think the... when you heard about the resisters, did this increase your self-respect?

CU: Oh, yes, definitely.

FC: If more young people, young Japanese Americans, heard about the resisters, would this add some value --

CU: You know, the funny thing is, talking to... [pauses] Yeah, talking to many Nisei now, these are the Nisei leaders, many of them are saying now, "If this was back, if this thing happened today" -- [interruption] -- they say, "If the same thing happened today, I would resist." This is what most of the Nisei would say. Now, if they would resist today, why couldn't they have resisted back in 1940? My explanation would be that because there was no leadership, or no support for the resisters at that time, the resisters were all made into almost like criminals. And that's why I think it was no, no resistance. The resisters had absolutely no support from the group, but I think many of them wanted to resist. So therefore, if the, even if you were ineffective in resistance, the official strong statements by the JACL, to say that, "No, this is, I'm going in because we have to. You're going to push us into the camp anyway with your guns, we can't resist the guns, we'll have to walk in. But at the same time, we strongly protest." If it was done under protest, I think that would have, would have not taken any, no one would have been hurt. And I think that would have really cleared a lot of conscience for the Japanese Americans. I think people who were in camp also felt bad because they did not protest, and they were afraid to protest. They were afraid to protest because JACL told them not to protest, and if you protested you were un-American. This type of a statement by your leaders continually being drummed into you, I think, prevented any protesting.

FC: Do you think the JACL at that time understood, or that Japanese America understood that the evacuation and the incarceration was challenging their civil rights and their citizenship?

CU: I think... well, it must have, because, for instance, when you take persons like Mits Koshiyama, who had just graduated from high school, to say that, "This is unconstitutional, and therefore I cannot accept it." And if you have those -- I'm sure many, many persons felt the same way, yet they were possibly afraid to state -- Mits at least has the courage enough to say so, but they were afraid to say so or because they did not want to make waves and have their parents feel that, "I have dissidents in the family," that's what they did not want. They wanted to go along with it just to sort of placate their parents, in a sense, because parents couldn't do anything anyway, 'cause they were not even citizens.

FC: Was it rewarding, being president of the JACL?

CU: Well...

FC: Was it worth it?

CU: Oh, I can say worth it for this reason: that you do have, you get to meet a lot of people that you never have a chance of meeting before. You have a chance to go to Washington to meet some people, and because you happen to be a president, at least you're given the opportunity that otherwise you would not have. In that way, it's rewarding. But possibly more rewarding was the chance to meet some other Niseis that I have never met before. That was good, but I suppose I could, I could have done that on your own, but there's a difference. When you have a position, they treat you differently, and they look upon you differently, and they often talk to you differently from just a casual person. So in that way, you have a chance to find out more of what the Japanese Americans are thinking than otherwise. I think in that way, it's rewarding. But I would say that it's also difficult because your whole heart and soul is not in the organization's, what they have done and what they stood for, you're against it. But can't at that time articulate that, mainly because then you'd be worthless. No one would talk to you and no one would do anything, so... because at least when I was in there, the whole thing was to get the redress movement started and going, that was the only thing. Everything else was secondary. So for that, it was worth it.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.