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-01-0005

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FC: What is your opinion of what the JACL, their policy, how they handled camp, evacuation?

CU: No, my... well, since it's only in hindsight because I was not involved in it. I was away from the West Coast, but my families were, they were in camp. The thing that bothered me was because I said, "Why aren't they protesting more?" You don't have to say, "I'll be glad to go into camp," to be cooperative with the government. You could protest all the way into camp and that would have been different. Sure, it's true that you cannot prevent your going into camp. After all, even the prisoners of war, they're taught to fight, but take the guns away from them, and once you're a POW, you'll do anything that the other side tells you to do, you'll go into any camp. And so that the Japanese Americans went into camp, they had no other choice, but to go into the camp as if to say, "This is our patriotic duty to go into camp," that really did not go well with me. I felt that they should have protested all the way into camp, and that would have been different. But they're willing to be, so willing to go into camp and telling the Americans, or the Japanese Americans that they should all obey the government, never to object to anything that the government says, that's, it's like some of the statement by the JACL against Min Yasui and Gordon Hirabayashi was, in no way would they ever go against the government. That was a statement that I just could not accept. And for that reason -- that's what, I think, made me sort of wonder about JACL and I was not anxious to really join at the beginning.

FC: Did you see any contradiction between what the JACL did, the policy in '42 and your being redress president, the one who started the redress movement?

CU: No, I think possibly by that time, things have changed a little. I would give Edison Uno a lot of credit. Back in 1970 when he thought that we should go for redress when no one else thought so, and he got the JACL national council to really approve that concept. And since then, I think... however, they tried to follow that, but it was only a matter of policy and the concept to most JACLers, I think, that yes, we should go for redress, but they never made any move to go after it. You could always just say, "Yes," to it and I thought that was all. But there were some people who thought that they should go after it, but they felt that they just didn't know how to do it.

FC: What was the opinion, what was the mass of opinion that came back to you through the questionnaires?

CU: Well, a large number were very much against redress, as I said, mainly because -- just as you, we just mentioned a little while ago, that it was a disgrace to be asking for money from the government, that we should not be putting a price tag on freedom, we have come a long ways and we don't want to alienate any Americans, other Americans against us. So just keep it quiet, forget about it, that it ever happened, and that would be the best for us. That was the opinion of so many of the leaders. So, however, John Tateishi, I would have to say, was very good in telling the public that this is not really a money issue at all. This is purely, it's really a constitutional issue much more than a money issue. And I remember being in Fresno one time, and Fresno was very much, a large number of our members in Fresno were against redress because Fresno had many fairly well-to-do farmers. And to them, twenty thousand dollars meant nothing. The animosity they felt that it would create by asking for redress would be more harmful than the twenty thousand dollars that individuals may get, so they were not very much in favor. John Tateishi, I remember, spoke for almost an hour there. And after he spoke, I was right near John Tateishi when many of the old-timers came and said they changed their mind, that they would now support redress. So in that way, John was very effective.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.