Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Michi Weglyn Interview
Narrator: Michi Weglyn
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 20, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-wmichi-01-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

FA: Is there any lasting effect from segregation?

MW: Oh, it's horrendous. Of course, I don't think you can appreciate it unless you were involved as a member of the family. To have ended up let's say in Tule Lake, Tule Lake was ultimately chosen as the segregation center, the highest-security camp for "troublemakers." And so there is a stigma attached to the fact that you did spend your war years in Tule Lake. Immediately people associate that with, "Oh, you're from that troublemaking family." So generally they do not talk about this aspect of Tule Lake. Nobody has ever written me a letter saying, "Oh, your chapter on Tule Lake was absolutely so insightful," except Raymond Okamura's wife. I'll never forget. She wrote me a letter saying, "I just finished reading Years of Infamy and I'm crying." She said, "Finally I understand why, and the reason all those things happened in Tule Lake and ultimately why we had to get up so early in the morning to do those wasshoi wasshoi exercise. I never understood any of it as a young person. And our whole family were so torn apart by that. We never were able to establish ourselves as a normal family, and so to have it all clarified in my mind is truly a wonderful thing." And I cherish that letter.

FA: Just define for me, Michi, what is segregation?

MW: Segregation was, again, a plan. Actually, I must make a long story short because it started out with a senator who was asked to make an investigation of all the camps. Chandler, remember? Happy Chandler. He did a quick, like a two-day stint at every camp. He rode around the camp, and he became an authority as to what was going on at every camp just because he happened to make a stop there. He had to make a report. His report was that, "I think this, the trouble which has erupted in these various camps is a result of the disloyals becoming disenchanted. I think that if we were to separate the bad eggs from the good eggs, that everything would settle down." And consequently this "loyalty questionnaire" was imposed. When the "loyalty questionnaire" was imposed it was not explained to them right off the bat that the purpose of it was, is that, "We are planning to separate the loyal from the disloyal." That was never uttered. Only the social scientists were... you know, one social scientist was assigned to every camp. And they couldn't understand this crazy questionnaire. They said, "It doesn't make sense. You cannot ever fathom one's loyalty on the basis of a set of questions. That is an impossible feat. And to crucify these people with these questions in order to... are you going to try to brand these people disloyals on the basis of these stupid questions?" And there was in Manzanar a bunch of administrators also who said, "This is like witchcraft. This is... this questionnaire really needs to be thrown into the trash heap. It is, it just doesn't make sense." And so, of course, the Japanese Americans weren't that sophisticated at that point. They took it all so literally and they wanted to cooperate with the government, when the government knew very well that their aim was to be able to separate those that they can send back to Japan, and they would love to have as many as possible renounce their citizenship. Which was another thing that happened during the registration drive. Some people said, "Oh no, we are not going to sign on a piece of paper. I would rather repatriate to Japan where we can take tyranny unalloyed."

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.