Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Masako Yoshida Interview
Narrator: Masako Yoshida
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Monterey Park, California
Date: August 14, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-ymasako-01-0023

<Begin Segment 23>

KL: Did you have questions about Chicago?

Off camera: Not specifically Chicago, but I was wondering if you could describe what Detroit was like in the 1940s.

MY: Oh, it was right after the riot. I don't know if you ever heard the Belle Isle Riot, and so it was kind of scary. They said, "You're going to go to Belle Isle?" But when you're young you don't know any better, you're not afraid of anything, you just go. But we were not ostracized, but we didn't go out into the public either. But I know they liked us because they kept moving us up in our jobs from being, just answering the phones to pretty soon we were doing everything in the offices, making the bills and stuff like that.

KL: I'll let you take a drink.

MY: I think so. But I don't know, I never felt any prejudice when we were in Detroit. In Chicago one time I was called a "Jap," but I knew I was smarter than she was. It really hurt, though. But instead of answering back, I started crying. But I really wanted to tell her back.

KL: What did she do when you started crying?

MY: Well, she was a telephone operator at McClurg's where I was working, and she didn't answer the phone, I guess, so I must have clicked her too often, that she didn't like the way I clicked her. I was impatient to talk to this customer or something, I was taking book orders. And so anyway, she knew it was I who did it because it was my extension. So she said, "You damn Jap," so I said... 'cause she thought I was annoying her. So I just said, "Hey, people like you are the people my husband's fighting for overseas." That was my answer to her. But you know, we just dropped it right there. It's no use fighting people like that. I remember her face, though, she was blond, very, very heavy. She was probably from the South, probably didn't have too much in common with minorities. That was the only time I was called a "Jap."

But you know, actually, I'm very proud I'm Japanese, because I think we have a very good reputation of working hard. And whatever we do, we succeed, we might start at the bottom because that's the entry level, but now our children could become whatever they want to. They could become anything, and our grandchildren all, they could become whatever they want to, they all have college education, it's good. It's whatever you want to be, you become, by working hard, that's how I feel. That's where I think the Japanese excel in their lives. The Japanese Americans, I can't say that of all the people, you know, people are different from wherever they come, but the Japanese Americans in my age, I think, feel that way.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.