The Beautiful and Ugly Los Angeles: Ralph Lazo

In America people like to pretend that certain things didn’t happen and they like to try to encourage you to go with that program by getting super pissed at you for bringing up “negative” memories from the past. I guess for some people facts become being pessimistic when it makes other people look like total assholes. You know the genocide of the Native American population, slavery, the Bracero Program, the list goes and on and, but today we’re going to talk about the internment of Japanese-Americans.

With all of the talk of races not getting along, you’d think all of us hate each other, but that’s completely off base.

For years we had to live together Latino, Asian, black and people in between. Lots of older LA born Asian, Latino and African people are really good friends. There’s some tight history and a lot of love between people of color, but no one ever wants to talk about that.

Many people who are outside of the Eastside don’t realize that there were lots of Asian-Americans on the Eastside, lots of older Japanese-Americans are still there and if you go down to the Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights you’ll see even more evidence of this.

This new the “green” and “purple” people are fighting each other seems to be a new interesting hit getting thing to write about by some white bloggers.

Hey I got a question why are white bloggers so concerned about how people of color are getting along? Cops still beat all of us up, how about you write about that? I think the LAPD has an ethnic cleansing program and I’m pretty terrified, maybe someone will pick that up and spread it.

Minorities have been dying owing to gang violence for YEARS, so what’s the concern now? I’ve read more post about that on the more mainstream blogs and half of these people probably have exactly one black friend and one Latino friend and the black and Latino friends they do have probably are the types that have these conversations, “I think people make a big deal about race and it’s not a big deal, you know. I wish people of color, yeah I know I’m one of them, but I’m not really one of them. I’m from the suburbs. I don’t see color, and I listen to KROQ. Why don’t they let it go, so people will forget about it and then I can maybe just become a white person, if it weren’t for these angry people of color, my life would be so much easier…” You know those minorities that think racism exists because minorities do not know how to be positive.


Anyways I’m pretty sure I have no problem at all with other people of color. No one of color has denied me a job or a loan (at least not anymore than white people and I’m pretty sure it’s less, but I don’t favor one group, I just favor people who like me), so you know, no problems on that front.

During WW2 Japanese-Americans were interned in LARGE numbers, owing to racism. And by interned I mean put in concentration camps by the United States government. And by put in concentration camps I mean rounded up like criminals taken from schools, neighborhoods, their homes, packed into motorized vehicles and locked up in various locations in parts of California where no one lives in, usually in the desert, usually in places like Manazanar.

The US likes to do its dirty work, privately. That’s why bloggers from alll perspective are important. If something is not written down, it didn’t happen and if something is in Wikipedia someone will fight you too the death in regards to them being right, because of that.

But in all of that ugliness a beautiful story sprung from it. There was one guy who wasn’t of Japanese descent, who wasn’t married to a person of Japanese descent, but went to the concentration camps anyway. His name was Ralph Lazo he was a Belmont high school student of Latino and Irish descent as a 16 year old he volunteered to be interned with his friends and stayed there for two years until he got drafted into WW2.


I guess you’re never too young to be a revolutionary.

He is the only record of a non-Japanese descent person who voluntarily interned themselves with Japanese-Americans during WW2.

When I read that story I thought, “That’s pretty fucking deep.”

I don’t know why people take isolated incidents that are negative and make big fucking deals about them.

Why don’t they take issues like Ralph Lazo’s story and make big deals about those kinds of things?

I think it’s just as interesting.

Don’t you?

Browne Molyneux

Credits- The photo of Ralph Lazo was gotten from the Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress website.

Disclaimer, I’m not saying you’re a total sell-out because you listened to KROQ in your youth. I listened to KROQ, but I keep it real. I just have bad taste in music.

This entry was posted in Analysis, Greater Los Angeles, Politica by Browne Molyneux. Bookmark the permalink.

About Browne Molyneux

My name is Browne Molyneux. I'm a lady. I'm a radical feminist. I'm black. I'm an Angeleno. I'm an artist. I'm carFREE. I'm a freelance writer. I'm a blogger. I'm a philosopher. I'm a humanist. I'm a journalist. I formerly wrote a column on transportation, Tracks for LA City Beat. The above are all of the things I have to work on being, got questions email me. My topics of interests include but are not limited to politics, transportation, dark green issues, economics, race relations, feminism, culture, working class urban life, media, art, Los Angeles and literature.

11 thoughts on “The Beautiful and Ugly Los Angeles: Ralph Lazo

  1. What a coincidence, I’ve been reading a bit on this very topic, it’s sad and infuriating. I’ve never heard of Ralph Lazo though, it’s an amazing story – thanks for sharing it!

  2. I once heard that Lazo’s motivation for voluntarily moving
    into the camps was that he had a Japanese girlfriend and
    he wanted to stay with her to make sure she didn’t date any
    japanese guys while relocated.

  3. The Ralph Lazo story is such a great one for challenging the idea that different groups of peoples of color don’t have shared experiences/histories, and that there aren’t moments of real solidarity. I’d never heard about him going to the camps to police his girlfriend’s dating life. But if that’s true, it just complicates an interesting story. This is a great post-thanks!

  4. I’d never heard that story, thanks for writing this excellent post! I’m a bit tired of the way bloggers and the media have been repeating the mantra of Latino vs. Black violence, rarely focusing on the turf wars gangs have going for their drug trade. It reminds me of the way Blacks were being painted as anti-Korean just because of the extensive looting of stores during the ’92 riots.

  5. “…rarely focusing on the turf wars gangs have going for their drug trade. It reminds me of the way Blacks were being painted as anti-Korean just because of the extensive looting of stores during the ‘92 riots…” Chavo

    Yeah, it’s just sensationalized bullshit masquerading as concern and information. I swear people so want blacks and latinos to not get along. Not to be all personal anecdotey, but you know since this is the comment section I know that’s just bs, just because of the similar history that both groups share and just personally since I’m both. I’m not saying that everybody loves everyone, but you look at Dominicans, Hondurans, Belizians, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, even Mexicans and then look at the US, who do you think has a bigger problem in regards to race? Where do you think alot of African-Americans went during the 1930s to escape the insane racism in the US, they went to Mexico, yeah some went to Canada, but Mexico was also another very popular option.

    You know where Langston Hugh one of the first African-American poets father lived, Mexico City he lived there to escape the racism in the US and there are alot of African-American writers and artists who did the same thing, but you never hear about that.

    I’m pretty sure artsy black people weren’t moving to Mexico because they weren’t welcome.

    The last Mexican Governor of California was Pio Pico, obviously of African descent, you see any people even sort of African descent being the governor of anywhere in the US prior to the 1970s, hell the 1980s…


  6. In regards to Langston Hughes, I meant to say he was one of the first African-American writers to make money and was able to support themself by just writing…obviously not the first African-American poet…


  7. I think my comment got zapped as spam or something, but, you should check out Days of Waiting by Stephen Okazaki. It’s about an anglo woman who was married to a Japanese American guy, and went to camp.

  8. okay, i’m only 8 1/2 months late to the party, but i thought people might be interested in the movie “from hell to eternity.” it’s a dramatization of a true story about a kid orphaned and taken in by a japanese family. ww2 and the internments, of course, wreak havoc with their lives; but having learned japanese growing up, the orphaned kid goes on to save thousands during the war as a soldier. though an anglo plays the main character, my neighbor (who lent me the dvd) tells me he was actually a mexican kid from east la.

  9. Late to the party too but I just wanted to mention that Ralph Lazo was not the only non-Japanese descent who voluntarily interned. Non-Japanese people married to Japanese Americans were not required to intern, but a good number of those in that situation did or at least tried to. In some cases the government tried to prevent non-Japanese descent people from voluntarily interning. Most notable among the non-Japanese internees was Estelle Ishigo, who wrote and illustrated the book Lone Heart Mountain about the experience.

    I too had read somewhere that Ralph Lazo interned to keep his Japanese girlfriend from straying to Japanese dudes. Who knows if that’s true but if it is that’s kind of a dick reason.

    I’ve been studying internment issues and history for a while since I live in a house that played a big role in the Japanese-American community of L.A. and that interest has led to other personal projects. There are many resources out there but there some gaps in the historical record that can really only be filled by the oral histories of those who were interned and they, sadly, are dying off.

  10. @human – That dude was Guy Gabaldon from Boyle Heights. I didn’t see the movie, but I heard that they made the character a tall white guy, but the actual dude is this short Mexican guy. He got a few stories in the Rafu Shimpo (the local JA paper) lately. He knew Japanese because he was adopted by this JA family, and used his skills to convince 1,500 Japanese soldiers on Saipan to surrender. It’s an amazing story, and he’s a big war hero. (The thing is, he never got the Medal of Honor for this feat. So there’s been some effort to get the government to posthumously recognize his achievement.)

    There’s a subtle wrinkle in this story. JA soldiers weren’t allowed into the Pacific theater as infantry, for racial reasons. They didn’t want JAs shooting at Japanese, which is what they said. They did intelligence work, and fought in Europe. So, it was a real fluke that there was someone with Guy’s background on the front lines.

    Later in life, it appears that he got involved in the anti-communist scene, and with some Bay of Pigs guys. Also, I think his wife is a mixed Japanese Mexican, and he moved to one of the American pacific islands. I also read that he was opposed to the internment.

    There’s definitely another movie in this man’s story, but can Hollywood handle it?

  11. “There’s definitely another movie in this man’s story, but can Hollywood handle it?”alienation

    No they can’t handle it. You only get one movie or a two year period then Hollywood is back to making capitalist propaganda.

    I hate Hollywood. I hope it goes away. I was watching the Spook Who Sat Outside the Door made by Hollywood outsider Sam Greelee who wrote the book of the same name. It was brought back by Robert Townsend who said he went into movie making because of this film.

    In an interview with Greenlee he was mad. He was mad at minority directors for always begging for Hollywood’s help. He made his movie entirely with money funded by the community and he said with the internet you don’t need Hollywood it was pretty informative. Check out the DVD release on inspiration on how to create art outside the system and check out the movie still very relevant now.

    I want to make him a nicer website though. He needs a wordpress account…lol…

    Well I got to go now someone just stabbed someone in broad daylight outside of my humble abode in the New Downtown. Merry Xmas indeed.


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