24 Apr 20
“Can a geology professor blithely tell his students that the earth is flat, or a European history professor that theHolocaust didn’t happen?
That’s not ‘academic freedom,’
That’s dereliction of duty.”
Jerry Coyne
The Korematsu Decision, 18 Dec 1944:
Executive Order 9066 was issued by the Roosevelt Administration on 19 Feb 1942, in the wake of the Japanese aerial attack on the unprepared US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 Dec 1941.
American citizens “of Japanese ancestry” soon found themselves rounded-up and herded into “internment camps” on the west coast. They weren’t exactly “arrested,” but Federal troops came to their homes and “escorted” them to hastily-constructed internment camps in the Central California desert. Most lost homes, businesses, all manner of personal property.
Years later, after many of the interred had since died, small “reparations” were provided to survivors, but no apology!
American citizen Fred Korematsu, age 23 at the time, refused to leave his home and challenged the Executive Order on the grounds that it violated his Fifth Amendment rights.
The case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, but “relocations,” of course, continued during the interminable legal process!
The Ninth Circuit went right along with the Executive Order, even in the face of its conspicuous unconstitutionality, piously rationalizing their revolting dereliction of duty with several pages of bogus legal gibberish, as lawyers always do!
And, speaking of legal gibberish, when the case finally landed on the Supreme Court, then Associate Justice Hugo Black, writing the majority opinion, held that “The military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast”
Thus declaring this internment order “Constitutional,” God knows how, he was joined by Chief Justice Harlan F Stone and Associate Justices Rutledge, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas.
Heroically dissenting were Roberts, Murphy, and Jackson.
Years later, Justice Douglas called the Korematsu Decision “the worst mistake of my life,” and regretted it until his death (1980).
Americans of Japanese ancestry nonviolently submitted to their forced disenfranchisement and internment far from home. Even while confined to interment camps, they were model citizens! In fact, many served with distinction with US Forces in the Pacific Campaign, while their parents and siblings were interred in their own country. Crime within interment camps was essentially zero.
As a group, these Americans were determined to prove that the Supreme Court, and Roosevelt himself, were completely wrong in perpetuating, and then trying to rationalize, this nauseating injustice.
In the 1980s Korematsu’s conviction was finally overturned (forty years after damage was done), as an embarrassed American Judicial System was forced to admit that it, and the entire internment chapter, represented a grave and unforgivable injustice.
Korematsu died in 2005 at the age of 86, having never left his native California!
In his dissent, Justice Murphy said:
“This decision falls into the ugly abyss of racism, and resembles the abhorrent and despicable treatment of minority groups by the very dictatorial tyrannies which this nation is now pledged to destroy!
It is the case of convicting a citizen as a punishment for not submitting to imprisonment in a concentration camp, based on his ancestry, and solely because of his ancestry.
I dissent, therefore, from this legalization of racism. Racial discrimination in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life. It is unattractive in any setting, but it is utterly revolting among free people who have embraced principles set forth in the Constitution of the United States. All residents of this nation are kin in some way, by blood or culture, to a foreign land. Yet, they are primarily and necessarily a part of this new and distinct civilization of the United States. They must, accordingly, be treated at all times as heirs of our American Experiment, and as entitled to all the rights and freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.
I need hardly labor that Constitutional rights have been violated.”
Justice Jackson said:
“If any fundamental assumption underlies our System, it is that guilt is personal and not inheritable!
Here is an attempt to make an otherwise innocent act, a crime, merely because this prisoner is the son of parents as to whom he had no choice, and belongs to a race from which there is no way to resign.”
Murphy’s and Jackson’s dissenting arguments have been quoted far more often than Black’s majority opinion, which is essentially rubbish!
Even in our Constitutional Republic, our individual rights and freedoms as citizens are under constant erosion, and in times of crisis (like now), open attack!
The excuse offered by politicians lusting after absolute power for themselves is always, “It’s an emergency”
Well, it was an emergency in 1941 too!
And there is no evidence, nor has there ever been, that herding innocent American citizens. based solely on race, into interment camps for years enhanced the War effort!
Again the question:
Will courageous judges and courts boldly step forward and restrain power-hungry politicians, jealously guarding our rights, and thus protect and defend our Constitution, boldly standing-up when standing-up means something?
Or, will they throw our Constitution to the wind, and go right along with the arbitrary whims of sleazy, amoral politicians, piously rationalizing their disgusting dereliction of duty with reams of pseudo-sanctimonious legal gibberish?
We can see what they did in 1942!