Korem Essay

This essay has a total of 1335 words and 6 pages.


323 U.S. 214 (1944)
Perhaps, according to Bernard Schwartz, the greatest failure of American law during World
War II may be illustrated by the case of Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu. As graphically
described in 1944 by a member of the bench, his case is one that is unique in our system:

Korematsu was born on our soil, of parents born in Japan. The Constitution makes him a
citizen of the United States by nativity and a citizen of California by residence. No
claim is made that he is not loyal to this country. There is no suggestion that apart from
the matter involved here he is not law-abiding and well disposed. Korematsu, however, has
been convicted of an act not commonly a crime. It consists me

rely of being present in the state whereof he is a citizen, near the place where he was
born, and where all his life he has lived.

Korematsu had been charged with failure to report for evacuation and detention.
Had Korematsu been of Italian, German or English ancestry, his act would not have been a
crime. His presence in California was made a crime solely because his parents were of
Japanese birth. The difference between innocence and crime, so far as he was concerned,
resulted not from anything he did, said, or even thought, but only from his particular
racial stock. For Korematsu was a victim of what a Harper's article was to term "America's
Greatest Wartime Mistake," namely, the evacuation of those of Japanese ancestry from the
West Coast shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack.20

In a 6-3 majority decision the Supreme Court, on December 18, 1944, rendered its opinion
which affirmed the right of the military to move people about on the basis of race in time
of war. The Court decided that one group of citizens may be singled out and expelled from
their homes, and imprisoned for several years without trial based solely on ancestry. The
Supreme Court refused to question military judgment or the validity of military orders
applied to civilians without a declaration of martial law.

Hardships are part of war and war is a collection of hardships. All citizens whether they
be in or out of uniform feel the impact of war. Citizenship has its responsibilities as
well as its privileges, and in time of war, the burden is always heavier.

It is said that Korematsu has been imprisoned in a concentration camp solely because of
his ancestry, without any evidence to show his loyalty or disloyalty towards the United
States..First of all, we do not think it is justifiable to call them concentration camps,
with all the ugly pictures that term brings to mind. Secondly, regardless of the true
nature of the assembly and relocation centers, we are dealing specifically with nothing
but the exclusion order. To bring in the issue of racial prejudice, without reference to
the real military dangers which existed, merely confuses the issue.

Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race.
He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire . . . The military urgency
of the situation required that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the
West Coast temporarily. Congress put their confidence in our military leaders and decided
that they should have the power to carry out the necessary measures. There was evidence of
disloyalty on the part of some so the military authorities felt that the need for action
was great. The fact that we can look back and see things more calmly does not allow us to
say that at the time these actions were unjustified.21

In dissenting Justice Owen Roberts felt the facts presented exhibited a clear violation of
Constitutional rights. It is he stated "not a case of keeping people off the streets at
night, nor a case of temporary exclusion from an area for safety reasons . . . It is the
case of convicting a citizen as a punishment to not going into imprisonment in a
concentration camp. In addition, if a citizen were forced to obey two laws and obedience
to one of them would violate the other, to punish him for violation of either law would be
unfair. It would be to deny him due process of law.

"Distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are hateful to a free
people whose institutions are founded upon equality. For that reason, discrimination based
on race alone has often been considered a denial of equal protection."

Justice Frank Murphy, in his dissenting opinion, called the decision "a legalization of
Continues for 3 more pages >>