How Did Korematsu Treat Japanese-Americans In The Early 20th Century?

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America’s recent ban on immigration and the President’s proposed Muslim registry are reminiscent of the way in which Americans treated Japanese-Americans in the early 20th century, particularly with the internment camps. In light of such recent events, it is necessary to analyze history while considering current-day events to avoid the repetition of America’s shameful past. The public backlash against the Japanese-American forced evacuation and internment was limited at best, often due to differing priorities for segments of the population or a lack of willingness to take action. While most whites did not speak out, some with decent public influence did but refrained from taking action; other minority groups, in acts of self-preservation,…show more content…
In the Supreme Court case Korematsu v. United States, three justices disagreed with the ruling to uphold Japanese-American Fred Korematsu’s conviction for breaking an evacuation order. Justice Murphy, one of the dissenters, believed that the President’s mandate was a racist strategy intended on corralling Japanese-Americans into the barracks of an internment camp that masqueraded as a “national security measure” for the “safety” of American citizens. He wrote, “No reasonable relation to an ‘immediate, imminent, and impending’ public danger is evident to support this racial restriction [Executive Order 9066]… no reliable evidence is cited to show that such individuals [Japanese-Americans] were disloyal [to the United States]… Justification for the exclusion is sought, instead, mainly upon questionable racial and sociological grounds not ordinarily within the realm of expert military judgment… [with] conclusions drawn from an unwarranted use of circumstantial evidence.” In the eyes of Justice Murphy, there was no question about the subtle racism embedded within this Executive Order, even if it was justified as a national security measure. Nevertheless, despite his dissenting opinion, Justice Murphy did not actively protest the order; while he did disagree it, his resistance is purely in writing and is passive at…show more content…
Dorothea Lange, a famous photographer, was commissioned by the United States government to photograph and record the evacuation of Japanese-Americans into internment camps. Being opposed to the relocation efforts, she took pictures that threw into sharp relief her negative opinion and was able to actively challenge the order using a photographic medium. Figure 1 in the appendix shows a family clothed in Western-style clothing seated at a dinner table surrounded by American-style décor. Everything looks as it would in a white household, but the only difference is that the people in this family portrait are of Japanese descent. Lange chose to portray them in such a manner to show their “Americanness” – her active resistance to the racist categorization of all Japanese as “aliens” was clear in her portrayal of them as typical Americans. Figure 2 shows a line of schoolchildren saying the Pledge of Allegiance and standing with hands over their hearts. Lange’s decision to have children of backgrounds ranging from Hispanic to Japanese to Chinese to white in the photograph shows how there was no one definition of “American.” Her deliberate action to catch the children in this moment, swearing loyalty to the American flag, spoke volumes. Her documented challenge to the forced evacuation and
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