The historic overturning of the Korematsu vs. the United States Supreme Court decision took place with very little fanfare or broad public acknowledgement. In fact, it was done relatively quietly while the SCOTUS ruled in favor of President Trump’s third attempt at limiting the immigration of individuals from certain countries and therefore, certain religions.
Recently, I saw Jon Osaki’s film Alternative Facts. It is a film that highlights the Japanese American experience in America’s WWII concentration camps. Although now one of many, it to me could have been the closing argument for the Korematsu case. It does not present alternative facts, it clearly presents “THEE” facts!
Interesting side note: at the film presentation at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute, the featured speaker was renowned civil rights attorney Dale Minami. So, in the context of my imagined trial with Osaki’s film providing the “closing arguments” in the Korematsu case, I envision Dale Minami and his law partner, Don Tamaki, arguing the case in front of the Supreme Court. Also, on this imagined legal team would be Lorraine Bannai, another coram nobis attorney, with attorney and legal scholar Peter Irons providing legal strategy and advice in this scenario.
In the film, Osaki provides indisputable facts and testimony, backed up with actual quotes and documentation from the primary witnesses, pro and con (at issue: the constitutionality of incarcerating persons of Japanese ancestry in the West Coast Defense Zone). I can see Dale and Don calling Gen. John De Witt and other hostile witnesses to the stand and forcing them to explain their reasoning for putting Japanese Americans in camp. Then I can see the evidence and exhibits from other witnesses, the FBI and other intelligence agencies that clearly state that the Japanese Americans are not in any way a threat.
Finally, as in the film, the juxtaposed testimony reveals a point of view that unfortunately does not carry the day. That is that any potential illegal actions (espionage, terrorist acts in support of the Japanese war effort) of any Japanese American should be viewed as the actions of an individual, not the group as a whole. To the contrary, in Korematsu vs. the United States, the court rules that the incarceration of the group is constitutional.
At this point in my fictitious trial, a petite firebrand of a lady and her husband provide the legal “coup de grace,” the smoking gun so to speak, of evidence that nails the case to the wall. Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga and her husband Jack, after years of scouring the National Archives for the policy evidence that would overturn the Korematsu ruling, find it.
It is the government’s unsanitized, uncensored 10th report, the previous nine being destroyed, that clearly states the reason for incarcerating 125,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry, the vast majority being American citizens, was racism. The underlying view being “once a Jap, always a Jap” and that they are an enemy race.
With all the FACTS presented in Jon Osaki’s film, with Aiko’s “smoking gun” evidence and the eloquent words of the undeniable truth, the Supreme Court rules that the Korematsu ruling of 1944 was UNCONSTITUTIONAL and therefore overturned.
The fictitious courtroom is stunned but the silence is interrupted with cheers as the Japanese American community is finally vindicated in the highest court in the land. But the real beneficiary of this ruling is America as a whole, granted years later with the benefit of hindsight, truth and justice do prevail but hopefully, next time, it won’t take so d**n long.
Warren Furutani is a former member of the State Assembly and served on the Los Angeles Unified School District and Los Angeles Community College District boards. The Rafu Shimpo’s management and staff continually strive to maintain high editorial standards for professionalism as well as accurate and balanced news coverage. The inclusion of a particular piece, including columns and op-ed submissions by contributing writers in print and/or digitally, does not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the owners, management, individual staff members, and editors. The Rafu Shimpo welcomes responses to any article published in print or digitally. Responses may be sent to author directly or emailed to [email protected]