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Feeling angry upon reading of Supreme Court case, 'Korematsu v. United States'

But when I read Korematsu was the first time that I really realized that not only had this happened to the Japanese American community, but that the highest court in the country had said that it was okay, which was a horrible realization because not only did a wrong occur to the community, but the Supreme Court, which is the highest authority in the land, said that it was well within the Constitution that this happened to the Japanese American community. And it made me very angry to read the case.


civil rights discrimination Fred Korematsu governments interpersonal relations politics racism United States Supreme Court

Date: March 23 & 24, 2000

Location: Washington, US

Interviewer: Margaret Chon, Alice Ito

Contributed by: Denshō: The Japanese American Legacy Project.

Interviewee Bio

Sansei female. Born 1955 in Los Angeles, CA. Grew up in Gardena, CA, surrounded by a large Japanese American community. Influenced by father's role in community and politics, and mother's emphasis on education. Attended University of California, Santa Barbara where she became increasingly aware of Japanese American history, issues of ethnic identity and racial inequality. Attended the University of San Francisco School of Law where she honed her commitment to political and social activism.

Only a few years out of law school, she joined a team of lawyers working to reopen the Supreme Court's 1944 decision in Korematsu v. United States. Convicted of violating the exclusion order during World War II, Mr. Korematsu's case went all the way to the Supreme Court where the exclusion and incarceration of Japanese Americans was upheld as constitutional, based on the government's argument of 'military necessity.' Through a petition for writ of error coram nobis (establishing that the case was premised on errors of fact withheld from the judge and the defense by the prosecution), the legal team reopened the case, provided evidence that the factual underpinnings to the exclusion orders were fraudulent, and successfully had the Korematsu conviction vacated, as well as a handful of other similar convictions. In this interview, Ms. Bannai discusses the coram nobis legal team, the support for the effort among the Japanese American community, and personal lessons gained from being a part of this effort. (March 24, 2000)

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