Korematsu v. United States (1944)

In response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which enabled the U.S. Army to enforce Civilian Exclusion and Civilian Restrictive orders. This resulted in the relocation and internment of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans who were seen as threats to national security. For refusing to move from his home, Fred Korematsu was arrested and convicted. The Supreme Court ruled that military necessity justified the violation of Korematsu's constitutional rights. Although the government eventually admitted its error and made reparations to the surviving internees, this decision, similar to Plessy v. Ferguson, remains an embarrassing example of legalized racism. These words are from the majority opinion written by Hugo Black. Read the full text here.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. ancestry
    inherited properties shared with others of your bloodline
    That "future order," the one for violation of which petitioner was convicted, was issued May 3, 1942, and it did "direct" exclusion from the area of all persons of Japanese ancestry before 12 o'clock noon, May 9; furthermore, it contained a warning that all such persons found in the prohibited area would be liable to punishment under the March 21, 1942, Act of Congress.
  2. curtail
    place restrictions on
    It should be noted, to begin with, that all legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect.
  3. scrutiny
    the act of examining something closely, as for mistakes
    It is to say that courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny.
  4. antagonism
    an actively expressed feeling of dislike and hostility
    The judgment that exclusion of the whole group was, for the same reason, a military imperative answers the contention that the exclusion was in the nature of group punishment based on antagonism to those of Japanese origin.
  5. exclusion
    the act of forcing out someone or something
    True, exclusion from the area in which one's home is located is a far greater deprivation than constant confinement to the home from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  6. espionage
    the systematic use of spies to obtain secrets
    As is the case with the exclusion order here, that prior curfew order was designed as a "protection against espionage and against sabotage."
  7. sabotage
    a deliberate act of destruction or disruption
    The Hirabayashi conviction and this one thus rest on the same 1942 Congressional Act and the same basic executive and military orders, all of which orders were aimed at the twin dangers of espionage and sabotage.
  8. promulgated
    formally made public
    One of the series of orders and proclamations, a curfew order, which, like the exclusion order here, was promulgated pursuant to Executive Order 9066, subjected all persons of Japanese ancestry in prescribed West Coast military areas to remain in their residences from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  9. pursuant
    in conformance to or agreement with
    One of the series of orders and proclamations, a curfew order, which, like the exclusion order here, was promulgated pursuant to Executive Order 9066, subjected all persons of Japanese ancestry in prescribed West Coast military areas to remain in their residences from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  10. contend
    have an argument about something
    The 1942 Act was attacked in the Hirabayashi case as an unconstitutional delegation of power; it was contended that the curfew order and other orders on which it rested were beyond the war powers of the Congress, the military authorities, and of the President, as Commander in Chief of the Army, and, finally, that to apply the curfew order against none but citizens of Japanese ancestry amounted to a constitutionally prohibited discrimination solely on account of race.
  11. apprehension
    fearful expectation or anticipation
    Nothing short of apprehension by the proper military authorities of the gravest imminent danger to the public safety can constitutionally justify either.
  12. imminent
    close in time; about to occur
    Nothing short of apprehension by the proper military authorities of the gravest imminent danger to the public safety can constitutionally justify either.
  13. ascertain
    learn or discover with confidence
    we cannot reject as unfounded the judgment of the military authorities and of Congress that there were disloyal members of that population, whose number and strength could not be precisely and quickly ascertained.
  14. segregation
    the act of keeping apart
    It was because we could not reject the finding of the military authorities that it was impossible to bring about an immediate segregation of the disloyal from the loyal that we sustained the validity of the curfew order as applying to the whole group.
  15. imperative
    some duty that is essential and urgent
    The judgment that exclusion of the whole group was, for the same reason, a military imperative answers the contention that the exclusion was in the nature of group punishment based on antagonism to those of Japanese origin.
  16. renounce
    turn away from; give up
    Approximately five thousand American citizens of Japanese ancestry refused to swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and to renounce allegiance to the Japanese Emperor, and several thousand evacuees requested repatriation to Japan.
  17. repatriation
    the act of returning to one's country of origin
    Approximately five thousand American citizens of Japanese ancestry refused to swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and to renounce allegiance to the Japanese Emperor, and several thousand evacuees requested repatriation to Japan.
  18. aggregation
    several things grouped together or considered as a whole
    But hardships are part of war, and war is an aggregation of hardships.
  19. compulsory
    required by rule
    Compulsory exclusion of large groups of citizens from their homes, except under circumstances of direst emergency and peril, is inconsistent with our basic governmental institutions.
  20. inconsistent
    not in agreement
    Compulsory exclusion of large groups of citizens from their homes, except under circumstances of direst emergency and peril, is inconsistent with our basic governmental institutions.
  21. commensurate
    corresponding in size or degree or extent
    But when, under conditions of modern warfare, our shores are threatened by hostile forces, the power to protect must be commensurate with the threatened danger.
  22. stipulate
    make an oral agreement that has legal force
    Consequently, the only order in effect touching the petitioner's being in the area on May 30, 1942, the date specified in the information against him, was the May 3 order which prohibited his remaining there, and it was that same order which he stipulated in his trial that he had violated, knowing of its existence.
  23. detention
    a state of being confined (usually for a short time)
    The power to exclude includes the power to do it by force if necessary. And any forcible measure must necessarily entail some degree of detention or restraint, whatever method of removal is selected.
  24. relocation
    the transportation of people to a new settlement
    It is now argued that the validity of the exclusion order cannot be considered apart from the orders requiring him, after departure from the area, to report and to remain in an assembly or relocation center.
  25. deprive
    take away
    The contention is that we must treat these separate orders as one and inseparable; that, for this reason, if detention in the assembly or relocation center would have illegally deprived the petitioner of his liberty, the exclusion order and his conviction under it cannot stand.
  26. conditional
    qualified by reservations
    These separate requirements were that those of Japanese ancestry (1) depart from the area; (2) report to and temporarily remain in an assembly center; (3) go under military control to a relocation center, there to remain for an indeterminate period until released conditionally or unconditionally by the military authorities.
  27. sanction
    the act of punishing
    Had Congress directly incorporated into one Act the language of these separate orders, and provided sanctions for their violations, disobedience of any one would have constituted a separate offense.
  28. disposition
    an attitude of mind that favors one alternative over others
    It is said that we are dealing here with the case of imprisonment of a citizen in a concentration camp solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States.
  29. prejudice
    a partiality preventing objective consideration of an issue
    To cast this case into outlines of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military dangers which were presented, merely confuses the issue.
  30. connotation
    an idea that is implied or suggested
    Regardless of the true nature of the assembly and relocation centers—and we deem it unjustifiable to call them concentration camps, with all the ugly connotations that term implies—we are dealing specifically with nothing but an exclusion order.
  31. hostility
    a state of deep-seated ill-will
    Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race.
  32. constrain
    restrict
    He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily...
  33. repose
    put or place something (e.g., trust) in or on
    ...Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders—as inevitably it must—determined that they should have the power to do just this.
  34. avail
    use to one's advantage
    We cannot—by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight—now say that, at that time, these actions were unjustified.
  35. unjustified
    lacking authorization
    We cannot—by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight—now say that, at that time, these actions were unjustified.
Created on February 22, 2017 (updated September 11, 2019)

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