The book’s premise is, no doubt, controversial. This is partly because the book attempts to answer “a complicated socioeconomic and cultural question.” Regardless of how you feel about the book, if read in context it can promote much needed discussions regarding racial issues in our society. In addition, minorities in the law can use particular parts of this thesis to better understand how they can become successful in their own careers. If nothing else, The Triple Package can be a guide for what character pathologies minorities should guard against while pursuing their own versions of success.
Anytime you talk about achievement in socioeconomic and cultural terms, it is sure to be provocative. But this doesn’t mean that particular influences, traits, and systematic factors aren’t critical to one’s success.
“The movement is a rhythm to us/ Freedom is like religion to us/ Justice is juxtapositionin’ us/ Justice for all just ain’t specific enough” – Common
February is known as Black History Month, but this month represents so much more to us as minorities. It is a tribute to how far our society has come and a reminder of how much further we must go to address racial inequality. We recognize Black History Month because, as Eric Liu writes, “The experience of African-Americans is exceptional in its systematic, multigenerational, reverberating effects. And it’s exceptional in its centrality to the founding and building of our nation. No experience reveals more than the African-American experience both the hypocrisy and the possibility of our national creed.”
This month also represents the 73rd anniversary of Executive Order 9066, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential order to forcibly relocate and incarcerate 120,000 American citizens and immigrants of Japanese ancestry. February 19th, the day President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, is now annually recognized as the Day of Remembrance in the Asian community.
This year, the Day of Remembrance and the Lunar New Year (a.k.a. Chinese New Year) fall on the same day. This is yet another reminder that, as Leslie Chang writes, “The past has been there all along, reminding us: This time–maybe, hopefully, against all odds, we will get it right.” Yesterday, many of us paid tribute to those who were afforded no due process and were victims of mass incarceration based on race. But these types of discrimination are not mere ghosts of the past, these issues are here and present in our society today.
Gordon Hirabayashi believed the forced removal of 120,000 Japanese Americans was unconstitutional — and he went to prison for his belief, writes guest columnist Esther Toshiko Hirabayashi Furugori.
Thursday marks the 73rd anniversary of an American day of infamy. On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which set in motion the forced removal of my family from our Auburn-area home, joining the exile of 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast to American concentration camps.
My family was first forcibly removed in crowded, hot trains to Fresno, Calif., arriving at a stark place surrounded by barbed wire fences called Pinedale Assembly Center. A month later, we were transported by bus to the Tule Lake Relocation Center in Northern California.
Conditions were harsh at both locations. Crammed into open ceiling “apartments” no larger than 20 by 25 feet, no conversation or movement was private. Everyone was forced to adjust to a culturally uncomfortable reality of sharing everything from meals in mess halls to humiliating communal showers and latrines with no privacy dividers.
I was just 13, and my family kept me busy playing softball, reading Nancy Drew novels and enjoying music. Looking back, perhaps they wanted to distract me from thinking about my brother, Gordon Hirabayashi, who wasn’t with us. He was in prison.
Before our forced removal, the entire Pacific Coast was under a federally imposed curfew for Japanese Americans. Gordon was attending the University of Washington and he strongly believed that this curfew and Executive Order 9066 were unconstitutional.
Deliberately staying out past the curfew, Gordon turned himself in to police and demanded that he be arrested. The police officers knew Gordon and told him to go home, but he persisted and was arrested by the FBI, tried and found guilty of violating the curfew. With no transportation paid for by the government, Gordon refused to pay his own way to go to prison in Arizona, so he decided to hitchhike.
Gordon also refused to be sent to the concentration camps or serve in the military, spending nearly two years in different prisons while appealing his curfew verdict. Eventually in 1943, his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled against him.
Gordon’s principled stand was both unusual and lonely. Hardly anyone stood up for civil rights in the 1940s like they did in the 1960s, and most people in the Japanese-American community — let alone the nation at large — disagreed with his views as being unpatriotic and criticized him for making things harder by “rocking the boat.”
Forty years after his Supreme Court verdict, the U.S. District Court in Seattle overturned Gordon’s conviction. Blockbuster evidence was uncovered that the federal government deliberately withheld important military documents from his Supreme Court case, disclosing that racial reasons and not military necessity were used to justify the exclusion and incarceration of Japanese Americans.
After the war, Gordon earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in sociology from the University of Washington, enjoyed a successful academic career and received many awards including our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Among all of his accomplishments, I’m most proud of my brother for his courage to protest the unbridled use of power by our government during times of fear, war hysteria and racial prejudice, and, since Sept. 11, 2001, I suspect that Gordon wouldn’t mind if I added religious intolerance to that list.
Gordon died on Jan. 2, 2012. To ensure that his story lives on and inspires generations to come, our family is honored that the permanent Legacy of Justice installations of public art and interpretive elements will be the cornerstone of the mixed-use Hirabayashi Place project currently under construction in Seattle’s Chinatown International District.
“I never looked at my case as my own, or just as a Japanese-American case,” Gordon said in reference to his overturned conviction. “It is an American case, with principles that affect the fundamental human rights of all Americans.”
Esther Toshiko Hirabayashi Furugori is a charter member of the Hirabayashi Place Legacy of Justice Committee.