Criminal Justice Section
Criminal Justice Magazine
Volume 17 Issue 2
Profiling in the Wake of September 11:
The Precedent of the Japanese American Internment
By Frank H. Wu
The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is the obvious precedent for the treatment of Arab Americans and Muslim Americans in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Whether the example should be followed or avoided and what it means generally, however, remains a subject of controversy. The ambivalence is not surprising, because judgments about the internment have vacillated between strong approval and equally strong disapproval. Advocates for the internment during World War II invoked national security and opponents of it in a more recent era appeal to civil rights, but the dialogue over it has rarely proceeded beyond the superficial level. The internment has been the most studied aspect of Asian American history, but it deserves greater consideration by all citizens who care about the proper course of conduct during the present crisis.
At the time, virtually everyone in public life supported the mass incarceration of approximately 120,000 men, women, elderly, and children, some two-thirds of them native-born U.S. citizens. There were no criminal charges brought against them, no trials before juries, and no findings of guilt before almost all persons of Japanese descent on the West Coast were ordered, in many cases on only a few days’ notice, into camps built in desolate swamp and desert areas. Allowed to take only what they could carry in what was euphemistically termed an "evacuation," they remained behind barbed wire, under the watch of armed soldiers in guard towers.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the executive order authorizing the internment to proceed. (Exec. Order 9066, 7 Fed. Reg. 1407 (Feb. 17, 1942).) Congress subsequently passed a public law ratifying his action with no deliberation. (Pub. L. No. 77–503, 56 Stat. 173 (1942).) The Supreme Court took four cases in which it effectively allowed the internment without ever directly passing on the constitutionality of the indefinite detention of persons based on racial suspicion. Future Chief Justice Earl Warren, then a California politician, favored the plans. Erudite newspaper columnist Walter Lippmann did so as well.
Others were even more vociferous. Journalist Westbrook Pegler proposed a "reprisal reserve" from which Japanese Americans might be taken out and shot in retaliation for Japanese war atrocities. (Roger Daniels, Concentration Camps, North America: Japanese in the United States and Canada During World War II, 33 (Krieger Publishing Co. 1993).)
Even the national ACLU refused to challenge the internment, because it backed President Roosevelt on other policies. Its California chapters broke away, taking on that responsibility. Chinese Americans and Korean Americans did their best to distinguish themselves from Japanese Americans. They posted signs and wore buttons that read, "Chinese, not Japanese" and "I hate the Japs more than you do." Only a few individuals and organizations, such as the pacifist Society of Friends (Quakers), sided with Japanese Americans.
The internment can be readily critiqued in retrospect because the racial prejudice was open. After all, this was still the "Jim Crow" era, as ushered in by the Supreme Court’s approval in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), of the doctrine of racially "separate but equal." Even the United States Army was explicitly segregated. The pro-internment sentiments fit into the same pattern. The commander of the Western Defense, Lieutenant General John L. De Witt, opined bluntly that "A Jap’s a Jap and that’s all there is to it." As the chief proponent of the internment, he made clear that he meant Japanese Americans, because "in the war in which we are now engaged racial affinities are not severed by migration" and "the Japanese race is the enemy race." Even with Americanization, "racial strains are undiluted." Japanese Americans would be a problem until all Japs were "wiped off the map." (United States Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians 99 (1983).)
Many other top decision makers echoed those sentiments that confused race, culture, political loyalty, and likely behavior, albeit with the extreme hostility somewhat toned down. Secretary of War Henry Stimson, for example, said, "their racial characteristics are such that we cannot understand or trust even the citizen Japanese." (Caroline Chung Simpson, An Absent Presence: Japanese Americans in Postwar American Culture , 1945–1960, 49 (Duke University Press 2001).)
Others maintained that Japanese Americans would be resentful toward white Americans because of past discrimination: Japanese immigrants were forbidden from naturalizing as citizens, except for the men who were United States military veterans, because they had been found by the Supreme Court not to be "free white persons." ( Ozawa v. United States, 260 U.S. 178 (1922).) The same rule was generalized to all Asian immigrants. ( See, e.g., United States v. Thind, 261 U.S. 204 (1923).) Consequently, they could not own real property due to alien land laws enacted in envy at their unexpected success as farmers. Japanese Americans also faced widespread employment discrimination and social segregation. Nativist groups had long campaigned actively and successfully to end Asian immigration to preserve the Golden State as white. For them, the war was an opportunity to be rid of Japanese Americans. They sought to strip citizenship from Japanese Americans and they said they did not want them back even after the conflict was over. (The government came up with a purposeful policy of resettling Japanese Americans away from the West Coast, expressly to disperse them and prevent the formation of ethnic communities.)
Some even declared that the more assimilated Japanese Americans looked to be, the more likely it was they were simply deceitful. The very fact that there had not been cases of espionage, sabotage, or treason was used to insinuate that the blow was being held back until it could be struck with maximum effect.
Meanwhile, according to its detractors, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) urged its members to obey the government. Trying to make the best of a bad situation and with limited options, according to JACL leaders, they repeated mainstream assertions that Japanese Americans ought to comply with military orders to display their allegiance. Causing much lingering bitterness that has persisted to the present day, their acquiescence was expressed in their creed of "better Americans in a greater America."
At heart, the internment was the association of Japanese Americans with the Japanese Empire. Although the shock, anger, and fear generated by the devastating strike on Pearl Harbor was perhaps natural, the displacement of those volatile emotions on Japanese Americans, who made up less than 1 percent of the population of California, the state in which they were concentrated, depended on assumptions about ancestry. What Japan had done was blamed on Japanese Americans. After the day of infamy, they became officially "enemy aliens" in the eyes of other Americans. Citizenship ceased to matter. The justification of the internment as employing ethnicity, rather than race, as the dispositive issue is unpersuasive. The category of "Japanese" was at the time less an ethnicity than a race. Ethnicity only became a common term as a euphemism for race; and in any event ethnicity is only slightly less crude but no less immutable than race, for both are rooted in the idea of "blood" determining identity.
There were spectacular allegations made at the time—all of them eventually proven to be unfounded—that Japanese Americans had planted their crops in Hawaii to point toward targets to be bombed; that Japanese Americans had used amateur radio signals to direct Japanese ships; and that pilots on the Zero fighter planes wore sweatshirts from United States high schools. Others said that Japanese Americans blocked the roads to prevent rescue vehicles from passing and that they were lacing their produce with poison before sending it to the markets. Japanese Americans were rumored to have formed a "fifth column" that would enable Japanese troops to invade triumphantly. (The term "fifth column" comes from the Spanish Civil War. Asked, as they marched toward Madrid, which of their four columns would take the city, the Nationalists said it would be the fifth column of sympathizers already inside the city.)
Remarkably, in the period of officially-sanctioned racial prejudice that preceded Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), Justice Hugo Black, who authored the majority opinion in the Korematsu decision, made it appear as if racial animus would be improper in government action. In the best-known of the Supreme Court cases on the internment, Justice Black wrote that, "Our task would be simple, our duty clear, were this a case involving the imprisonment of a loyal citizen in a concentration camp because of racial prejudice." ( Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214, 223 (1944).)
As often happens, even though race had been politically relevant, it was rendered legally irrelevant. Justice Black dismissed the accusation that any such bias was involved in the internment. He stated, "Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race." Rather, "he was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire" and there was "evidence of disloyalty on the part of some." ( Id.)
Thus, Justice Black’s opinion has an unsettling gap in it. There is nothing that connects Korematsu to Japan or others who may have been disloyal. Justice Black, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who downplayed his affiliation with the group as a political obligation, tried to preempt objections to his reasoning with the caveat: "To cast this case into outlines of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military dangers which were presented, merely confuses the issue." ( Id.)
Justice Black’s disclaimer notwithstanding, the nexus between Korematsu and Japan, or Korematsu and other individuals, is crucial but missing. It is Korematsu’s heritage. Other than that, Korematsu has no more linkage to Japan than any other Californian and he was not shown to be personally disloyal. Ironically, Korematsu had stayed behind because of his white girlfriend and he had had crude plastic surgery in a vain attempt to disguise himself as Hispanic. The case that bears his name, said at the time to have had nothing whatsoever to do with race, somehow has become the dominant interpretation of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws.
In an interview with the New York Times, given on the condition it be published posthumously, Justice Black reiterated almost a quarter century later that his racial reckoning had been right. Reversing the presumption of innocence, but only for Japanese Americans, he said, "People were rightly fearful of the Japanese in Los Angeles, many loyal to the United States, many undoubtedly not. . . . They all look alike to a person not a Jap. . . ." He said disingenuously that the camps protected Japanese Americans. ( Justice Black, Champion of Civil Liberties for 34 Years on the Court, Dies at 85," N.Y. Times, Sept. 26, 1971 at 76.)
Strangely, the internment cases appear to have evaded the most basic question. That question is whether it is constitutional to order the mass incarceration of persons as to whom no individual showing of guilt has been made, ostensibly because of national security, though also with the use of racial classifications. The internment proceeded in stages, however, and not all at once. The Court was able to take up cases that addressed the preliminary phases, delaying addressing the camps themselves until the government had ordered their closure.
In the Hirabayashi case, the first that was decided, the Court upheld the conviction on a count of violating the initial curfew order. ( Hirabayashi v. U.S., 320 U.S. 81 (1943).) It wrote that "it will be unnecessary to consider questions raised" with respect to another count of violating the subsequent exclusion order. ( Id. at 85.) The government had argued, against the evidence, that complying with the exclusion order "did not necessarily entail confinement in a relocation center." ( Id. at 105.) The Yasui case, the next to be decided, likewise concerned only a violation of the curfew. ( Yasui v. U.S., 320 U.S. 115 (1943).)
In the Korematsu case, it is astonishing that the court states: "It will be time enough to decide the serious constitutional issues which petitioner seeks to raise when an assembly or relocation order is applied or is certain to be applied to him, and we have its terms before us." The Court’s decision allowed the internment, but did not approve of it. The Court actually was adamant that it was not passing upon "the whole subsequent detention program in both assembly and relocation centers."
The time did not soon come to "decide the serious constitutional issues" and the Court could scarcely have concealed the fact that it would never come. The Korematsu case was handed down the same day as the Endo case. The timing of both decisions was delayed, perhaps through coordination with the political branches, until the camps were scheduled to cease their operations, a process that would take more than a year. ( Korematsu had already been remanded to the circuit court of appeals earlier for unrelated reasons, meaning that the tide of war had turned between the inception of the case and its reappearance on the Supreme Court’s docket.) In Endo, 323 U.S. 283 (1943), on a writ of habeas corpus, the Court held on statutory and not constitutional grounds that the petitioner was "entitled to an unconditional release" as someone whom the government conceded was loyal. By that reasoning, presumably Endo (and thousands of others) could have left of her own accord at any time. In other words, the internment had been unauthorized.
This less than forthright reasoning of the legal cases matched the politics of the internment. As numerous commentators have pointed out, the intelligence community had already concluded that the Japanese American threat, such as it was, had been adequately contained. The naval intelligence officer who had the Japan portfolio even wrote an anonymous magazine article cautioning that the risks from Japanese Americans were being dramatically overstated. Legal historian Peter Irons has amply documented Justice Department apprehensions that military claims about Japanese Americans were exaggerated or even false. The lawyers who wished to alert the Supreme Court to the factual flaws infecting the basis for the internment were overruled by their superiors at the last minute. (Peter Irons, Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese American Internment Cases (Oxford University Press 1983).)
The inconsistencies of the internment become apparent if the territory of Hawaii is considered. If the internment was warranted, it should have been instituted in Hawaii with greatest priority because Pearl Harbor had occurred there and it sat within the theater of operations. Although such a possibility was briefly considered, it was quickly dismissed. Locking up Japanese Americans in Hawaii would have meant that a third of the population, and the bulk of the workforce on the plantations that were the mainstay of the islands’ economy, would be removed. The need for workers and the profits they produced trumped racial hatred. The military, as well, was not interested in the task of rounding up and shipping out thousands of civilians.
Likewise, the impression that the internment concerned only foreign nationals, who manifestly do not enjoy the same rights as citizens, is belied by the handling of German immigrants and Italian immigrants. Unlike Japanese immigrants, who could not have become citizens due to the racial bar, their German and Italian counterparts were not sent to internment camps as a group (though the former had faced extensive discrimination during the Great War). Some individual German immigrants and Italian immigrants were arrested, much as Japanese immigrants were, primarily in early sweeps after the United States entered the war, in a precursor to the internment. Despite an active German American Bund that promoted Hitler throughout the Midwest and boasted thousands of members, German U-boats shelling the Atlantic coast, and German agents actually being captured on U.S. soil before they could carry out their missions (leading to the case on military tribunals, In re Ex Parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942)), German Americans and Italian Americans were deemed to be dangerous only in extreme individual instances and internment was thought to be impractical.
Nor is the internment excused because during war people suffer. Japanese Americans, like all Americans, endured the uncertainty of the conflict and the deprivations on the homefront. Japanese Americans bore an extra burden: They lost their jobs, their homes, their possessions, their pets, and their liberty—not because of the hostile actions of a foreign power, but due to the needless and racially selective policies of their own government.
All Americans had their rights curtailed to an extent, but Japanese Americans had their rights denied in a severe manner. Contrary to the impressions conveyed by the mass media, Japanese Americans did not sit out the war in the comfort of luxurious camps. They, too, gave their lives in a profound sacrifice to demonstrate that they were loyal; families and communities felt the same loss of war casualties. The racially segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 100th Battalion became the most highly decorated units of their size and length of service in U.S. history. The 442nd rallying cry was "go for broke" and its troop insignia read, "Remember Pearl Harbor" as it campaigned in France, Italy, and Germany, taking on suicide missions. Other Japanese Americans served as interpreters, translators, cartographers, military intelligence analysts, and in various support roles, working throughout the Pacific region and behind the scenes in the United States.
Almost a half-century later, when compensation for the internees was being debated, a few members of Congress insisted that Japanese Americans should not be paid until Japan made amends to United States prisoners of war. They still equated Japanese Americans with Japan.
By and large, though, the contemporary conception of the internment has been negative. Our national memory until recently has been radically different from the outlook of the World War II era. After a lengthy period when most Americans forgot about the internment and even many Japanese Americans felt shame over their fate and strove to overcome its effects, a consensus gradually developed that it had been a mistake.
Presidents of both political parties, beginning with Gerald Ford, apologized for it. Ford also rescinded Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4417, 41 Fed. Reg. 7741 (1976).) According to the nonpartisan independent government commission that convened hearings and undertook a thorough investigation some 40 years later, the internment had been motivated by wartime hysteria, racial prejudice, and failure of political leadership—not military necessity. ( See, supra, Personal Justice Denied.) Its report, representative of later opinion, persuaded Congress in 1988 to pass legislation paying reparations in the amount of $20,000 to each surviving individual who had been confined in the camps. (Pub. L. No. 100–383, 102 Stat. 903 (1988).) Even the convictions of the three men who litigated the propriety of the internment to the highest court in the land—Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Min Yasui—were vacated on obscure writs of coram nobis. ( Korematsu v. United States, 584 F. Supp. 1406 (N.D. Cal. 1984); Hirabayashi v. United States, 828 F.2d 591 (9th Cir. 1987); Yasui v. United States, 772 F.2d 1496 (9th Cir. 1985).) The vacating of the convictions in individual cases has not diminished the strength of the Supreme Court precedent.
The events of September 11, 2001, have prompted further reconsideration. Politicians, pundits, and a majority of the population have embraced diversity at least on the surface. Other than a few ideologues, who foresee an ultimate "clash of civilizations," and a handful of extremists, nobody has described the war on terrorism as a war against all Arabs or all Muslims. Regardless of partisan affiliation, most leaders have taken pains to disavow such notions.
All the same, respected voices are being raised for racial profiling and the rhetoric of welcoming all races and religions may not match the reality of law enforcement. Syndicated columnist Stuart Taylor, Jr., among others, has argued that at airport checkpoints, individuals who are Arab- or Muslim-appearing should be subjected to more intensive searches.
It turns out, once again, to be easy enough to surrender the civil rights of somebody else. Oddly, few have bothered to explain how or why racial profiling would be effective. The tension between national security and civil liberties is taken for granted. Yet the national security side of the equation is speculative and rests on the familiar warning that if this war is lost there will be no rights or liberties for anybody at all. Even those who embraced color-blindness, primarily in attacks on racial remedies, have given up their beliefs. Whatever the pros and cons of racial profiling, color-blindness and racial profiling are inherently incompatible.
Some opinion polls even suggest that African Americans, long victims of racial profiling in domestic criminal prosecutions and despite their protests about the "driving while black" problem, are just as willing as everyone else to adopt racial profiling of Arab Americans and Muslim Americans as potential terrorists. Bush administration Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has been assailed for his refusal to direct the racial profiling of Arab Americans and Muslim Americans at airport checkpoints. The Cabinet member has even been mocked for recalling his own experience as a Japanese American, interned as a child of eight.
The condemnation of the internment may lead to the condoning of milder measures in the classical fallacy of false alternatives. Anything short of an internment is compared to the internment, as if to say it could be worse and so there is no cause for complaint. To be fair, racial profiling can be carried out in a much milder form than internment camps. To be precise, the current secret detentions are best likened to the apprehension of hundreds of Japanese Americans, German Americans, and Italian Americans and the curfews and other measures that preceded the internment itself.
In that context, the conclusion that the internment was wrong is not enough. The reasons it was wrong must be articulated again. As lawyers well know, the rationale may be as important as the result by itself in comprehending the meaning of legal authority. What is constitutional is not necessarily advisable. Technically, for all the contempt directed at the Supreme Court’s internment cases, it is worth noting that the decisions have never been repudiated and actually have been followed consistently. Indeed, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist penned a book a few years ago intimating that if a similar matter were to come before the Court again he would not expect it do otherwise. (William H. Rehnquist, All the Laws But One: Civil Liberties in Wartime (Knopf 1998).)
Imagining the counterfactual hypothetical of a Supreme Court that struck down the internment, then, also entails supplying an intellectual foundation. There are multiple possibilities. They lead to different outcomes in today’s circumstances. If the internment was wrong because racial classifications are to be regarded as immoral or unconstitutional as an absolute rule, then there is no distinction to be made between Japanese Americans on the one hand and Arab Americans or Muslim Americans on the other hand. The form of the argument does not vary by specific groups.
If the internment was wrong because the particular racial generalization was in the aggregate false, then it may well be possible and appropriate to distinguish between the Japanese Americans and Arab Americans or Muslim Americans. The premise is that the conduct of Japanese Americans on the whole does not predict the conduct of Arab Americans or Muslim Americans on the whole.
There are more possibilities. If the internment was wrong because of the lack of any semblance of due process, then even the German Americans and Italian Americans in isolated cases had their rights violated. Individual Arabs and Muslims who are aliens may be entitled to more due process than equal protection.
If the internment was wrong because it yields other social costs that were not properly weighted in a utilitarian calculus, then all such factors should be taken into account. The incentives created by racial profiling for its subjects may be considerable. Some Arab Americans and Muslim Americans, like anyone else, might be more eager to cooperate with patriotic efforts if they did not have the sense that war was being waged on a racial or religious ground. Even the suggestion that people should tolerate modest impositions is galling, because it is only some persons, already marginalized, who are imposed upon. What looks like a light touch to observers can feel like an awfully heavy hand to those who feel it.
With its strict scrutiny standard, developed in the internment cases, the Supreme Court in practice has compromised between form and fact. The application of strict scrutiny is demanding of the government. It places the burden on the state and requires both a legally sufficient "compelling interest" and a factually sufficient "narrow tailoring" (or "least restrictive means" fit) of the means to that end. But strict scrutiny is neither wholly abstract nor entirely empirical. It is not quite a per se rule prohibiting any and all racial classifications.
In Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200 (1995), in which the court effectively rehabilitated the internment cases by citing them as controlling doctrine, it said that strict scrutiny is not to be regarded as universally fatal to the contested legislation, as Stanford professor Gerald Gunther had posited in The Supreme Court, 1971 Term—Forward: In Search of Evolving Doctrine on a Changing Court: A Model for a Newer Equal Protection (86 Harv. L. Rev. 1, 8 (1972)—even if the internment itself is the only instance extant of an invidious racial classification affecting a minority group being subjected to strict scrutiny and surviving the test. It is supposed to be anything but a permissive rule that allows racial classifications with cursory proof. The test contrasts with the customary rule of rationality review, under which the courts are to sustain democratic outcomes if judges can imagine a plausible foundation.
Additional guidelines come into play under the circumstances. As the internment cases themselves confirm, the court has traditionally deferred to the executive and legislative branches on political questions, and it has tended to strike a balance elevating national security over civil rights. In immigration cases, including the decision in Reno v. American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, 525 U.S. 471 (1999), involving government claims that individuals supported terrorism and a defense of selective prosecution, the Court has always recognized the "plenary power" of the political branches over immigration and limited the scope of immigrants’ rights to procedural protections.
Whatever the Court’s resolution of the cases that are already arising, the internment offers lessons. Consider the argument that all of the hijackers involved in the World Trade Center and Pentagon suicide bombings were Arab or Muslim men, and, therefore, it is common sense to subject all Arab and Muslim men to extra security measures at airports because the likelihood is greater that they will be terrorists. Paralleling the contention that some Japanese Americans were surely traitors and it was impossible to verify who exactly among them, this line of thinking accepts without any skepticism that what is superficially reasonable is automatically right. It permits low probabilities to prevail over civil liberties.
The argument relies on the logical fallacy of illicit conversion. That most X are Y or, even, all X are Y, does not mean that most Y are X: All men are human beings, but not all human beings are men. The error lies in believing that if a large number or all the terrorists are Arab or Muslim, that all Arabs or Muslims—and even those who resemble Arabs and Muslims—are terrorists or should be treated as if they were.
The trouble is not solely academic. Most Arab Americans are not Muslim; most Muslims in the United States are South Asian or African American; and the post-September 11 backlash of violence has revealed our collective carelessness in assaulting Indian Sikhs—neither Arab nor Muslim but persons who look like they might be Arab or Muslim because of skin color, accents, and dress.
The casual characterization of the current detainees in various contexts as "immigrants" also groups together many categories whose constitutional and statutory rights are not at all identical. It may include naturalized citizens or native-born citizens who have been raised outside the United States; it certainly encompasses lawful permanent residents, along with nonimmigrants who have overstayed or violated their visas, and entrants without inspection ("illegal aliens"). The prisoners who were Taliban fighters, held by the military at Guantanamo Bay, are not the same as the internees, though: The former are combatants for an enemy (even if not a government), but the latter were civilians of the United States itself.
Critics of racial profiling have two independent arguments available to them. One argument is the direct rebuttal of the factual claim. It may well be that the respective probabilities that a random older, white, Protestant American woman and the probability that a younger, Arab Muslim immigrant male are wrongdoers are not the same. But even were there a thousand sleeper agents of Arab descent or Muslim faith, ready to rise up in arms against democracy, they would constitute far less than a fraction of one-tenth of 1 percent of the Arab and Muslim populations of the United States. It is worth disputing whether the disparity in the chances are great enough to offset the tremendous cost to not just Arab Americans and Muslims but all of us if we relinquish our principle of individualism and presumption of innocence. Another argument is a more robust moral claim. It is the conviction that even were it rational in an accounting of costs and benefits to eliminate civil rights for a "discrete and insular" minority group, it would not be right to do so.
Whatever we decide to do to respond to the risks following September 11, 2001, we must regard the internment cases seriously again. In the most practical sense, every litigator—challenging or defending practices that are alleged to be both necessary for national security but infringements on civil rights—and every court will have to opt for one of the readings of the internment cases suggested above. The choices we make will set new precedent, which will extend into many other areas. It will reshape our shared understanding of who can become a citizen, what it means to be a citizen, of the rights and responsibilities that define such status.
It is true even if it became a cliché instantly, that our nation was changed profoundly on September 11, 2001, and will never be the same again. It also is true, even if less noticed, that our nation is as it was, a diverse democracy, and those twin values of diversity and democracy are enduring ideals that are worth fighting for. The bumper sticker slogan and sound bite "United We Stand" has become popular. If it is to be a reality, more than a bumper sticker slogan and sound bite, we all must stand up and speak out, and that each of us stand alongside, by, and for somebody else who does not look like us.
Frank H. Wu , a law professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C., is the author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White. Reference librarian Luis Acosta provided research support for this article.