Hirabayashi v. U.S. (1943)
Projection on inkjet print, installation views (2005)
Text-based overhead projection that explores the relationship between forgiveness and erasure by imagining how judicial decisions might be inscribed on sites of political resistance, displacement, and disenfranchisement, included in the 2005 exhibition “’I beg your pardon’ or the Reestablishing of Cordial Relations” sponsored by the Vera List Center at the New School.
Excerpt from Supreme Court Justice Murphy’s concurring opinion in Hirabayashi v. U.S. (1943):
To say that any group cannot be is to admit that has failed, that our way of life has when confronted with the normal attachment of certain groups to the lands of their forefathers. As a nation we many groups, some of them among the oldest settlements in our midst, which have isolated themselves for religious and cultural reasons.
Today is the first time, so far as I am aware, that we have sustained a substantial restriction of the personal liberty of citizens of the United States based upon the accident of race or ancestry. Under the curfew order here challenged no less than 70,000 American citizens been placed under a special ban and deprived of their liberty because of their particular racial inheritance. In this sense it bears a melancholy resemblance to the treatment accorded to members of the Jewish race in Germany and in other parts of Europe. The result is the creation in this country of two classes of citizens for the purposes of a critical and perilous hour — to sanction discrimination between groups of United States citizens on the basis of ancestry. In my opinion this goes to the very brink of constitutional power.
Distinctions based on color and ancestry are utterly inconsistent with our traditions and ideals. They are at variance with the principles for which we are now waging war. We cannot close our eyes to the fact that for centuries the Old World has been torn by racial and religious conflicts and has suffered the worst kind of anguish because of inequality of treatment for different groups. There was one law for one and a different law for another. Nothing is written more firmly into our law than the compact of the Plymouth voyagers to have just and equal laws. To say that any group cannot be assimilated is to admit that the great American experiment has failed, that our way of life has failed when confronted with the normal attachment of certain groups to the lands of their forefathers. As a nation we embrace many groups, some of them among the oldest settlements in our midst, which have isolated themselves for religious and cultural reasons.