Breakthrough law book addresses Asian American rights

(June 27, 2013) "Race, Rights and Reparation: Law and the Japanese American Internment," coauthored by Seattle University School of Law Professors Margaret Chon and Lori Bannai, as well as Law Professors Eric K. Yamamoto, Jerry Kang, Carol Izumi and Frank H. Wu, has been published in its second edition.

Race, Rights and Reparation book coverAs the only book dedicated to Asian Americans and the law, it is used widely as a casebook for law courses and as the text for graduate and undergraduate courses on Asian American Studies. It is also speaks to scholars interested in present-day issues of national security/civil liberties and redress for historic injustice.

While the book offers dedicated insight into the Japanese American Internment during World War II (and the successful reparations movement of the 1980s), its scope extends much further, offering a comprehensive critical examination of the Asian American legal experience and beyond.

"The publication of this book is very timely," says Margaret Chon, the Donald and Lynda Horowitz Professor for the Pursuit of Justice, "given heightened use of national security arguments generally in the post 9/11 context to justify widespread surveillance and other government actions, as well as on-going issues concerning Guantanamo detainees. This scholarly intervention is exactly why I went to law school 30 years ago — to try to make a difference in our understanding of law and its relation to justice for less powerful groups."

The book project originated from the largest grant given by the federal Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, created as part of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act, which paid redress to those who had been interned; the fund supported educational and artistic projects intended to present the lessons learned from the internment. The book later received funding from California's counterpart legislation.

"To me, the Japanese American internment is more than a historical event that's studied in college and law school," says Professor Carol Izumi of the University of California Hastings College of the Law. "It is part of my family's experience as West Coast residents who were forcibly removed from their home and put behind barbed wire at the Tule Lake facility in Northern California. By writing this book we hope that no other Americans will be deprived of constitutional rights during wartime because of race."

Updating and revising a law book considered groundbreaking in its own right required rigorous scholarship. Each of the coauthors brought a specific worldview and area of expertise to the project. The result of that collaboration is an academic work with wide-ranging applications for a multitude of practice and scholarship areas.

"As a member of the team that worked on the Korematsu coram nobis writ, and now a civil rights law professor," says Professor Eric K. Yamamoto, "I've brought to the project both an insider's 'political lawyering' insights and a scholar's theoretical assessments about the internment cases' impact. Indeed, those cases influence both the tenor of national security/civil liberties tensions in post 9/11 America and the shape of present-day redress/reconciliation initiatives in the U.S. and beyond." Yamamoto teaches at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai'i at Manoa.

"As legal scholars and teachers," agrees Professor Jerry Kang, Professor of Law and Asian American Studies (by courtesy) at University of California, Los Angeles, "our job is to hold 'the Law' to account. That's precisely what this book does."

Two chapters of the book are available for free download.

From the publisher's website:

The Second Edition of Race, Rights and Reparation: Law and the Japanese American Internment has been substantially revised and updated with new chapters. Seattle University School of Law Professor Lorraiane Bannai is one of the contributors to this edition. Updated material includes:

  • A comprehensive overview chapter covering the text's larger themes and significant legal specifics.
  • Completely new chapters that link the internment cases and Japanese-American reparations to post-9/11 national security and civil liberties issues.
  • Updated material on scholarly and judicial treatment of the World War II and coram nobis internment cases.
  • A multidisciplinary approach appealing to scholars, students and instructors of ethnic studies, history, sociology, as well as law and legal studies.
  • Contextualization of Japanese American internment and reparations, facilitating understanding of what happened and why.
  • An examination of how social policy and politics both enabled and constrained legal decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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