Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Gordon Hirabayashi Interview V
Narrator: Gordon Hirabayashi
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Alice Ito (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 4, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-hgordon-05-0016

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TI: Before we get there, though, but what lesson -- I mean, as younger people or as students learn about the Constitution of the United States -- what lesson can they take away from what happened to you, your case, and then, yeah. What would you say in terms of, here you stood for certain constitutional principles and the Supreme Court ruled against you, and yet forty years later it was rectified, as you said. But what lesson would you tell students about this experience?

GH: I think, I think the experience that we have to keep in mind is a, is one of citizenship and what citizenship means. It was one thing for the Founding Fathers to come out with a preamble on which they placed their perspectives in writing the constitution for the kind of country they hoped to have. Gee, this was done by the Fathers of the Revolution. We're not even a country yet, yet we're talking about the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, a statement that's used, I don't know, by so many countries. And we're drawing up similar statements at the birth of their country after being subjected as part of some empire. I think the thing we have to take in mind is a broader perspective in, in accomplishments of time. When does justice take place? And what, what happened to, to have it happen? You fight for certain principles. Some part of it is accepted. The rest of it didn't make it. But over the years continual battles take place. And the next time this case comes up again, we get the effects of those battles, battlefronts and human rights, and so on, that have taken place. So that in our country it took 130 years for women who, who accepted that statement about "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." They added to themselves and women, too. But it took 130 years of constant battles to have it become legalized. Abraham Lincoln made a statement, a proclamation, Emancipation Proclamation that, you know, the slaves are people. But it took a number of years, and the first one that came out, Plessy v. U.S. [Ed. note: Narrator is referring to Plessy v. Ferguson] in 1895 or '93 or something, which said you could have segregated justice. If, you could have inequality as long as, you could have segregation as long as it's equal. Now, what, what determines it? What, what the Supreme Court said in throwing that out, see, from 1893 to 1940, '54, the...

TI: Is that Brown v. Education? [Ed. note: Interviewer is referring to Brown v. Board of Education] Yeah.

GH: Yeah. So that's about, yeah, it's about fifty years. It took fifty years of multiple cases of issues and constant battling before it was, the very fact that you, why do we have segregation? In order to be unequal. In order to have privileges. That itself was considered fundamentally unconstitutional. So segregation, segregation at first was okay as long as it's equal, and they pretended that blacks were getting the same treatment when they weren't. But the major reason for segregating was to maintain the privileges. So that's, that's what became accepted. The women got, got the franchise in 1980, but they're having to fight for justice. In the academic world, for example, periodically we have test cases to show that women -- although they are in the assistant professor, associate professor, full professor, but in much less, lesser percentages. And if you consider the periods -- 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 2000 -- you find differences increasing equality. It means you got to fight for it. You gotta be constant. That's, that's the part that, of reality that we have to keep in mind. The principles in a loose sort of way takes place somewhere long before people are willing to see it operationally. And it, it's, that's what you have to work towards, and it takes time. And lot of battling going on. It didn't come, it didn't come just because you just waited.

TI: Good. Okay.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.