63 Alb. L. Rev. 703 (1999-2000)
American Drug Laws: The New Jim Crow

handle is hein.journals/albany63 and id is 715 raw text is: AMERICAN DRUG LAWS: THE NEW JIM CROW
THE 1999 EDWARD C. SOBOTA LECTURE
Ira Glasser*
In 1942, over 120,000 Americans were stripped of their businesses
and their homes and incarcerated for the duration of World War II.1
They committed no offense. They were convicted of no crime. They
were suspected, arrested, had their property confiscated and were
imprisoned because of the color of their skin and their national
origin or the national origin of their parents.
The Japanese-American internment in 1942 was an exercise in a
traditional American abuse. That abuse was to substitute skin color
and national origin for evidence, and to punish on that basis alone.
When I say that the Japanese-American internment was a
traditional American abuse, I mean that it did not occur in a
cultural, legal or political vacuum. It was one of the worst abuses
the United States government ever visited upon its own citizens,
but it was not the only such abuse.
During the time of the internment, Jim Crow laws2 and formal
racial segregation existed in the American South and was so reified
that virtually no one in this country could imagine it ending. A
nation that had long ago learned to tolerate and accept Jim Crow
laws (victimizing African-Americans) was well-equipped and well-
* Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This speech was
originally delivered at the 1999 Biennial Conference of the ACLU. On September 23, 1999, a
rendition of this speech was delivered at Albany Law School as the 1999 Edward C. Sobota
Lecture.
I See Exec. Order No. 9066, 3 C.F.R. 1092-93 (1938-1943) (authorizing the secretary of war
to prescribe military areas for the internment of people of Japanese ancestry); Kimberly
Chun, Reflecting on a Bitter Past: Japanese Americans Mark Anniversary of Internment, S.F.
CHRON., Feb. 19, 1998, at A13 (noting that Executive Order 9066 led to the internment of
more than 100,000 people).
2 Jim Crow laws enforced a rigid system of segregation following the Civil War and the
Reconstruction Era. See, e.g., 1908 La. Acts 87 (repealed) (making interracial concubinage a
felony); 1894 La. Acts 54 (repealed) (prohibiting interracial marriage); Plessy v. Ferguson, 163
U.S. 537, 550-51 (1896) (upholding Louisiana law providing for separate but equa facilities
for African-Americans).

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