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ABA | Before the Bar: The man behind the Doodle: Fred Korematsu

By Adam Music

Today’s Google Doodle honors Fred Korematsu. At the 2016 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Law Student Division Chair Kareem Aref spoke with founder and executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute Karen Korematsu about her father’s landmark case, Korematsu v. United States.

The institute’s biography of Fred Korematsu reads, “In 1942, at the age of 23, he refused to go to the government’s incarceration camps for Japanese Americans. After he was arrested and convicted of defying the government’s order, he appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1944, the Supreme Court ruled against him, arguing that the incarceration was justified due to military necessity.”

The conviction was overturned in 1983.

Karen explains that the case challenged the military orders and the constitutionality of the Japanese American incarceration during World War II and that In 1983 evidence was found that proved there was no military necessity for the internment. She recalls growing up in Oakland, California, being blamed for the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the bullying and discrimination she and her brother suffered because they were Asian American. It was not until she studied U.S. history as a junior in high school that she was made aware of the Korematsu v. United States case and her father’s 1944 Supreme Court hearing.

Karen compares the societal attitude of her youth to the political climate of today and discusses the recent evocation by a Virginia mayor of Roosevelt’s 1942 Executive Order 9066 during his call for area governments and nongovernmental agencies to suspend and delay any further assistance to Syrian refugees. She closes the interview with examples of how her organization fights bigotry through education and her thoughts on what we can do today to avoid the mistakes of the past.