Monday was Fred Korematsu’s birthday. The brave twenty-three year old who in 1942 refused to be interned by the U.S. government alongside 120,000 other Japanese Americans has been on my mind. It is not simply because he was the featured doodle for Google. And not just because Trump’s executive orders to ban individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries— evoking Executive Order 9066 challenged by Korematsu — have been in the news. I have been thinking about him because an incident from my own past has been haunting me.
In San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre, the Fred T. Korematsu Institute presented its annual program for Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution Jan. 30 with this year’s program entitled “Re(ad)dressing Racial Injustice: From Japanese American Incarceration to Anti-Muslim Bigotry.” Featuring two panels of speakers, as well as presentations by children, the evening addressed the parallels Muslims and people of Arabic descent face today with that of wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans.
A dual ceremony was held Jan. 30 honoring the late civil rights activist Fred T. Korematsu and dedicating the new middle school campus in El Cerrito named in his honor. Korematsu, in 1942 at the age of 23, refused to be placed in the government's Japanese American internment camps of World War II. He was arrested and convicted for defying the order. After a failed Supreme Court appeal in 1944, a federal court in San Francisco overturned his conviction on November 10, 1983. Korematsu was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1998.
The 1944 Supreme Court case Korematsu v. United States—which upheld the constitutionality of interning Fred Korematsu and 120,000 other Japanese Americans during World War II on the grounds of military necessity—remains a blemish on the Court's history because of the practice's racially biased motivations. Although many believe similar actions never could be carried out today, Korematsu's daughter and others warned of the dangers of forgetting the past during the Law School's January 28 Fred Korematsu Recognition.
SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 2, 2016) — On Saturday, the Fred T. Korematsu Institute honored the late Fred T. Korematsu, with the 6th Annual Fred Korematsu Day celebration at the Herbst Theatre. Korematsu famously fought against the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, and this year’s celebration, titled “Re(ad)dressing Racial Injustice: From Japanese American Incarceration to Anti-Muslim Bigotry,” built upon Korematsu’s legacy by connecting the Japanese American WWII experience to urgent issues facing other communities, particularly American Muslims.
Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas and Congressman Mike Honda will headline this year’s Fred Korematsu Day Celebration on Sunday, January 26, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Morris Dailey Auditorium in Tower Hall at San Jose State University. Emmy Award-winning journalist Lloyd LaCuesta will emcee.