Editor’s note: While this blog was originally submitted in early January, the recent focus on immigrant targeting and deportation by the Trump administration makes this a very timely post, and underscores the California National Party’s commitment to a sensible, humane immigration and citizenship policy.
“No one should ever be locked away simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy” – Fred Korematsu
January 30th was Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in California.
Fred Korematsu was a native son of California, born in Oakland on January 30th, 1919. Korematsu was required to report for internment during WWII, along with 120,000 others of Japanese descent (most of them America citizens) after Franklin Roosevelt signed executive order 9066. Fred defied this order, was arrested and convicted as a result and eventually incarcerated, along with his family, at the internment camp for Japanese Americans in Topaz, Utah.
Korematsu appealed his incarceration up to the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case Korematsu v United States contesting the constitutionality of the internment of US citizens, a case that ruled against him. The ruling held that the ‘need to protect against espionage outweighed the rights of Japanese-American citizens’. Korematsu’s conviction for evading internment was eventually overturned in 1983, nearly 40 years later, on the basis of government misconduct; key documents were discovered that intelligence agencies withheld from the Supreme Court that showed Japanese-Americans had committed no treasonous acts to justify internment.
Fred dedicated his life to activism and continued to speak out against government abuses of civil rights. In 1998 President Clinton award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Just a little context on my personal interest in Fred Korematsu Day. My family (grandparents) immigrated from Russia via China and Hawaii and eventually to San Francisco where there was a Russian community on Potrero Hill. That was a community of White Russians that had to flee during the Russian revolution. When I was young in the 1960’s my parents and extended family talked about the fear they had because of the cold war and any possible backlash to us. If war were to break out, my parents felt that what happened to the Japanese-American citizens could happen to us. In school, because of my name, kids used to call me a, “F****** commie Russian.” So I completely understand the fear Muslims and others have today. No one should live in fear because of their race, ethnic background or religion.
Fred Korematsu Day is a reminder of that.
California was the first state to officially recognize January 30th as Fred Korematsu Day. Today, 6 states have followed California’s lead and have also recognized Fred Korematsu Day…Utah, Illinois, Georgia, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
I have only shared a very short thought on Fred Korematsu, he has an entire legacy that was barely touched upon. To read more about Fred Korematsu, native son of California, take a look at http://www.korematsuinstitute.org/fred-t-korematsu-lifetime/