|EXTRA! EXTRA! [National Archives]|
|[courtesy of Karen Korematsu and the Korematsu Institute]|
Fred Korematsu was one of many Japanese-Americans living on the west coast at the beginning of World War II, when President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the internment of all people of Japanese descent into what was euphemistically called relocation camps. On May 3, 1942, General DeWitt ordered 120,000 Japanese-Americans to report to Assembly Centers six days later as a prelude to their incarceration.
|Tanforan Assembly Center [National Archives]|
|Waiting to be taken to camp. [National Archives]|
|Topaz, Utah camp [National Archives]|
Other residents of the camp avoided him, because they considered him to be a troublemaker, and thought his defiance was wrong and disrespectful. He continued to believe in their constitutional rights, and in the American justice system, and he was sure he would find justice in the courtroom.
|Supreme Court building [Wikipedia]|
The ACLU used his case to test the legality of the WWII incarcerations, and after losing several appeals, his case made its way to the Supreme Court in 1944. There, in a 6-3 ruling, it was determined that your ethnic affiliation can predispose you to disloyalty if you're an American of Japanese descent, and that compulsory exclusion, though constitutionally suspect, is justified during circumstances of emergency and peril.
But Korematsu didn't give up He continued to pursue his plea of innocence. A special commission formed by President Carter concluded in 1982 that the internment of Japanese-American citizens was a grave injustice based on race prejudice, war hysteria, and failure of political leadership. That same year, Professor Peter Irons uncovered evidence that the government's lawyers had withheld important information during Korematsu's 1944 Supreme Court hearing. In 1983, the U.S. District of the Northern District of California overturned Korematsu's conviction. Standing before the court, he said, I would like to see the government admit that they were wrong and do something about it so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed, or color. And, If anyone should do any pardoning, I should be the one pardoning the government for what they did to Japanese-American people.
In 1988, Congress apologized, and granted personal compensation of twenty thousand dollars to each surviving prisoner.
|[photo credit: Dennis Cook]|
Since 2011, January 30 has been celebrated as Fred Korematsu Day... a day to remember him, and to honor his unwavering belief in civil liberties, justice, and the Constitution of the United States.
In the 1944 Supreme Court decision, in speaking for the dissenters, Robert Jackson said, The Supreme Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens. And that 1944 Supreme Court decision... still stands.
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
P.S. If you'd like to see the two earlier posts, you can find them by clicking on the Gaman tag in the sidebar.