Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Happy Korematsu Day. :)"

I just received the above text message from a friend who is a political science professor. I wasn't aware that January 30th (his birthday) is Fred Korematsu Day in California and Hawaii! Fred Korematsu is best known for the 1944 Supreme Court case, Korematsu v. United States, which questioned the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066. The case was the culmination of litigation that began in 1942 after he was arrested on the street, having failed to report to his local Assembly Center by the date he was required to. Sadly, the Supreme Court ruled EO 9066 constitutional.

Thirty-nine years later in 1983, the U.S. District Court of Northern California in San Francisco overturned Korematsu's conviction. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's decision has not been overturned, in spite of the government apologizing in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 signed by President Ronald Reagan and in the letter from President George H. W. Bush that accompanied redress payments. 

Although we've managed to avoid the wholesale round-up of Muslim and Arab Americans in recent years, their civil rights are still sometimes violated. It's sad, that Fred Korematsu's words still holds true for some American citizens.

“According to the Supreme Court decision regarding my case, being an American citizen was not enough. They say you have to look like one, otherwise they say you can’t tell a difference between a loyal and a disloyal American. I thought that this decision was wrong and I still feel that way. As long as my record stands in federal court, any American citizen can be held in prison or concentration camps without a trial or a hearing. That is if they look like the enemy of our country. Therefore, 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.”

See also: my introductory post about the Japanese American incarceration during WWII.

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