I Am An American
The Korematsus, Fred third from left, in their family greenhouse.
California now has a day honoring Fred Korematsu, who at 23 challenged the World War II internment
of Japanese-Americans all the way to the Supreme Court - though he had
to wait 40 more years for a reversal of his conviction. A lifelong
activist, Korematsu also fought the post-9/11 indefinite detention of
"enemy combatants" in Rumsfeld v. Padilla. He won a Presidential Medal
of Freedom in 1998, has had several schools named after him including
the Fred Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education, and is the subject of a documentary film. More on his life and importance here.
"As historical precedent, (Korematsu's conviction) it stands as a constant
caution that in times of war or declared military necessity our
institutions must be vigilant in protecting constitutional guarantees.
It stands as a caution that in times of distress the shield of military
necessity and national security must not be used to protect governmental
actions from close scrutiny and accountability. It stands as a caution
that in times of international hostility and antagonisms our
institutions, legislative, executive and judicial, must be prepared to
exercise their authority to protect all citizens from the petty fears
and prejudices that are so easily aroused." - Federal District
Court Judge Marilyn Patel, ruling in 1984 that "great
wrong" had been done to Korematsu and other Japanese-Americans.