AFTER ALMOST 60 YEARS, ONLY 119 DAYS UNTIL FRED KOREMATSU DAYBy Greater Long Beach
January 30 will henceforth be known as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, which is a mouthful, but still doesn’t come close to describing the brave stand this American citizen of Japanese ancestry took during World War II in defense of the United States’ fundamental principles of freedom and fairness.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature Sunday on AB 1775 by Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D, Carson-Long Beach) made Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution a law, requiring California’s governor to proclaim it every January 30 and to encourage public schools and educational institutions to observe that date by conducting exercises remembering the life of Fred Korematsu and recognizing the importance of preserving civil liberties. (Full bill text, click here.)
Fred Koremats-who? We’ll explain:
After President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942—requiring American citizens of Japanese ancestry from four states to move elsewhere in the U.S. or be herded into concentration camps—Korematsu refused. He was arrested and convicted for violating the order, and that conviction was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Over the years, the heroism of Korematsu’s act of civil disobedience has become widely recognized, as has the duplicity of the U.S. government in the case. In the 1970s, researchers using the Freedom of Information Act uncovered documents that undercut the Roosevelt administration’s stated grounds its order; Congress agreed to pay sums to those affected by the wartime action; and in 1998 a federal judge granted a petition overturning Korematu’s wartime conviction (and convictions of two other individuals).
Furutani’s legislation, which passed without voted opposition in the Assembly and state Senate, includes among the legislature’s findings and declarations the following text:
“After spending several months at Tanforan, a former horse racing track, Korematsu and his family were sent to the Topaz concentration camp in Utah… The 442nd Infantry of the United States Army was a combat team composed primarily of Japanese American soldiers who fought in Europe. Some members of the 442nd were recruited directly from the concentration camps, and many others had relatives that were incarcerated in the camps…”