“Korematsu! We stand up for what is right!”

Fred Korematsu
Fred Korematsu by Lia Chang CC Flickr

Fred Korematsu is an American hero worth celebrating. And California is doing just that today, with their seventh annual Fred Korematsu Day. Google, too, is getting in on the action with their “doodle” honoring him, surrounded by cherry blossoms and the bars of the American flag.

Fred was a Japanese American minding his own business on a day in late may, 1942. His family, along with tens of thousands of other Japanese Americans had already been rounded up for internment camps, as per an executive order by President Franklin Roosevelt. He had stayed behind, though, working and ignoring the unjust order.

On May 30, 1942, however, he was “caught,” arrested, and detained at a horse-racing track that had been converted to house the new wave of detainees.

Unlike others he fought the detention, leading a battle all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He lost the case there, 6-3, with the court believing that the incarceration was a military necessity, not mere racist bigotry.

In 1983 it was discovered that the detention of some 120,000 Japanese Americans was indeed just political and racist discrimination. There was no military threat.

That, today, is worth repeating:

The detention of some 120,000 Japanese Americans was indeed just political and racist discrimination. There was no military threat.

Korematsu, ever the fighter, got his case reopened and won. Four decades late, and long after the camps had closed, but a victory nonetheless and a lesson for all of us to watch closely and challenge the supposed “threats” of certain racial, ethnic, or religious groups today.

Today, several schools in California are named after him, and at one school, they recite the creed:

“Korematsu! We stand up for what is right!”

A good rallying cry for today and for what is bound to be a long struggle ahead. Read more on Korematsu at TIME. See my 2012 post on Korematsu here.

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