(January 30, 1919 – March 30, 2005)
Japanese American and civil rights icon Fred Korematsu was born 85 years ago today. He is remembered for his decades-long fight against the proclaimed legality of Japanese internment during the Second World War. While Korematsu charges for evading internment were finally vacated in 1983, the Supreme Court case Korematsu vs. United States, which ruled that internment was constitutionally justifiable, has yet to be formally overturned.
As Arab and South Asian Americans face extralegal surveillance in our heightened post-9/11 context, as urban police forces indiscriminately stop/question/frisk in communities of color, and as immigrants of all backgrounds are threatened by anti-immigrant and “show your papers” legislation, the legacy of Japanese internment casts a long shadow over the present.
As we continue the fight for civil rights in the 21st century, today we remember Fred Korematsu and the countless unsung heroes who challenged, evaded, and endured internment.