Mass Incarceration

Opinion: Why we are thankful for Fred Korematsu’s courage

Ochi is a retired instructor and president of the Japanese American Historic Society of San Diego and co-chair of Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress/Los Angeles. She lives in Chula Vista.

I write to honor and thank Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu. I had the chance to work with him within the marketing campaign for reparations through the Nineteen Eighties and am regularly grateful to him for his historic courtroom instances, which helped restore dignity to Japanese Individuals who had been wrongly incarcerated throughout World Struggle II and contributed to each the reparations motion and the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

So many Japanese Individuals had been faraway from San Diego County in 1942 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 to incarcerate 120,000 folks. My mother and father had been amongst them. They had been humble, trustworthy and hardworking individuals who had been incarcerated in a sizzling Arizona jail for 3 years. They’d no concept that anybody defied the federal government order. They might be so shocked and proud that the state of California would title this present day to honor a Japanese American!

Fred Korematsu was the primary Asian American to have a day named in his honor. There are a number of colleges named after him, and in 1998 he acquired the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Why did he obtain these tributes?

The brief reply is that in 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Korematsu defied Roosevelt’s Govt Order 9066, which gave the army the authority to take away and incarcerate individuals from “army areas in any area or locality.” Though World Struggle II concerned Germany, Italy and Japan, solely Japanese Individuals on the West Coast had been forcibly eliminated and incarcerated due to army necessity.

On the age of 23, Korematsu refused to desert his life in Oakland and report back to one in all America’s focus camps. He went to nice lengths to vary his title and look in order that he might transfer to Nevada and marry his Caucasian girlfriend. He knew that he had rights, however being a Japanese American, the percentages had been significantly stacked in opposition to him. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than he was arrested, convicted and despatched to Tanforan Meeting Heart in San Bruno and later to Topaz incarceration camp in Utah. In 1942, solely three males challenged Govt Order 9066: Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui and Fred Korematsu.

With the great help of Ernest Besig, the manager director of the Northern California American Civil Liberties Union, Korematsu challenged the federal government’s actions in courtroom. In 1944, in Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court docket delivered one of the crucial controversial selections within the historical past of jurisprudence, supporting the federal government’s abrogation of constitutional rights to its residents. Korematsu misplaced, so all of us misplaced.

Nevertheless, virtually 4 a long time later, in 1983, his conviction for defying incarceration orders was overturned primarily based on the suppression of key proof by the federal government that acknowledged that the Japanese Individuals on the West Coast weren’t an issue. There was no army necessity.

That suppressed proof was uncovered by San Diegan Peter Irons, emeritus professor at UC San Diego, and Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, a senior analysis affiliate for the Fee on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. They discovered statements in authorities archives from army leaders and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover stating that Japanese Individuals weren’t disloyal.

The rationale for mass incarceration was refuted. Historical past would stand corrected.

One other historic occasion through the Nineteen Eighties was the redress motion. The Japanese American group waged a marketing campaign to hunt reparations for the wartime incarceration. President Jimmy Carter responded in 1980 by creating the Fee on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, and it heard testimony from over 750 Japanese American former incarcerees and others concerning the incarceration and its impacts. The fee’s last report, “Private Justice Denied,” concluded that the basis causes of the incarceration had been “race prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political management.” That conclusion, the overturning of Korematsu’s conviction and the rising help for reparations throughout the nation helped within the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

That act offered a presidential apology and financial restitution of $20,000 to individuals who had been impacted by Govt Order 9066, the wartime exclusion and incarceration. Over 82,500 folks had been recognized and paid by 1998. My mother and father and older sister acquired the apology and reparations for his or her imprisonment at Poston, Ariz.

To me, Korematsu represented each one who simply desires to construct a life with the particular person they love. He had the braveness to problem the U.S. authorities along with his resistance, after which once more within the Supreme Court docket. All through his life, he by no means stopped preventing for justice. Sadly, he handed away in 2005.

In 2010, San Diego Assemblymember Marty Block and Los Angeles Assemblymember Warren Furutani launched a invoice to create the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Structure. It handed, and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it into regulation.

Fred Korematsu would need you to review to study your rights and by no means be afraid to talk up.

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