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Student Voice: Honoring Korematsu’s Quest for Social Justice

A young Fred Korematsu looks on. Photo: Smithsonian

Jakob Franco
Co-Editor | The Pacific Times

Fred Korematsu took on the might of the U.S. government during a time of war and lost. In his loss, the worst of American xenophobia showed through and we must continue to grapple with the continuing force of this feature in our culture.

Korematsu was one of over a 100,000 Japanese American ordered to relocate to an internment camp during World War II. Korematsu refused this order and was arrested before challenging his case all the way to the Supreme Court. In a six to three decision, the court upheld his arrest citing the need to maintain security during a time of war.

However, the Americans imprisoned in these camps posed no threat to their country and had their loyalty questioned merely for their racial heritage. Japanese internment remains a stain on American history.

Korematsu has come to be a martyr for Japanese Americans and the protection of civil liberties for all Americans. He would go on to see his conviction rightfully overturned 40 years later and even be awarded the presidential medal of freedom.

In recognizing his life and achievements as an average man, California Assemblymember Kansen Chu authored a bill to recognize January 30th, Korematsu’s birthday, as the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.

The passing of this bill would give permanent recognition to Korematsu and encourage education about his life as the many horrors of World War II to continue to fade in the national conscience.

I strongly support the passage of the bill as I believe Korematsu epitomizes both the strength of the American judicial system and the fragile nature of the Constitution’s protections.

Korematsu challenged his charge to the highest court of our land and eventually saw justice ordered in law. However, his initial attempts failed and our study of American history must include the many instances of trouncing upon the ideals we espouse.

The bill currently has 63 sponsors and bipartisan support which I hope will lead to a swift passage through the Assembly and eventually into law.

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