Happy Fred Korematsu Day

Possibly the first day any state has ever used to recognize an Asian American is today, January 30. The L.A. Times has a big story about it in tomorrow's paper.

I guess it's not a "real" holiday unless school kids get the day off, but it is nice to know that folks will continue to learn and remember the lessons Fred Korematsu had to teach the United States of America about civil liberties.

I got to see Fred Korematsu once when I was at UNLV. Unfortunately, it was at an event sponsored by the law school. I say "unfortunate," because even though the panel had been organized to tell Fred's story, the brown-nosing law students all tried to impress their professors by asking legal questions of the other panel members, who were, yes, law professors. I mean, what the heck? You had (at the time) a literal living legend to ask about his experiences, and you waste it by asking legal questions, many of them to lawyers who teach at your school and you could ask any other time? Oy.

The dvd mentioned in the story, "Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story," is definitely worth a viewing.

What's crazy about the story

What's really unusual about his case is that he's famous for being busted by the government. He did it in 1941, during a war, and years before MLK and the Civil Rights movement popularized the idea of civil disobedience as a form of protest.

And he did it without a large civil rights organization backing him up. As I recall, the JACL was cooperating with the government.

Where do I get a Fred Korematsu T-Shirt?

Oh yes what about Wong Kim Ark? The guy was something like 23 years old when he went to the SCOTUS to cement the current interpretation of the 14th amendment.

It was semi-civil

It was semi-civil disobedience. I usually say you need to be open in your violation of the law. Korematsu tried to fly under the radar, pretending to be Portuguese so he could stay with his girlfriend. Still, it took courage to stay put, and then to allow your case to be carried to the Supreme Court. It also took courage to have his case revived for the coram nobis challenges that eventually vacated his conviction.

Well, okay, maybe he's not

Well, okay, maybe he's not Mr. Purity in his intentions and actions, but he's a man of his time and place: a welder from the East Bay who saw his parents' business taken away. I wonder if anyone expected him to be the guy to stand up to the government.