In Remembrance of Fred Korematsu

100 years ago today, Fred Korematsu was born in Oakland, California. After being turned down for military service in 1940 for health related reasons he lost several jobs due to his Japanese heritage after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He underwent plastic surgery in order to pass as Latinx so he could work. Finally, Korematsu went into hiding to evade the internment camps. He was arrested in San Leandro and jailed in San Francisco. It was there that he was approached by the ACLU and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today is Fred Korematsu Day in a number of states:

Several states celebrate Fred Korematsu Day on January 30, Korematsu’s birthday. Established in 2011, the “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties & the Constitution” honors the legacy of Korematsu, who resisted Japanese American incarceration during World War II. He was one of three who legally challenged imprisonment, all the way to the Supreme Court.

The issuance of Executive Order 9066 in February 1942 allowed for the removal of any persons from Western coastal areas. Although EO9066 did not specifically target Japanese Americans, it paved the way for the forcible removal of those of Japanese descent from their homes and into camps. In March, “Civilian Exclusion Orders” were posted for all those of Japanese ancestry in Washington, Oregon, California, and southern Arizona. The majority of those of Japanese descent in the US lived in these areas and two-thirds were native-born citizens of the United States. When faced with having to report to an assembly center, Oakland, California-born Fred Korematsu chose a different path. Korematsu, a 23-year old welder, stayed in Oakland with his Italian American girlfriend. He even had minor plastic surgery on his eyes and changed his name in an attempt to avoid recognition.

For those interested, there are more resources at The Fred Korematsu Institute.

It is especially important to remember Korematsu, as well as what he and other Japanese-Americans went through given the current travel ban, attempts to change immigration law and end asylum by executive order, and build a wall solely because the president’s advisors needed a way to make sure he’d talk about immigration while campaigning and because the idea of immigrants, legal or undocumented, makes Stephen Miller feel icky.

From The Washington Post:

Long ago, Fred Korematsu was arrested in San Leandro, Calif., his home town, for defying an executive order that led to the expulsion or imprisonment of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

He later went to the Supreme Court to fight it, much as others now oppose President Trump’s executive order barring people from seven mostly majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Korematsu lost in 1944 and, although his criminal conviction was vacated in 1983, the case was not overturned.

Until Tuesday.

More than 30 years after Korematsu challenged, for the second time, what is widely considered one of the most unjust government actions in U.S. history, the country watched another legal battle conclude this morning, when the Supreme Court issued its decision in Trump v. Hawaii. The court upheld Trump’s travel ban and overturned Korematsu’s case.

The irony is that Korematsu’s vindication came as the Supreme Court actualized his worst fear by “racially profiling of a group because they looked like the enemy,” according to Fred Korematsu’s daughter, Karen.

“The Korematsu court presumed people were dangerous because they were of Japanese descent. Today, it is because they are from a particular country,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, who is dean of the University of California at Berkeley Law School and once called the Supreme Court’s ruling against Korematsu “one of the worst decisions in history.” Neither assumption, he said, is rooted in equal protection of the law.

“In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote, ‘Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided.’ I think a future court will one day say [today’s decision] was a huge mistake,” Chemerinsky said.

“Korematsu may be overruled, but it’s not to be celebrated,” said Karen Korematsu. “Unfortunately with this decision, we are continuing to repeat history.”

For months, Karen Korematsu heard echoes of her father’s old warnings in the way Trump’s order cast suspicion on an entire class of people, and the way its defenders in court made claim to national security without citing any evidence against the people the order affected.

She was reminded that during the campaign, Trump promised a broader ban on Muslim foreigners — as well as a registry of Muslims living in the United States.

She was reminded that one of his top backers cited her father’s case as legal precedent for such things.

“Racial profiling was wrong in 1942 and racial profiling and religious profiling is wrong in 2018,” Karen Korematsu lamented. “The Supreme Court traded one injustice for another 74 years later.”

Much more at the link.

Korematsu was sent to the Central Utah War Relocation Camp in Topaz, Utah.

(Topaz Internment Camp Historic Marker)

(Topaz Internment Camp)

Never again must mean never again!

Open thread.

55 replies
  1. 1
    rikyrah says:

    A true American Hero.

  2. 2
    laura says:

    “Emergencies” should never be the circumstances in which the Constitution and fundamental rights should be suspended- that’s when they matter the most.
    There’s a possibility that the current president may attempt to declare an emergency on the Southern border, and Fred Koramatsu’s birthday is a helpful reminder of the stakes.

  3. 3
    TriassicSands says:

    My one-time girlfriend’s parents were incarcerated at Topaz. I asked her if they would talk to me* about the experience and she said absolutely not. They didn’t even want to think about it. They wouldn’t talk to her about it either.

    *I was majoring in political science and history at the time.

  4. 4
    Adam L Silverman says:


  5. 5
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    McAllen, Texas has turned into one giant internment camp.

    How can we keep saying ‘never again’, when it keeps happening?

  6. 6
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TriassicSands: One of the guys I’ve done aikido with for years was also a detainee as a baby/young child. I don’t recall if he ever told me which camp.

  7. 7
    Emma says:

    God Almighty. That proud man. Those innocent babes. Have we learned nothing in the time between them?

  8. 8
    gwangung says:

    Japanese Americans have been saying, “We said never again, and we MEAN never again, muthafuckers.”

    For Los Angeles area jackals, there’s a stage work Tales of Clamor.

    Utilizing ensemble storytelling, circus arts and archival footage from the 1981 Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians hearings— when the Japanese American community broke their silence for the first time in nearly 40 years after WWII mass incarceration of Japanese Americans— this piece explores what it means to show up for each other, speak out, and generate the collective clamor necessary for social change.

    Folks should check it out.

  9. 9
    laura says:

    @Adam L Silverman: the “My Country” is the mens rea – the willfulness, the cruelty, the bankrupt amorality of the unquestioned, entitled, dwindling panic artist.
    We need a Nuremburg Trial.

  10. 10
    gwangung says:

    Also, George Takei’s graphic novel remembrance of his days behind barbed wire is now available for pre-order.

  11. 11
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    George Takei talked a lot about life in an internment camp in his autobiographical documentary To Be Takei. It should have gotten a LOT more attention than it did.

  12. 12
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @laura: No arguments here.

  13. 13
    TriassicSands says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    My girlfriend’s parents were married adults (in their 20s) during their internment. The photos I’ve seen of Topaz make it look pretty grim. I’ve been through that part of Utah, but that was before the museum was opened.

  14. 14
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TriassicSands: My understanding is that they were all pretty grim.

  15. 15
    gwangung says:

    @The Midnight Lurker: George has been pretty open about this over the years. He even invited Trump to see Allegience when it was on Broadway. If it hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, it’s because people don’t WANT to pay attention.

    @TriassicSands: I don’t think ANY of the camps were any good (In ID, CA, UT, AZ and AR), I’ve been to Manzanar and Tule Lake for pilgrimages and spoken with a fair number of evacuees. It’s not until late, late, late in life have even a fraction of them felt any comfort in speaking up.

  16. 16
    Sebastian says:

    Oh man

  17. 17
    dmsilev says:

    @gwangung: There was a play written a few years back about Gordon Hirabayashi, one of the other detainees who fought all the way to the Supreme Court. Called, if memory serves, “We Hold These Truths”. Well worth seeing.

    Edit: Google says it’s “Hold These Truths”, no we.

  18. 18
    J R in WV says:

    Concentrations camps have all been grim, intended to bring death to the prisoners.

    From when Churchill and his troops in South Africa first started using them during the Boer War, til today when Trump and his minion Kirsten “Eva Braun” Neilsen started them up again in the USA.

    No way to prepare for bedtime, Adam, but a sad story that still needs to be told! Not so late here in SE AZ, but still, getting close. Need to stoke the fire again, then climb in.

  19. 19
    GaryK says:

    Is there any way to construe that historical sign as being accurate? It looks like a whitewash, and it certainly gives the impression that Fred Korematsu was vindicated by SCOTUS’s decision, when in fact his conviction was sustained. The decision itself, besides being ugly & racist, also seems to be a mess: it tries to argue for a hair-splitting distinction between “exclusion” and “relocation.”

  20. 20
    plato says:

    The whites have hurt so many races so badly for so long. The payback is gonna be a bitch.

  21. 21
    Sebastian says:


    Careful not to rustle the feelings of the priviledged though. Because if you upset The Order and The Peace, no matter how oppressive and cruel, you will be accused of being shrill, impolite, a communist, feel free to pick your prefered label.

    MLK was right.

  22. 22
    NotMax says:

    With good reason, no recipe for liberty includes razor wire.

  23. 23
    gwangung says:

    @dmsilev: HOLD THESE TRUTHS by Jeannie Sakata. Terrific work by someone who’s more well known as an actor. Seen it with three different actors as Gordon (one is Joel de la Fuente, who’s on MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE).

    There’s a play about Min Yasui, the second of the trio of cases seen by the Supreme Court on the incarceration (oddly enough, there hasn’t been anything done on Mitsue Endo, the woman involved in the third case).

  24. 24
    Sebastian says:


    We do indeed. But try saying that publicly and observe the reactions, especially from white people.

  25. 25
    eemom says:


    You be careful too, lest you offend Civility Police in WV, who takes such great pride in his mastery of the pie filter.

  26. 26
    Sebastian says:


    I know. I had a longer response ready but this shit is triggering my PTSD. Those tweets Adam posted didn’t help either.

    You have no idea how much your post means right now. (Hug)

  27. 27
    rikyrah says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    I want these muthaphuckas at The Hague 😠😠

  28. 28
    Kdaug says:

    The wall is a fantasy and a distraction. It will never be built.

    How long do you think it would take the federal government to procure the land rights, complete the bidding process, and begin (much less finish) the construction?

    If your answer is the <2yrs Trump has left, I think you might be interested in my MLM (totally not a pyramid – more triangle)

  29. 29
    Plato says:

    "He's an illegitimate president but people carry on like it's business as usual. You see the Chuck Todd Industrial Complex say things like 'Do you think your language is too strong?' Meanwhile six of his campaign advisors got arrested!" — @gaslitnation

    — Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) January 30, 2019

    And the same media mofos forced Obama to have beer with a racist white cop who arrested a black scholar for entering his own home.

  30. 30
    Plato says:


    his mastery of pie filter

    That mastery combined with a worthless righteousness is hilarious. Who gives a shit about much touted pie filter?

  31. 31
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    “If you have the feeling that something is wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up.” – Fred Korematsu

    Eternal peace, Mr. Korematsu.

    And thank you, Dr. Silverman.

  32. 32
    Sebastian says:


    That fucking beer summit and that cop’s smug fucking grin still makes my blood boil.

  33. 33
    piratedan says:

    @J R in WV: so you’re here now? drop me a line at and we’ll try and organize a gathering of jackals….

  34. 34
    Sebastian says:

    Adam, do you know of the Twitter user Ming Nethery (@MingGao26) and what do you think about him? He seems to be IC.

    What’s your professional opinion?

    One of the latest discussions amongst his followers is that Citizens United was a planned and concerted effort to open Russian money channels?

  35. 35
    smike says:

    Ah, to remember when such a thing was a big deal. The media would follow any minor Obama move as “something to look into” because it was easy clicks. But with DOTUS they are in a quandary, being reluctant to say the “emperor has no clothes” and is totally fucking out of control.

  36. 36
    NotMax says:


    Really, there isn’t a foreign conspiracy under every rock.

  37. 37
    smike says:


    …Citizens United was a planned and concerted effort to open Russian money channels?

    Eliminate the word Russian and that sounds about right.

  38. 38
    Sebastian says:


    I know there is not. Occam’s Razor says it was just plain old-achool homegrown robber baron/billionaire funneling.

    But with the GOP’s dependence on fewer and fewer individual big donors (Adelson and, less reliable, Koch) there might have been a helping hand and shared interest.

    The more I see those large payments coming from Deripaska, the massive Russian investments in FB and other strategic companies the more squinty eyed I become.

    Not saying that it is all sinister but to quote the Doctor: this much coincidence takes a lot of planning!

  39. 39
    JaySinWA says:

    Here is a book about the Japanese internment from a friend of mine.

  40. 40

    I want those border agents in cages.

    And yes, Nuremberg trials for the many, many other folks who were just following orders.

  41. 41
    Mnemosyne says:


    Luis Valdez debuted his new play, Valley of the Heart at the Taper this fall. I saw about a million ads for it when we went to the Ahmanson to see Dear Evan Hansen (which I had serious issues with, but that’s a totally different discussion).

  42. 42

    @NotMax: Absolutely, it’s every other rock.

  43. 43
    Sebastian says:


    Well, we know that for sure. It was the ratfuck of the century. In hard competition with the Garland bullshit.

    One thing I just can’t stop thinking about is the Reichwing’s tendency to project and their constant yapping about One World Government. Yes, deeply rooted in their barely hidden antisemitism but I am wondering if they are, on some level, aware that the rich have no allegiance to any nation but constitute a global ruling class.

    And so they project onto others what they are guilty of themselves, right? But if we follow this thought consequently, then it leads us to an acceptance of ANY rich person as worthy. Regardless if they are American or not.

    I should have probably not said Russian but any corrupt money because we should include Saudi, UAE, Chinese, and cartel money. But I have a feeling that the Russians were the most organized and methodical in their penetration and compromisation. I also think that the real danger lies in the possible fusion of US and Russian oligarchic structures.

    So in this light, yes, I do think it was more than just for US money channeling but I’ll be fucked if I know. I think we are about to learn a lot of really fucked up shit.

  44. 44
    NotMax says:


    On the contrary, believe that it was the opening of the spigot (as it were) which prompted some of those you cite to seize the opportunity once it was presented as a fait accompli.

  45. 45
    eemom says:


    Very glad I could help. Hugs back.

    As excellent as this place is overall — especially compared to the rest of the internet, omfg — there’s still knee jerking, sheep bleating, group thinking, mob mauling, and worst of all, a FAIL of fucking reading comprehension, many times.

  46. 46
    smike says:

    @Sebastian: @NotMax:

    Yes. What you both said. There are always outside interests in a “super-power” country, and everyone seems to be interested in cashing in. CU just opened the barn and said, “What horses? I don’t see any horses.”

  47. 47
    sharl says:

    I wonder if Roberts would have just sauntered through his majority decision without mentioning Korematsu, had not Sonia Sotomayor brought it up in her dissent. From Adam’s WaPo link:

    “The dissent’s reference to Korematsu . . . affords this Court the opportunity to make express what is already obvious,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in his majority opinion. “Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and — to be clear — ‘has no place in law under the Constitution.’ ”

    [‘The Supreme Court traded one injustice for another 74 years later,’ Fred Korematsu’s daughter says]

    Roberts was responding to a dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor that alleged “stark parallels” between the Korematsu decision and Roberts’s majority opinion in Trump.

    “Whatever rhetorical advantage the dissent may see in doing so,” Roberts wrote, “Korematsu has nothing to do with this case.”

    Good for Justice Sotomayor. If only we had at least three more just like her on that Court.

  48. 48
    Sebastian says:


    Yeah, that’s more likely than a grand conspiracy. The more I see the more apparent it is how stupid the actors are. Stupid, opportunistic, yet equipped with criminal cunning.

  49. 49
    Sebastian says:


    I will definitely remember it!

  50. 50
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    @smike: Bet Cheney and Rove wish there had been a strong social media then like in 16. They probably cry over their beer dreaming of how they could’ve used it to really take over the US and get rid of their opponents!!

  51. 51
    Mary G says:

    Kamala Harris’s staff worked with ConMijente to get the baby and mom back together. California resists these evil motherfuckers.

  52. 52
    Dmbeaster says:

    @sharl: Roberts is such an intellectual fraud. I am sure he could not sell his vapid dismissal of Korematsu as wrongly decided at a dinner party for the Federalist Society. “Modern” conservative thinkers would do a repeat on that decision, except for using different bullshit language.

    For us legal types, the legal details of the Korematsu case are an object lesson in how judges abet oppression. And its about the same type of legal poison employed by Roberts, who nonetheless is a minor league verion of Scalia, who thankfully is still dead. “Where does the Constitution say there is a right to vote?”

  53. 53
    retr2327 says:

    @GaryK: You are correct: that is some serious “whitewashing,” or perhaps “alternate facts” in that sign. Here’s the key holding from the decision:
    “It is said that we are dealing here with the case of imprisonment of a citizen in a concentration camp solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. Our task would be simple, our duty clear, were this a case involving the imprisonment of a loyal citizen in a concentration camp because of racial prejudice. Regardless of the true nature of the assembly and relocation centers — and we deem it unjustifiable to call them concentration camps with all the ugly connotations that term implies — we are dealing specifically with nothing but an exclusion order. To cast this case into outlines of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military dangers which were presented, merely confuses the issue. Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and finally, because Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders — as inevitably it must — determined that they should have the power to do just this.”

    What a disgrace.

  54. 54
    leeleeFL says:

    @plato: And we will deserve it! I do not know if I will live to see it, the arc of history bending slowly and all that. When I think of the damage the Caucasian race has wreaked on this world, all I can say is, “God, we suck!” That is all!

  55. 55
    hw3 says:

    Thanks Adam for the post.
    I have contacted my state legislative critters and governor to demand recognition of this real American hero.
    I urge others to do the same if your state isn’t in the list of ones that already do; especially if your state is Washington, Oregon, Arizona or Utah.

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