Happy Fred Korematsu Day! On this day, January 30, we celebrate the life and legacy of civil rights icon Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu. And at long last, Google has honored Mr. Korematsu's birthday -- officially designated "Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution" -- with a hallowed homepage Doodle. All things considered, the timing could not be more appropriate.
After Franklin D. Roosvelt signed Executive Order 9066 in 1942, more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent were forcibly removed from the west coast and relocated to internment camps throughout the United States. Fred Korematsu, however, did not go quietly. He was arrested and convicted for resisting incarceration. He appealed and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States, but lost.
But in 1983, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco formally vacated Korematsu's conviction after evidence came to light that disputed the necessity of the internment. At the time, he told Judge Marilyn Patel that instead of a legal pardon, he wanted to be assured the U.S. government would never again take such an action.
"If anyone should do any pardoning," Korematsu said, "I should be the one pardoning the government for what they did to the Japanese American people."
In 1998, Korematsu was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's most distinguished civilian award. President Bill Clinton said that Korematsu's stand for civil rights put him alongside brave and justice-seeking "ordinary citizens" as Homer Plessy, Oliver Brown and Rosa Parks.
Korematsu died in 2005. Since then, several states have enacted laws to celebrate his birthday. IN 2010, California became the first state to adopt the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, recognizing "the importance of preserving civil liberties, even in times of real or perceived crisis."
Google notes that today's Doodle -- of Korematsu wearing his Medal of Freedom, surrounded by symbolic cherry blossoms and internment camp barracks -- is by artist Sophie Diao, also the child of Asian immigrants.
This particularly Doodle may have been timed to coincide with Korematsu's birthday, but given all the shit that's been going down right now, the decision to honor a figure who took such an important stand against an unconstitutional executive order seems highly political -- and absolutely necessary.
More here: Fred Korematsu's 98th Birthday