angry reader of the week: ling woo liu

Gather 'round, because it's time to meet another Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Ling Woo Liu, director of the Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education.

Who are you?
My name is Ling Woo Liu, and I'm the director of the Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education.

What are you?
I'm an activist, journalist and documentary filmmaker. I'm also a wife who's relieved she and her husband are no longer dealing with international long distance. I'm a daughter who's lucky to have incredibly hardworking and inspiring parents, a sister to two of my best friends, and an aunt to a niece and nephew who keep me laughing. And someday, I swear, I'll be a dog owner too.

Where are you?
San Francisco! I've been living in Beijing and Hong Kong for the last few years, but there's truly no place like home, especially when that home is the City by the Bay.

Where are you from?
I was born in Michigan, in a small city where there were about five Asian families at the time, but I was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. My parents were born in mainland China, but fled with their families to Taiwan during China's civil war. One of the results of that war is that I have relatives scattered all over China and the world, from Beijing to Kunming, and from Germany to Australia.

What do you do?
I'm the director of the Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education at the Asian Law Caucus. Fred Korematsu was a national civil rights hero, but unlike Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez, many of you may have never heard of him. It's not your fault. You were never taught his story. And that's one of the things we're trying to change.

In 1942, Fred Korematsu refused to report to the government's racist internment camps for Japanese Americans. After being arrested and convicted of defying the internment order, he refused to give up his fight. He chose to appeal his case all the way up to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him, saying that the internment was justified due to "military necessity" and had nothing to do with race! It wasn't until the 1980s, when a group of young Japanese-American attorneys re-opened his case with evidence that government lawyers had hidden from the Supreme Court during WWII. In 1983, Korematsu's conviction was overturned -- it was a landmark moment not just in Japanese-American history or legal history, but in U.S. history.

Unfortunately, Korematsu's case has never been more relevant. In the days and weeks after 9/11, thousands of Muslim American community leaders were swept up and detained without due process of any kind. Airport security policies authorized systematic racial profiling against Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian travelers. As we speak, the FBI is actively monitoring Muslim communities and mosques. And in Arizona now, anyone can be detained by the police if they look like an undocumented immigrant. The Korematsu Institute is working with pan-ethnic civil rights groups to ensure that national security isn't used as a justification for violating anyone's civil rights. We're doing that through multimedia educational programs in hopes of inspiring the next generation of leaders and activists.

What are you all about?
Giving a voice to the voiceless.

What makes you angry?
This could be a long list, so I won't go there. To end on a positive note, I'll tell you what recently made me very happy. Last week, the Korematsu Institute had an information table at a lovely event hosted by the South Asian Giving Circle. About 95% of the people at the event had never heard of Fred Korematsu, but after hearing Fred's story, several left our table after asking, "How can I help?"

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