SACRAMENTO – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday issued the following proclamation declaring Jan. 30, 2021, as Fred Korematsu Day in the State of California:
Fred Korematsu did not set out to become a civil rights hero, but his bold decision at the age of 23 to challenge the policy of Japanese internment forever altered the course of history. This year, as we commemorate the 102nd anniversary of his birth, we reflect with gratitude on his brave crusade for civil rights.
An Oakland-born welder, Korematsu refused to abide by Executive Order 9066, the federal government’s demand that Japanese Americans report to incarceration camps. Korematsu’s act of protest led to his arrest and conviction, which he fought all the way to the Supreme Court. The court ultimately ruled against him, arguing that the incarceration of Japanese Americans was justifiable based on military necessity.
Korematsu found vindication 40 years later, when a federal court overturned his criminal conviction. Judge Marilyn Hall Patel said then, “a grave injustice was done to American citizens and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry who, without individual review or any probative evidence against them, were excluded, removed and detained by the United States during World War II.”
Over the course of his life, Korematsu fought for the civil liberties of others. He was tireless in his work to ensure Americans understood the lessons learned from one of the dark chapters of our history. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Korematsu v. United States still hangs over this country after 77 years. Korematsu’s legacy reminds us that we must continue to strike out against injustice in our daily lives. Especially in a moment of increased Anti-Asian sentiment and xenophobia, each and every one of us must continue his fight for a more equal tomorrow.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said via Twitter: “Today, we honor the legacy of civil rights icon: Fred Korematsu. His unwavering courage in standing against the unjust internment of Japanese Americans during WWII is a reminder of the power of everyday Americans to uphold our values and strengthen our democracy.”
Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) posed on Facebook: “Today is Fred Korematsu Day in California! This Oakland native and former San Leandro resident was a true civil rights icon. He bravely fought back against Executive Order 9066, which unjustly sent thousands of Japanese Americans to internment camps during WWII. Learn more about the extraordinary and courageous life of Fred Korematsu at http://www.korematsuinstitute.org/fredkorematsuday.”
Former Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) said, “Shout-out to former California State Assemblymember Warren Furutani, who authored AB 1775 in 2010, establishing this as a day of special significance in our state … Today, more than ever, we must understand just how fragile our democracy is, and why we must remain vigilant in supporting and defending the Constitution.”