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Who is 是松 豊三郎 (Fred Korematsu)

Daniel Carvalheiro-Santos, Staff Writer

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Although many are unaware of his existence, Fred Korematsu played a significant role in the American civil rights movement. As opposed to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Korematsu was involved in fighting for the rights of Japanese immigrants in the United States of America. Like many Japanese-Americans, Korematsu was against the internment of innocent Japanese-Americans, and instead of subjecting himself to the unfair policies of Executive Order 9066 he became a fugitive, attempting to dodge internment. He is most remembered for his valiant actions against the policies, starting Korematsu v. United States in which he questioned the constitutionality of the Executive Order.

Fred Korematsu was born in Oakland, California (American-soil) on January 30, 1919. He was born to Japanese parents who immigrated to the United States in 1905. Korematsu was first introduced to racism through his education. In school, he was considered inferior to the other white students. It is said that even his high school girlfriend’s parents were against their relationship stating that it was unfit to mix people of Japanese descent with those of white/European descent. After high school he enrolled in the Army where he was rejected because of stomach ulcers, however, it is believed that his Japanese heritage could have played a role in this rejection. After the start of the Second World War, he was given a relocation order. This order led him to obtain plastic surgery on his eyelids and change his identity. From then on he was Clyde Sarah, claiming he was of Spanish and Hawaiian descent. Following his detention, he was taken to an Internment Camp in Utah. During his time in internment, he fought for his and other Japanese-Americans’ rights in Korematsu v. United States. This Supreme Court Case resulted in a decision that was contrary to that desired by Korematsu. After his eventual release from internment, Fred Korematsu continued to experience racism and discrimination.

It wasn’t until the presidency of Gerald Ford that the Japanese-Americans received an official apology from the United States government. Fred Korematsu was specifically honored by President Bill Clinton when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. After a long life, in his later years, Fred Korematsu relaxed and enjoyed his life. Fred Korematsu passed away on March 30, 2005, at his daughter’s home in California. Today Fred Korematsu is remembered for being the outspoken critic of Japanese internment in the United States during World War II. In addition, in many American states, people celebrate Fred Korematsu Day on his birthday, January 30. This year Google raised awareness of his advocacy for rights through an expressive Google Doodle. If he were around today, I am sure that he would still be advocating for rights, maybe in today’s world for the rights of people of Middle Eastern descent.

 

Photo Credits to Google

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