Fred Korematsu - PROTEST

Uploaded by UNITYLab on 27.12.2010


Very nice, right on your heart.
Korematsu! We stand up for what is right!
At Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy in East Oakland,
kids start the day with a pledge that emphasizes morality and courage.

We chose the name Fred Korematsu because we really felt like the attributes he showed in his work
are things that the children need to learn,
is that common people can stand up and make differences in large numbers of people's lives.
In 1942 an ordinary American took an extraordinary stand.
Fred Korematsu boldly opposed the forced internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

The children, they relate very strongly to Mr. Korematsu.
A lot of our population is, including me, we are immigrants
and I ask them are you Mexican American or are you American?
Half of them say, "We're American!"
And when they relate it to their lives, they see how unfair something like that can be.

It was December 7th, it was Sunday.
And Sunday morning, gosh, it must have been about 10 o'clock.
My girlfriend and I were up on Skyline Boulevard,
looking down on the Bay Area, the city and so forth, just relaxing,
had the music on the car radio, and all of a sudden it stopped.

And they announced that Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese airplanes,
and I just couldn't believe it.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941
took the lives of more than 2,400 people, and catapulted the US into World War II.
It also drastically changed the lives of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans.
It made it twice as hard to live here decently,
and to prove that you're more American than Japanese.

Fred tried to enlist in the US National Guard and Coast Guard
but was denied enlistment because of his race.
Japanese Americans living in the US were now perceived as a threat.

In February of 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066,
forcing them into prison camps across the West Coast.
It just burned me up that this happened,
and I was still determined to prove that still I'm an American.
After the evacuation notices were posted on the telephone poles,
I decided to go ahead and go back to work.
Fred protested the Japanese American incarceration by ignoring the order,
an act of resistance that put him in violation of the law and led to his arrest.
When the judge said that I violated the military order, there was 4 MPs standing there,
and they start pulling out the guns.
They said, "We have orders from my commanding officer
that he is not going to take a step outside this door."

Fred was forced into the Topaz Incarceration Camp in Utah with the rest of his family.
I didn't have any luggage or anything.
It was just whatever I had on my back.
There's no floor, it's just dirt so the wind was blowing through there
and there's cracks all around the walls and there's a light bulb up there,
one light bulb on the ceiling and also an iron cot with straw and that was it.
I felt like a prisoner in a war, you know, a prisoner of war.

While still in the prison camp, Fred challenged and appealed every ruling on his case
until it was finally heard by the United States Supreme Court.
We lost in the Supreme Court,
and I just couldn't believe it.
It just seemed that the bottom dropped out.

After his release from the camp in 1944,
Fred got married, started a family, and built a career as an industrial draftsman.
But he was often reminded of his criminal record.
Having this record, given by the government,
I just can't feel that I am truly American because of this,
and that was in the back of my mind all these years.
In 1983, aided by a team of civil rights attorneys,
he challenged the legality of his 1944 Supreme Court Case.
I wasn't afraid to speak up.
It was unconstitutional what they did to Japanese Americans, putting them in concentration camps.
The judge, she said the government should think twice before they do anything like this again.
I just couldn't believe that this happened,
but I won and so did everybody else that was there.
There was a lot of tears in their eyes because they were interned also,
and it was a great victory for all Americans and all Asians in this country
that this will never happen again.

Fred and his team had proven that the United States government
had no grounds to incarcerate Japanese Americans.
In the long history of our country's constant search for justice,
some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls,
Plessy, Brown, Parks.

To that distinguished list, today we add the name of Fred Korematsu.