San José commemorates Fred Korematsu
San José, CA – On Jan. 26, there was a commemoration of Fred Korematsu, one of the Japanese Americans who resisted the World War II U.S. concentration camps for Japanese Americans. The event, held in San José’s Japantown, began with the film, “Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story.”
The film showed the round-up of Japanese Americans after the Japanese empire attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. Korematsu tried to evade the round-up, was caught and arrested, and set to a concentration camp. He fought his arrest all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1944 upheld the government’s round-up by a six to three margin. Then in the 1980s, a team of young Asian American lawyers fought with Korematsu to overturn his conviction on the basis that the government had suppressed evidence that there was no threat from Japanese Americans. A federal court vacated (cancelled) his conviction, but the Supreme Court did not rehear the case, and did not rule the camps unconstitutional.
The film was followed by a panel of speakers from the Japanese American and American Muslim communities. Tom Izu, director of the California History Center of De Anza College in Cupertino, California, spoke about his own experience of being called a traitor by another faculty member after organizing a program on the WWII concentration camps after September 11, 2001. He was followed by Yasir Afifi, a young college student who found a GPS tracking device attached to his car and is currently suing the government over this. The last speaker was Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the Bay Area Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), who said that it was important for people to fight discrimination and government harassment.
The panel was moderated by Masao Suzuki, a member of the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee and the South Bay Committee Against Political Repression, who spoke of his own experience of being visited by the FBI as part of the FBI raids and federal grand jury subpoenas on 23 Midwest anti-war and international solidarity activists. The program was chaired by Will Kaku of the Japanese American Museum of San José, which organized the event. He quoted the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in urging solidarity between the Japanese American community and American Muslims.