Fred Korematsu, the Japanese-American man famous for resisting internment during World War II, would have turned 98 years old today. Born on January 30, 1919 in Oakland, California, Korematsu's case against the legality of internment was overruled by the Supreme Court in 1944, but his legacy as a hero who stood up for civil liberties during a particularly dark time in world history lives on. Today, Google is paying tribute to the activist in the form of their daily doodle.
Google often chooses to highlight underappreciated figures from history, but today’s selection feels especially poignant. As Mashable points out, the doodle could be a nod to Donald Trump's recent immigration ban, which some have compared to Executive Order 9066, which was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942.
Though Korematsu didn’t win his initial case, the U.S. government eventually admitted their fault and began distributing reparations to the affected families in 1988. According to the Civil Liberties Act of that year, the incarceration of Japanese-Americans had been based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership" rather than any legitimate security concerns.
In 2004 (the year before his death), Korematsu published an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle comparing the growing prejudices toward Arab Americans to what he had experienced during World War II. He wrote:
“Fears and prejudices directed against minority communities are too easy to evoke and exaggerate, often to serve the political agendas of those who promote those fears. I know what it is like to be at the other end of such scapegoating and how difficult it is to clear one’s name after unjustified suspicions are endorsed as fact by the government. If someone is a spy or terrorist they should be prosecuted for their actions. But no one should ever be locked away simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy.”