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Interview: The civil rights legacy of Fred Korematsu

Cropped and used under CC license from Flickr user Steve Rhodes
Fred Korematsu's daughter, Karen, speaks during a 2012 demonstration at San Francisco City Hall


Civil rights advocates draw cautionary parallels from this moment in history to the 1940s, when the U.S. government forcibly incarcerated more than a hundred thousand Japanese Americans.

One Oakland man, Fred Korematsu, defied the government order, and with the help of the Northern California ACLU, mounted a legal challenge to his forced relocation. Korematsu’s case was unsuccessful; he and his family were ultimately relocated to Utah. He was convicted of disloyalty and lived with that ruling for 40 years, until April of 1984, when a Federal court granted his petition for a writ of coram nobis — a notice of error — and vacated his conviction.


Back in 2009, the Asian Law Caucus launched the Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education in San Francisco. KALW's Ben Trefny sat down with Titi Liu, then executive director of the Asian Law Caucus, and Don Tamaki, who served as a member of the pro bono legal team that helped overturn Korematsu's conviction.


LIU: The groups that are targeted for discrimination are the very groups that feel like they have to prove their loyalty and prove their patriotism. It shouldn't be that way.

Ben handles daily operations in the news department, overseeing the editorial and sound engineering teams, delivering daily newscasts, producing the nightly news and culture show Crosscurrents, and supervising special projects including KALW's Audio Academy training program.