Fred Korematsu Quotes, The Long Journey For Civil Liberties

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Fred Korematsu Quotes – Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu (是松 豊三郎 Korematsu Toyosaburō, January 30, 1919 – March 30, 2005) was an American civil rights activist who objected to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Shortly after the Imperial Japanese Navy launched its attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal of individuals of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast from their homes and their mandatory imprisonment in internment camps, but Korematsu instead challenged the orders and became a fugitive.

The legality of the internment order was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in Korematsu v. United States; this ruling has never been explicitly overturned. Korematsu’s conviction for evading internment was overturned decades later after the disclosure of new evidence challenging the necessity of the internment, evidence which had been withheld from the courts by the U.S. government during the war.

To commemorate his journey as a civil rights activist posthumously, “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution” was observed for the first time on his 92nd birthday, January 30, 2011, by the state of California, the first such commemoration for an Asian American in the United States. In 2015, Virginia passed legislation to make it the second state and first commonwealth to permanently recognize each January 30 as Fred Korematsu Day.

To remind us about his fight for civil rights, here are 29 quotes from Fred Korematsu. Enjoy.

Fred Korematsu Quotes

1) If you have the feeling that something is wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up.

2) I was just living my life, and that’s what I wanted to do.

3) It may take time to prove you’re right, but you have to stick to it.

4) I thought what the military was doing was unconstitutional.

5) All of them turned their backs on me at that time because they thought I was a troublemaker.


6) Every day in school, we said the pledge to the flag, ‘with liberty and justice for all,’ and I believed all that.

7) As long as my record stands in federal court, any American citizen can be held in prison or concentration camps without a trial or a hearing.

8) One person can make a difference, even if it takes forty years.

9) I was an American citizen, and I had as many rights as anyone else.

10) I still remember, 40 years ago, when I was shackled and put in prison… Being an American citizen didn’t mean a thing.

11) I lost everything when they put us in prison. I was an enemy alien, a man without a country.

12) I didn’t think that the government would go as far as to include American citizens to be interned without a hearing

13) If anyone should do any pardoning. I should be the one pardoning the government for what they did to the Japanese-American people.

14) I was very upset because I did not have a fair trial to prove my loyalty to this country.

15) I don’t even know how it is to have a home. I feel like an orphan or something.

16) I was really upset because I was branded as an enemy alien when I’m an American.

17) I was born in the U.S. This is my country.

18) I’m Asian, so they assumed I’m not an American and that I come from Japan. Restaurants would refuse to serve me, and places would refuse to give you a haircut.

19) As a citizen of the United States, I am ready, willing, and able to bear arms for this country.

20) That was it – I lost my job… I was very discouraged. I wanted to be in defense work… I’m an American, and I have nothin’ to do with Japan, and so it’s sort of an insult to me.

21) It takes a lot of money to hire an attorney.

22) I was the third son, and the family tradition was my dad always favored the oldest child.

23) My folks were so worried about what they were going to do. All they can take was what they could carry with their hands. What they had for twenty-five years of building their business was going to go out the door, or they’re going to lose it.

24) Before the war, my parents were very proud people. They’d always talk about Japan and also about the samurai and things like that. Right after Pearl Harbor, they were just real quiet. They kept to themselves; they were afraid to talk about what could happen. I assume they knew that nothing good would come out of it.

25) During the curfew, whoever went out, the people were watching you. Any Japanese home, there was some person figuring he’s a good American citizen by doing his duty, and they were watching every move each family were doin’. Or if they went out, they followed them to see where they were goin’.

26) “I’ll never forget my government treating me like this. And I really hope that this will never happen to anybody else because of the way they look, if they look like the enemy of our country.”

27) “According to the Supreme Court decision regarding my case, being an American citizen was not enough. They say you have to look like one, otherwise they say you can’t tell a difference between a loyal and disloyal American. I thought that this decision was wrong and I still feel that way. As long as my record stands in federal court, any American citizen can be held in prison or concentration camps without a trial or a hearing. That is if they look like the enemy of our country. Therefore, I would like to see the government admit that they were wrong and do something about it so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed or color.”

28) “When I was in school, we started each day with the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ to the American flag. I studied American history and the Constitution of the United States, and believed that persons born in this country was free and had equal rights. I’ve always been a good American citizen, I was willing to defend my country before the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor in 1941. I had tried unsuccessfully to join, first, the National Guard, and then the United States Coast Guard. My Caucasian friends were accepted, but I was turned down. Later, I participated in defense work until the union forced me out without a reason. When the exclusion order was posted on telephone poles in 1942, I felt angry and hurt and confused about my future. I could not understand how the United States government could do this to American citizens without a hearing or a trial. It was not right that all Japanese Americans were interned while Americans of German or Italian descent were allowed to be free. For forty years, I have carried with me the remembrance of being treated like a criminal, and classified as an enemy alien of the United States, even though I was born in Oakland, California. I feel that as an American citizen, I did not do anything wrong. I have always felt that the United States Supreme Court’s approval of putting American citizens into concentration camps on the basis of race is unforgivable and should be corrected. I wanted you to know that Japanese Americans are loyal American citizens, and obey the laws of the land.”

29) “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.”

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