And here you thought I’d be too focused on sex to talk about Asian American contributions to civil rights. I’m a supporter for the establishment of a Korematsu Day in the U.S. It’s a minor step in lifting the heavy curtain of the monoracial European American culture.
No discussion on this subject can ignore Asian American powerhouse from the bench… Judge Denny Chin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. I came upon an older article from an NYU piece in 2011 with some compelling points he makes on race and law as it relates to Asian Americans in the 12th annual Korematsu Lecture, “Great Asian-American Trials.” (http://www.law.nyu.edu/news/chin_korematsu_2011)
“Asian Americans have played a prominent role in American legal history,” said Chin. “Even when you take constitutional law in your first year of law school, you learn about some of the important legal developments involving Asian Americans.” He enumerated the most famous examples, including the Chinese Exclusion Act, Yick Wo v. Hopkins, U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, Takao Ozawa v. U.S., and Korematsu v. U.S.
According to the article, he does, along with the Asian American Bar Association of New York, original trial transcripts reenactments in “dramatic theatrical presentations” which get shown at the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s annual convention.
Chin addresses the multiple trials for the bias-motivated beating death of Vincent Chin in 1982. Here, he articulates my primary reason for supporting a Korematsu Day.
“The arc of justice sometimes bends under the pressure of national crisis,” said Chin. “Sometimes the system just does not work well…. There has been a double standard applied to Asian Americans…. Trial lawyers sometimes talk in terms of wins and losses. Here, the record was abysmal…. If the need ever arises again, we must do better.”
But the coram nobis decision in April 1984 vindicated Fred and his fellow internees. Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in vacating Fred’s conviction, noting that “Korematsu v. United States stands as a caution that in times of distress, the shield of military necessity and national security must not be used to protect governmental actions from close scrutiny and accountability.”
Before the decision, Fred was reluctant to speak even to his own children about his original case. After the decision, Fred went on to champion the cause of civil rights and civil liberties, not only seeking redress for Japanese Americans who were wrongly interned, but traveling around the country to advocate for the civil rights of other victims of profiling and discrimination with national security as a justification.
A fun fact? N.D.Cal. judge Marilyn Hall Patel, who was an excellent judge but now retired, was an AMWF pioneer herself!
Learn more at the Asian Law Caucus.