MCRC Approves Resolution Honoring Civil Rights Leader Fred Korematsu

Contact: Todd Heywood - heywoodt@michigan.gov
Agency: Civil Rights

February 1, 2019

Detroit, MI–The Michigan Civil Rights Commission (MCRC) voted 6 to 0 to approve a resolution honoring civil rights leader Fred Korematsu and his legacy. Commissioners Regina Gasco Bentley and Rasha Demashkeih were excused from the meeting. 

Korematsu fought a directive by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt which resulted in the internment of over 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent during WWII. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Korematsu, determining the internment was justified to protect the nation. He was later cleared of wrong doing by a federal court, but the opinion stood until the Supreme Court repudiated and overruled it in June of last year. 

“The Michigan Civil Rights Commission hereby recognizes the achievements of Fred T. Korematsu as a civil rights hero,” the resolution reads, “and encourages the Michigan Legislature and the Governor to join in recognizing Fred T. Korematsu and his contributions to the nation’s civil rights movement by advancing civil rights for all people in Michigan and across the nation.”

Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) Director Dr. Agustin V. Arbulu thanked the Commission for passing the resolution

“At a time when many Americans, particularly immigrants and people of different faiths, feel threatened with possible persecution, it is essential we stand up and remember our history,” Arbulu said. “The interment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during WWII was a dark period in our history and one we need to be vigilant against in the future. We do that by remembering and honoring those, like Fred Korematsu, who stood up for civil rights of all people.”

The passage of the resolution also highlights concerns expressed in a letter to the Commission by the Michigan Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission (MAPAAC) of “division, hatred, hostility and violence [that] has engulfed the country since 2016.” The MAPAAC letter called on the MCRC and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) to hold hearings on hate and bias issues in Michigan, as well as create a database to track such incidents. 

MDCR Director Arbulu called for tracking of hate bias incidents in a November editorial, and welcomed the support and call to action by MAPAAC.

“We know that hate and bias incidents are happening all the time in Michigan, yet our data collection is limited in scope,” Arbulu said. “A centralized database would assist us in collecting data on incidents which may not rise to the level of criminal activity, but which certainly create fear and confusion in our communities.”

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the operational arm of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, is charged with investigating and resolving discrimination complaints and works to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. The Department also provides information and services to businesses on diversity initiatives and equal employment law. For more information on the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, go to www.michigan.gov/mdcr.

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