Presidential executive orders have come to the fore with the new Trump administration in the White House, which on Friday took the drastic step of banning incoming refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations in and around the Middle East. Google’s Doodle today reminds us of an earlier executive order, 9066, which was issued by President Franklin Roosevelt and had the effect of confining close to 120,000 US residents of Japanese descent to internment camps during World War II. It’s a dark period in US history, condemned by later presidents as an act of “wartime hysteria,” and it’s commemorated in order to remind the country’s present leaders to not fall into similar traps of prejudice and bigotry. Better late than never, eh?
Fred Korematsu, the subject of the Google Doodle, would have been 98 years old today, having been born to Japanese parents in Oakland on January 30th, 1919. His name is attached to the 1944 Supreme Court case dealing with the validity of executive order 9066. The Supreme Court sided with the government in that case, but Korematsu’s contribution as a civil rights activist was ongoing and substantial enough to ultimately earn him a Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by Bill Clinton in 1998. Google helpfully points out that Fred Korematsu Day is celebrated in four US states: his native California, Hawaii, Virginia, and Florida.