Saturday, January 29, 2011

A diversity effort I agree with: Fred Korematsu Day

People who encounter me elsewhere (e.g. at Prometheus6) know I retain a certain cynicism over "diversity efforts" writ large. I dislike those that try to leave our collective checkered past unexamined. I like those with an atonement factor, in which government openly acknowledges past wrongdoing. This is one of the latter.

Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ines Trinh scanned her class of 29 fifth-graders in San Lorenzo on Friday and took a deep breath. It was time to make the lesson personal.

"Just imagine, you're told to leave your home, you've got to pack up and you have only two suitcases for everything," Trinh told them. The Lorenzo Manor Elementary schoolkids' eyes widened. "I want you to think about it. How would you feel?"

Ten hands shot up. "Mad," said the first boy. "Sad," said a girl. "Insulted ... guilty ... lonely ... disgusted," intoned others.

Trinh smiled. Sixty-nine years after U.S. soldiers herded 120,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II, she was able in one moment to make her young charges gain a new understanding of racial discrimination in America - and it was all really thanks to one man.

That man is Fred Korematsu.

Sunday is his day in California, the first in U.S. history to be officially named after an Asian American, and more than 500 teachers like Trinh are using it to tell elementary and high school students about his life and its landmark place in the annals of civil rights.

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