San Leandro Times published letter calling Civil Rights hero Fred Korematsu a criminal

Fred Korematsu resisted orders to be interned during
World War II and was arrested in San Leandro.

San Leandro’s ubiquitous weekly newspaper, the San Leandro Times, published a letter to editor this week that calls Civil Rights icon Fred Korematsu a criminal for resisting internment during World War II. In addition, the author says, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was justified.

“I wasn’t alive in WWII, but I do not remember him as a civil rights pioneer but as a criminal,” wrote San Leandro resident Cynthia Melendy. “American citizen or not, the relocation was a prudent action. It is a myth that it was wrong to send Japanese to internment camps. What about sacrificing to support your country?”

Despite the writer’s sentiment, Korematsu is lauded as a local hero not just in San Leandro, but nationwide. In light of current fears held many Americans that potential attacks on civil liberties and animosity toward immigrant populations under President Trump will occur, Korematsu’s historical refusal to cooperate with internment orders in 1942 is likely to further raise his profile among activists.

The San Leandro Times, whether to be salacious
or merely to fill column space, has allowed
similarly vile letters to be published since 2010.

In 2010, San Leandro named the new eighth grade campus at San Leandro High School after Korematsu as have many other schools. Korematsu was born in Oakland and attended Castlemont High School. Later, Korematsu worked in a nursery in San Leandro and upon orders in May 1942 to report to assembly centers, he went into hiding, underwent surgery on his eyelids in attempt to look Caucasian, and was ultimately arrested on the corner of East 14th Street and Joaquin Avenue in San Leandro.

President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. The state designated Jan. 30 as the “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.” Korematsu passed away in 2005.

In the past, blatantly racist letters have been published by the San Leandro Times on numerous occasions. In 2010, San Leandro Times editors printed a letter that asserted, “As far as I’m concerned, all the illegals of all kinds should be rounded up and escorted out of the country…We’ve been taken advantage of by ignoring our laws and will pay dearly for it. It is not fair for California and its citizens to ignore this anymore.”

Two years later, the San Leandro Times printed a letter that opposed legalizing gay marriage, but labeled the LGBT community’s efforts in derogatory terms. “The working class will always reject the degenerations of nature that threaten humanity,” the San Leandro resident wrote.

In less controversial tones, the paper has proven adept at highlighting opinions well outside the norm of typical San Leandrans. When a few residents wrote cranky letters to the editor complaining about the supposed impropriety of the 55-foot-tall nude sculpture of a woman to be placed near the San Leandro BART station, it was picked up by several news outlets, including some worldwide. No such uproar existed in the city.

Categories: arrested, civil rights, Fred Korematsu, immigrants, internment camp, Japanese Americans, letter to the editor, Oakland, san leandro, San Leandro Times

7 replies

  1. Why complain? I've seen comments just as outrageous on your website. At least the SL Times believes in freedom of speech and that all opinions should be heard rather than suppressed.


  2. Isn't the San Leandro Times (and Castro Valley Forum) still owned by Fred Zehnder, longtime news director at KTVU?


  3. By MW:

    Having been reading the SL Times for years, and including its LETTERS TO THE EDITOR section, I fairly quickly realized that it doesn't just publish letters that it agrees with, but that instead it is very open to publishing letters that reflect a variety of viewpoints, and including viewpoints, positions, and opinions that are totally opposed to its own positions on issues.

    However if it was taken over by the great, wonderful, and “extremely open minded” so called “liberals” from such places as Berkeley and San Francisco, then it would probably not allow opposing viewpoints to be aired.


  4. I have to agree. I have been reading the San Leandro Times since 1994 when I first moved here, and they are diligent about publishing a true VARIETY of viewpoints and always have been. I think they should be applauded.


  5. By MW:

    Let's back up a little bit in regard to the issues of whether the internment of Japanese Americans was legal and/or just and/or a good idea.

    FDR was: one, a liberal, and in fact even a New York liberal; two, a lawyer; and three, a lawyer who had even gotten his B.A. from Harvard and then his law degree from Columbia.

    And Harvard and Columbia are among the foremost manufacturers of phonies and con men who pretend to be great liberals and all around extremely superior people.

    So therefore obviously anything he said or did had to be considered legal, just, proper, and brilliant – AND ALSO DEFINITELY NOT TO BE QUESTIONED BY US MERE PEASANTS.

    Also, the US had gone into a depression in 1929 and was still in it in 1941. So if the US had not gotten involved in World War 2 and if the Democratic Party had also stayed in power, a good question is whether we would have ever gotten out of the Great Depression.

    NOTE: It was only the full employment caused by the US's involvement in WW2 that finally got us out of the Depression, since the “experts” and liberals in Washington DC did not know even the first thing about economics.

    So FDR, the liberals, and the Democratic Party needed that war to get us out of the Depression, since they did not know the first thing about economics except: one, how to totally screw up the economy; and two, keep it totally screwed up.

    So the above are even bigger and even much more fundamental issues related to anything and everything the US government did concerning WW2.

    And since the US Supreme Court also upheld the internment, we should also look into the educational backgrounds of any and all judges who upheld it. Had at least some of them been “educated” at such places as Harvard, Columbia, and Yale!!!


  6. By MW:

    After FDR decided he wanted to have over one hundred thousand people of Japanese ancestry interred, and including many of whom were who were US citizens, so as to make the whole process look good and “prove” it was “legal,” he almost certainly then appointed a committee of lawyers to “research” and “investigate” the issue and “prove it was “legal.”

    And for anybody who says that most lawyers are sleazy lying scumbags who in exchange for money will engage in phony “research” to “prove” that absolutely anything is “legal” and “proper,” we are going to arrange to have your mouth washed out with soap and also send you to a re-education camp, and including since both the California State Bar and the American Bar Association have repeatedly stated that “MOST LAWYERS ARE HONEST.”

    And for still further proof and details on the “honesty” and “integrity” of lawyers, study the statements, positions, and research and investigations of the professional pathological liars with law licenses that infest Alameda County's DA's office and County Counsel's office.


  7. Not sure I would call this guy a criminal. What WE did to the Japanese AMERICANS was not right. We did it because we were under attack and at war. This then should apply to ALL people from the Middle East and else where. Make any sense. I love the S.L. Times but I do understand this man's thoughts. Maybe he did break the law. As it turned out. It was wrong. Don't, let these City officials do things they shouldn't be doing.


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