The Asian-American civil rights community has lost a hero with the passing of Fred Korematsu yesterday in his daughter's home in Marin.

Korematsu, an American citizen and Bay Area resident, was 22 years old when FDR ordered the internment of all Japanese-Americans on the West Coast after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Reluctant to leave his Italian-American girlfriend, Korematsu refused to go and was arrested. He then sued, claiming that the internment camps violated his right to equal protection under the law. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and established, in Korematsu v. United States, the principle still in place today, that the government must provide a compelling reason before race-based classifications will be upheld.

Ironically, despite the strong language, the Supreme Court found that FDR's justification of a possible threat by the Japanese was in fact a compelling reason to justify incarceration of over 100,000 American citizens. The Korematsu decision is widely considered an embarrassment of American jurisprudence, and most recently, has been cited as a cautionary tale by the Muslim-American community in the wake of 9/11.

In 1983, Korematsu, through the Asian Law Caucus, sued in San Francisco federal court to reopen his case and clear his name, and won. He spent the rest of his life dedicated to ensuring that injustices like the ones he faced would never happen again. We'll keep his memory alive.