On January 30th, 2016, as part of the celebration of Fred Korematsu Day in California, there will be a program at 7 p.m. in Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, entitled “Re(ad)dressing Racial Injustice: From Japanese American Incarceration to Anti-Muslim Bigotry.” The program is sponsored by the Fred T. Korematsu Institute.
California’s Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution is the first day in U.S. history named after an Asian American. It is celebrated every January 30th on Mr. Korematsu’s birthday. The program for this year’s celebration has special relevance to me.
Shortly after 9/11, two Lebanese FedEx workers contacted me. Kamil Issa and Edgar Rizkallah had been contract drivers for FedEx for years, but after the twin towers attack, a manager began relentlessly harassing them, calling them “sand niggers” and “camel jockeys,” and making anti-Muslim slurs. In fact, both men were Christians.
On their behalf, I filed a civil rights lawsuit against FedEx that resulted in a landmark verdict. The jury took 90 minutes to return a verdict of $5 million for each plaintiff from FedEx-double what we had requested-and $500,000 apiece from the manager, plus another $50 million in punitive damages. This was the largest recorded U.S. verdict in a race discrimination case for individual defendants.
The case showed an American jury standing up for the rights of Arab Americans. I was honored to represent the Kamil and Edgar. Sadly, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim discrimination in America has sharply increased. My law firm continues to bring cases on behalf of Arab Americans and Muslim American discriminated against because of their religion or ethnicity.