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Race War!

Race War!: White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire

Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 409
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  • Book Info
    Race War!
    Book Description:

    Japan's lightning march across Asia during World War II was swift and brutal. Nation after nation fell to Japanese soldiers. How were the Japanese able to justify their occupation of so many Asian nations? And how did they find supporters in countries they subdued and exploited? Race War! delves into submerged and forgotten history to reveal how European racism and colonialism were deftly exploited by the Japanese to create allies among formerly colonized people of color. Through interviews and original archival research on five continents, Gerald Horne shows how race played a key - and hitherto ignored - ;role in each phase of the war.During the conflict, the Japanese turned white racism on its head portraying the war as a defense against white domination in the Pacific. We learn about the reverse racial hierarchy practiced by the Japanese internment camps, in which whites were placed at the bottom of the totem pole, under the supervision of Chinese, Korean, and Indian guards - an embarrassing example of racial payback that was downplayed by the defeated Japanese and the humiliated Europeans and Euro-Americans. Focusing on the microcosmic example of Hong Kong but ranging from colonial India to New Zealand and the shores of the U.S., Gerald Horne radically retells the story of the war. From racist U.S. propaganda to Black Nationalist open support of Imperial Japan, information about the effect of race on U.S. and British policy is revealed for the first time. This revisionist account of the war draws connections between General Tojo, Malaysian freedom fighters, and Elijah Muhammed of the Nation of Islam and shows how white racism encouraged and enabled Japanese imperialism. In sum, Horne demonstrates that the retreat of white supremacy was not only driven by the impact of the Cold War and the energized militancy of Africans and African-Americans but by the impact of the Pacific War as well, as a chastened U.S. and U.K. moved vigorously after this conflict to remove the conditions that made Japan's success possible.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7335-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xviii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    With its magnificent harbor, steep peaks, and verdant surrounding islands, Hong Kong is one of the world’s most physically imposing cities. The territory’s 423 square kilometer area is divided into four areas: Kowloon, the New Territories, Outlying Islands, and the center of commerce: Hong Kong Island. This Crown Colony was punctuated by Victoria Peak, thirteen hundred feet above sea level, which provided an astonishingly panoramic view of the city and outlying islands. But this beauty was rivaled by the splendid beaches of Repulse Bay Beach. Then there was the quaint fishing village of the Aberdeen district, where hundreds lived aboard...

  6. 1 To Be of “Pure European Descent”
    (pp. 17-42)

    If a visitor from the u.s. south had arrived in Hong Kong in November 1941, he would have recognized a kind of racial segregation and racially coded deprivation that would have made him feel at home. Lucien Brunet was born in Montreal and was not unfamiliar with discrimination, being French Canadian, but even his otherwise blasé conscience was moved by what he witnessed when he arrived in Hong Kong on the eve of the Japanese invasion. It was “very depressing,” he recalled years later. The “poverty” was so widespread, “I could not believe my eyes.” The “place was so poor,”...

  7. 2 The Asiatic Black Man?
    (pp. 43-59)

    In the period preceding the attack on the British Empire, Japan was—without question—the nation most admired by African Americans. Many reasons account for this now mostly forgotten fact: Tokyo assiduously courted black leaders and, in any case, the latter looked to Japan as a living and breathing refutation of the very basis of white supremacy, that is, that one had to be of “pure European descent” in order to construct an advanced society.¹ Moreover, this admiration for Tokyo was part of a larger identification with Asians generally on the part of Negroes,² who saw them as fellow strugglers...

  8. 3 Race/War
    (pp. 60-79)

    The british could hardly afford to alienate anyone—least of all Chinese—as they faced the grim prospect of a Japanese invasion. But such dire realities were far from the mind of the working-class men fleeing the austere future awaiting them in a Britain fearful of being overrun by Germany. Harold Robert Yates was “really looking forward to going to Hong Kong…. It was reckoned to be the best station in the British Army at that time…. Generally the standard of living for the soldiers was much better.” His “money went further” to begin with. There was a “pleasant climate....

  9. 4 Internment
    (pp. 80-104)

    After being compelled to reside temporarily in a sleazy brothel, several thousand disheveled and disarrayed Europeans and Euro-Americans were marched off to what became Stanley internment camp. Even this brothel, otherwise a site of degraded pleasure, was fraught with racial tension.

    Many Europeans had barely noticed the Indians who resided in Hong Kong before the war, nor were they fully cognizant of how heavily dependent the mighty British Empire was on India itself. Yet, as internee John Streicker put it, the Indian guards at this brothel had “succumbed to the glowing promises of life under the Rising Sun, and foresworn...

  10. 5 War/Race
    (pp. 105-127)

    When the pacific war commenced, London and Washington faced a vexing problem: after tirelessly cultivating a disaffected Negro population over the years Japan had won legions of adherents. At a time when the black population on the West Coast was still relatively small,¹ migrants from former British colonies in the Caribbean—many of whom were reluctant subjects of a faraway monarch—had streamed north to New York City. Thus, Harlem, which had the largest and most diverse black population in the nation, had become the epicenter of this potentially seditious pro-Tokyo posture. Consequently, as Hong Kong was reeling under a...

  11. 6 Race Reversed/Gender Transformed
    (pp. 128-158)

    The british authorities were very concerned with the presumed enemy within the gates of U.S. territory.¹ Weeks after Hong Kong surrendered and just as Singapore was about to do so, the Foreign Office briefed the United States on “lessons” to be drawn from the attack on Pearl Harbor. “For some days before” the assault on U.S. territory, “Japanese girls had been making ‘dates’ with sailors for that Saturday night and most of them saw that the sailors were filled up with liquor. This was remarkable because it is apparently unusual for Japanese girls to mix with the sailors. Also a...

  12. 7 The White Pacific
    (pp. 159-186)

    British settlers in australia in the latter part of the eighteenth century began to create a “successful” white supremacist system in the Pacific. As the Pacific War approached, this system provided Japan with a lush opportunity to appeal to the downtrodden who were not of “pure European descent.”

    The settlement of New Zealand was also an illustration of this pattern. The indigenous Maoris had fought the Europeans to a virtual standstill before acceding to nineteenth-century treaties that were largely ignored subsequently. New Zealand had attracted a sizable Chinese population as well. As war loomed on the horizon, the Chinese did...

  13. 8 Asians versus White Supremacy
    (pp. 187-219)

    White supremacy generated as sturdy and resolute a response in the region from the Malay peninsula to India as it had in the South Pacific. Unlike the latter, for the most part the former did not involve settler states of the type and magnitude of New Zealand and Australia. Here colonialism was more in line with that found in Hong Kong. And here was a reaction that Hong Kongers would have found familiar.

    As in Black America, Vietnamese patriots, chafing under French colonialism, were heartened by Japan’s defeat of Russia in 1905.¹ This was echoed in India, the heart of...

  14. 9 Race at War
    (pp. 220-250)

    Of the nearly five hundred thousand men in the U.S. army in 1940, only forty-seven hundred were Negroes, all serving in segregated units. Black officers could be counted on one hand—three chaplains, a colonel, and a captain. The navy allowed Negroes to enlist only as messmen. The marines and the air corps excluded Negroes completely. In the most notorious example of this system of racism, blood stored for the wounded was also segregated.¹ Negroes were largely excluded from the naval training academy at Annapolis, Maryland. The “Bureau of Naval Personnel believed that ‘the Negroes’ relative unfamiliarity with the sea’...

  15. 10 Race World
    (pp. 251-278)

    Race made more convoluted and intricate the ability of allies on all sides of the war to come together. Even when seemingly absent, as in relations between Washington and London, the infamous “colour bar” provided fertile soil for the growth of ethnic and other differences. Such differences also made it more difficult to confront Japan’s particular challenge to white supremacy. The ever present race factor made some Chinese hostile to the Empire even as Tokyo rampaged through Asia; it allowed some Mexicans to look skeptically toward their colossal northern neighbor. It complicated relations—thankfully—between Tokyo and Berlin. It helped...

  16. Conclusion: In the Wake of White Supremacy
    (pp. 279-318)

    The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki effectively ended the Pacific War and with it Tokyo’s dream of a complete racial reversal. On the other hand, the changes that had been wrought in the theater of war had been so deep-seated and profound that it was no longer possible to return to the status quo ante.¹ Hong Kong witnessed the decline of racial segregation and the arrogance that accompanied it, along with the rise of a cadre of indigenous capitalists. Many had become wealthy by collaborating with the Japanese, which set them apart from the prewar Chinese compradors allied to...

  17. Epilogue
    (pp. 319-328)

    Hong kong, with a phenomenally high level of concentrated wealth, remained a colony until 1997. This was partly the result of circumstances: the Nationalists, mired in corruption and infighting, could not mount an effective challenge to London, while the Communists, intermittently viewed as a prime foe by Washington, could not do so either.¹

    But more than a half century after the conclusion of the Pacific War, Hong Kong continues to wrestle—not always successfully—with the Empire’s legacy: white supremacy. This was not the only form of bias that had to be confronted. In mid-1946 the “Chinese Civil Servants’ Club”...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 329-378)
  19. Index
    (pp. 379-408)
  20. About the Author
    (pp. 409-409)