Sunday, August 15, 2010

Magic Mushroom Clouds

Being White means never having to say you're sorry.

The annual commemoration of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is typically accompanied by a debate on whether the bombings were justified or simply an act of mass-murder motivated by revenge. Often, this debate then evolves into a discussion on whether the Japanese have done or said enough to redress the actions of their militarist regime of the period. Although Japan has issued several apologies to their Asian neighbours, many still feel that Japan has failed to genuinely, and fully, acknowledge atrocities committed by the Imperial Armies against its former enemies. So, even though it's been sixty-five years since the bombs were dropped, the political and social fallout from their use is still being felt.

Whatever position one takes on these issues, I think most people would agree that imperialism deserves condemnation and that any crimes of brutality resulting from any colonization process should be brought to some kind of justice. By examining the attitudes and ideologies that led imperialist nations to believe that they had the right to brutalize, exploit and enslave others, we are better able to understand the basis for much of the biases and prejudices that exist today, both in the way that international relations are conducted and in the racial dynamics within those societies themselves.

Again, although Japan's apologies are considered by some to be insufficient, of all the nations that attempted colonization of Asia - often brutally savage - Japan is the only one that has actually ever apologized for its actions. Somehow, yet for me unsurprisingly, not one Western country that waged wars of aggression on the peoples of Asia, has ever apologized for any atrocities committed during this process of conquest - even though some of these very nations have been vocal in insisting that Japan apologize for its atrocities.

Part of the reasoning behind the West's insistence that Japan fully acknowledge its atrocities is based upon the fear that without full acceptance of responsibility and the subsequent historical re-interpretation that this would entail, Japan might once again become militaristic. This is sound reasoning, yet the West seems unwilling to apply this reasoning to their own imperialism - "sorry" doesn't seem to be a part of their vocabulary. The biggest irony is that after Japan's defeat, the French, Dutch and the British all returned to their former colonies to wage war against the very Asian countries that they had supposedly fought so hard to free - killing millions in the process.

For a diverse country like America, accepting responsibility for colonial brutality is a necessary step in integrating its minorities. For example, the U.S has by and large accepted responsibility for slavery and by doing so has legitimized programs and policies leading to cultural acceptance and  inclusion of the black minority. African-Americans are afforded a degree of respect, deference and empathy not given to other ethnic minorities (at least ideologically). This can be partially explained by the fact that America and other western countries have acknowledged their atrocities and in so doing have placed the presence of its black minorities in a context that supports their specific rights and needs, as well as their very right to be there.

If we compare this to social and cultural attitudes toward East Asian minorities in the U.S, you'll notice a vast difference. There is a fundamental distrust of Asia and its people and Asian-Americans struggle to be recognized as true, loyal Americans. Xenophobia and economic resentments combine to keep Asian-Americans on the periphery of society and therefore vulnerable to violence. Lacking the mechanisms to define and present our own identity, empathy for Asian-Americans is minimized by negative images controlled by a hostile media and propagated by racist institutions.

In short, America exists as the result of colonialism. Its diverse population reflects its past colonial aspirations. Asians are in America as the natural and necessary outcome of America and the West's aggression and interference in our countries. Naturally, this fact isn't covered in the history books. This is why Asians continue to be thought of as outsiders that don't really belong in this society.

7 comments:

  1. Very good point, and I think this Wiki post sums it up pretty well:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unequal_treaties

    The western powers (which include the US) had been making unreasonable demands to East Asians all the way up to WWII. And they probably would have let the Japanese murder everyone in China and not lend a finger to help if the Pearl Harbour incident didn't occur. I have absolutely no idea why people are actually proud of our foreign policies over the years.

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  2. Hi N

    Thanks for your comment.

    I just started reading a book that seems to cover many of the same ideas that I have about the context of the war in the Pacific. it's called Race War by Gerald Horne. You may want to check it out.

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  3. You: For a diverse country like America, accepting responsibility for colonial brutality is a necessary step in integrating its minorities. For example, the U.S has by and large accepted responsibility for slavery and by doing so has legitimized programs and policies leading to cultural acceptance and inclusion of the black minority. African-Americans are afforded a degree of respect, deference and empathy not given to other ethnic minorities (at least ideologically). This can be partially explained by the fact that America and other western countries have acknowledged their atrocities and in so doing have placed the presence of its black minorities in a context that supports their specific rights and needs, as well as their very right to be there.
    -----

    Black people are not "accepted" in this country because the "West" has accepted responsibility for its actions.

    Blacks are part of the very fabric of this country. Blacks are the very foundation upon which this country is built. You think you can have 200+ years of forced free labor by millions of people and have them not be the very backbone that allows it to stand?

    Our entire experience is written in the Constitution which is why it had to be challenged. Our labor created the first millionaires in this country. We've fought in every war in this country. So much about this country and its history and culture are about black people. In some places, we were the majority at the start of this nations and continue to have significant populations throughout pockets of the country.

    This is why we are Americans, without question. Our blood is in this dang country.

    The plurality of Asians have come into this country in the last 30-40 years. There are hardly any of you here. You don't have the same kinds of cultural contributions as blacks.

    Our "integration" into this country is so much more different because of our history. Blacks had to recreate themselves - because of lost history, culture, language, etc. - from scratch. When you are stripped of everything, you have to rebuild with what's around you. That right there makes blacks more American than anyone.

    Asians have not had to recreate themselves from the ground up. You keep your language, your ties back to your ancestral lands, your families, food, etc. So, of course you're not gonna be seen as Americans in the same way. It's got nothing to do with going around Asia and making nice and apologizing.

    Again, the plurality of you have not even been in this country that long and despite that many have done well. You've been accepted well enough that you have high intermarriage rates with whites and integrate with them with few problem, imo.

    Also, the Japanese Americans also got money for their "internment" which is more than blacks ever got.

    You love comparing Asians to blacks. Why I don't know. LOL.

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  4. Anonymous

    Thanks for posting. Sorry that you seem angered by my post and I agree with you about the experience of African-Americans, yet your points are actually irrelevant to what I wrote. There’s no law, as far as I know, that says you have to suffer to become an American, there’s also no law that says some people are more American than others – not any more at least – thanks to those who fought for those rights. This kind of thinking upholds the ideology of a racial hierarchy – it’s precisely the kind of thinking that empowered Jim Crow.

    That aside, civil right success (and the wider notion of anti-discrimination) depends very much on a mutual agreement that there has been wrong-doing – otherwise what’s the basis for change? If you don’t acknowledge that you’ve done something wrong, then why should you try to fix it? There is an Asian history that is hidden. It’s a history of suffering and enslavement at the hands of colonialism – the same colonialism that enslaved African-Americans. The modern de-stabilization of Asian societies can be traced directly to colonialism. We’re here because they were there.

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  5. I think Mr Anon.'s piece pretty much lost all its credibility when he mentioned that we should be happy about the high intermarriage rates...lol

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  6. N

    Right - that proves Asians have it easy!

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  7. Germans are white and have had to say that they are sorry for nearly 70 years.

    And non-white Americans are just as complicit in America's crimes as white Americans. Pinning the blame exclusively on whites here is extremely disingenuous and it is also racist.

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