World War II: The Aftermath--Race

Figure 1.--The Pacific War was one of the most biterly fought wars in history. The Japanese refused to surrender on island after island as the Americans moved toward the Home Islands. Japanese authoriuties told their people thst the Americans would rape anhd torture them. In fact Japanese civilians were more threatened by their own soldiers who insusted tjhat they commit suiside. After the Emperor surrendered and the American GI's arrived for the occupastion the Japanese were astonished that the Americans behaved humanely. The children were the first to venture forth, first out of curiosity. They found the GIs not only friendly, but a source of cabndy which becauseof ratiining had disappeared in Japan. Japanese War-time brutality had intenified already existung racist feelings. The children as was the case on Saipan and Okinawa, melted the hearts of the most grisseled Marine. It was part of a general disipation of racist attitudes in America despite the ferocity of the War. Here a U.S. Armny photographer is showing the children his camera.

World War II was without doubt the most intensly racist war in human history. Race was actually a relatively modern construct in warfare. Race was not a foot note to the War. It was central to the German war effort as in reading of Hitler's Mein Kampf. The NAZIs did not only want to rule foreign lands, they wanted to eradicate many foreign peoples so they could colonize a land cleared of the existing population. It was also important to the Japanese war effort. The Japanese saw themselves in their island nation as a pure people undiluted with immigration from foreign lands, in sharp contrast to America which they saw as a mongrel nation. The Allies did not have racist goals in fighting the War. The Allied populations, however, to vsrying degrees had racist feelings. And in the case of the United states, racist laws existed in parts of the country. It should not be thought that racist attitudes only existed in the West. Given the intensity of the racial animus during the War, the aftermath of the War is stunning. The occupation of Germany and Japan was conducted without racial animus. This was obvious in Germany as the Allies were not racially different. It was somewhat surprising in Japan given the racial difference and the terrible war crimes committed by the Japanese military. It would of course have been a very different story had the Axis won the War. There was a sharp shift in racist thought throughout Western Europe an the United States. Western Europeans and Americans seeing where racism led began to moderate their attitudes toward other races. This shift was most notable in America which had a substantial non-European population. Prejuduice toward Asian Americans despite the Japanese war crimes and Jews practically disappeared over night. Prejudice toward Blacks was a more deeply enbedded problem. But the War in many ways set the Civil Rights Movement in motion. Today in the West, one of the worst things you can say about another person is that they are racist. The situation in Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe was different. Socialist ideology criticizes racism. Soviet policy, however, included some racist elements. And unlike the West, racist thought while supressed during the Cold War emerged after the fall of the Soviet-imposed Communist regimes. Change in racist attitudes in the Third World was less dramatic. There racial and ethnic differences were less affected by the War.


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Created: 1:28 AM 4/28/2018
Last updated: 1:28 AM 4/28/2018