Quote by John Dower & my comments: Racism, the Pacific War and thinking through complexities

“The problem of racism is often approached as if it were a one-way street named White Supremacism. That is understandable, since whites themselves coined the phrase, imposed their supremacy over most of the globe and most of the darker races, and spent over four centuries writing about the inferiority of nonwhites.

The many attitudes that come together to comprise racial consciousness, however–incuding pride in one’s native place and culture and bloodlines–are hardly a monopoly of white peoples. When racial consciousness is also recognized as an expression of status and power vis-à-vis others–comparable to class consciousness, to nationalism and great-power chauvenism, and to gender arrogance–then it becomes clear that there is a place for serious comparative study here.”

–From John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War, Pantheon Books, New York, 1986. Page 179.


Often, supremacy, whether it be racial, gender, class, sexual orientation, size, caste, etc, are often thought of as practiced by certain groups and communities and individuals, but not something that is a condition or structure within a society.  In the United States, this way of thinking is prevalent.  White supremacy is practiced by people who live in certain places and do certain things and are akin to Neo-Nazis, for instance, is an assumption.

This thinking often disguises the fact that supremacy is a structured and therefore UNCONSCIOUS, yes, unconscious fact that exists between people.  This is exasperated by people who think of racism as a “bad attitude” or some kind of disease that exists similar to some kind of cancer that can be cut out through “proper” thinking.

Because of these tactics of maintenance, of guilt, of hiding, both Japan and the United States have alot to work on as nations.  Japan’s male chauvenism and racial supremacist thinking over other Asian nations, along with its feelings of being inferior to “the West” builds and infuses normal everyday lives of pleasure and power relations with un-thought, unexamined racism.  Furthermore, to think that everyone is equal will be problematic when a Japanese person, especially officials of governments or corporations, interact with governments and people from Korea, the Philippines, China, and other nations that Japan had formerly invaded and controlled in some way, the more a person thinks they are all equal and happy, the more blunders and problems are caused.

Japan is not the only one with this issue. Every person, citizen of a nation, must now confront their own internalized nationalism, which most often includes internalized racism, and racial hierarchies within.  Without this, there would be no laborers in countries.  Most of the people who do the hardest labor and work the longest hours, who do the more so-called “dirty” work in every nation, are usually racial, communal, ethnic “inferiors” and non-citizens, or at least people who are “lower.”  Every society has this.  Without aspects of racism, nations would look very different and act differently.  Our lives would all be very different.  Or perhaps, the idea of a “nation” would then begin to fall apart.

In the US, “post-racism” is often talked about, another act of denial and refusal.  Ignorance is a kind word for people who refuse to look at their practices of racism or those of the government.  Just look at the US prison systems.  It is easy to divide people into criminals and terrorists and non-criminals and non-terrorists.  One must look closely at the structure of how racism works, even though individuals within the structure may not individually call someone a racist name or exclude them from their parties or not eat their foods.  Racism is not only about a “hatred.”  In fact, in the US, the liberal thing is to view racism as only a hatred.  If I treat you like me, then we’re okay……no.  But this kind of liberal and easy thinking maintains racism.

All of the forms of oppression, including racism, needs direct focus, analysis, deconstruction, and sets of practices to shift them.  Viewing them as something unwanted maintains denial.  If we view these things, no matter where we are or they are, as things each nation needs to contextually address, to shift and to undo the foundations that make racism work, then we would do better for the future, for the children who will come.

What legacies are we leaving?

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