Jet Magazine: Black Men and Japanese Women – Post WWII
Jet Magazine and Ebony Magazine, the premiere popular magazines for African-Americans from the war era and continuing, published many articles that reflected the issues of the times.
In reading and seeing these articles, we can see that if we compare them to articles that exist now, including blogs and websites on interracial marriage, black/asian relations and blackness, and so on, that not much has changed. It is because of the way we make “race,” which then by its very nature, maintains racisms as well.
It is also true that in the postwar period, it was a form of propaganda to make positive images of Japanese women with Black military men in order to heal the virulent racisms of the war-period, when the Japanese women were written as violent, murderous and trecherous geisha women, akin to dragon ladies. A way to transform *that* racism, is to create the images into softer racisms. This also meant that Blackness was also written in certain ways as well.
From 1945 through the 1960s, when the Occupation of Japan threw together the largely American and British servicemen with the Japanese, relationships of love, relationships of violence, relationships temporary and relationships permanent–all played out with US military dominance unquestioned. Love relationships formed. Even though it was illegal, at first, according to the US military, relationships formed. Many US servicemen denounced their US citizenship, to marry Japanese women. The top US officials did as much as they could to keep “miscegenation” from happening, shipping men away from Japan as often as they could, and not stationing them in the same town as their Japanese girlfriends upon return to Japan.
When American servicemen wanted to bring their Japanese wives and girlfriends home, there were strict quotas that left three/quarters of the marriages split, not allowing all but a few thousand couples. My father, for instance, had to find a pastor in St. Louis, to marry my mother. Then, bringing my mother and I to the United States would be another eight years.
In the US press, especially the African-American press, there were fierce debates on Japanese wives of their Black husbands. How they would fit in? Were they too Oriental to adapt to the US? Were they better than African-American women as wives because of their seemingly obedient behavior and deference to their men? One can only imagine the diverse opinions and thoughts, academic and journalistic, popular and unpopular, that circulated in the communities.
These were not just opinions. Opinions have their pre-formed trains of thought, as well as their effects in behavior. For some Japanese women, they were literally held up in their homes and hidden. For others there was outward physical fighting. For others, this meant that the African-American man would have to leave his neighborhood because of violence and prejudice. For others still, this meant a mixture of things. For my parents, for instance, visiting my father’s family meant we were warmly accepted from the beginning, along with some neighbors, but quite a bit of terrible prejudices as well, and admonishments by my father to stay away from certain areas of his family’s street, and not to go out alone.
This also brought tense relationships between Black men and Black women in the US, wherever Japanese brides were brought home. Of course it was mixed. There were many Black women who related to the plight of Japanese wives, and their second-class status in society, and were warmly accepted. For others, as was most of the case, the Japanese women were the Asian other. For others, these new Japanese women were their competition, weakening the Black lineage by their men not being attracted to Black women. My father, for instance, had many Black women girlfriends, yet he said that he liked Japanese women better because they weren’t so selfish and loud–internalizing and intensifying internalized racism. The internalizing of gendered racism is a factor in all of our lives, not just for Black men.
And in speaking of this image of the demure Asian, my father found out later that this “obedience” was not some natural Asian trait, but a culturally learned act of survival and relationship for harmony. My mother was a rebel. After all, what kind of Japanese women in Postwar Japan, would go with an African-American military man? This was no easy feat. It was envied and also hated. Like many things in life, it is contradictory and fraught with chances for violent opposition and intense desire on the part of Japanese women. Blackness, then, served to be symbolic in many ways, for the United States and Japan, in the postwar period.
This is an interest post. I overstand the focus here is African American men and Japanese women relationships. As a Black woman i think it is admirable and noteworthy that black men would not shun their children from a non-African American woman. This is a contrast of the historic realities relationships of Black/African women and Japanese men. If there is any example of this gender inequality, it is the current struggle of the Afro Asians of the Congo (Japanese fathers and African mothers) for recognition and compensation from the Japanese goverment. In the 1970s, the Japanese inhabited Congo (formally known as Zaire) to invest in mining projects in the heavy mineral rich region of Katanga. This area was then and still is today heavily mined for its abundant deposits of copper, cobalt, nickel, and other rich minerals. The Japanese businessmen not only indulged themselves in the riches of the land, but also the local female population. Most of the Japanese men’s African love interests would become pregnant during the relationships. If they were not killed at the time of their birth, there were simply abandoned and forgetten about by their Japanese fathers who didn’t want the shame of bring home Blasian mixed children to Japan a “homogenous” society, as apparently it was against the Japanese constitution to have biracial children.
see Katanga’s Forgotten People
While I think the Afro Asian connection/relationship is a much need dialogue, it is not just about African American men and Asian women. What you pointed out about your father’s sentiment towards Black women is an underlying stereotype of Black/African women that still resonates today with men (of any race) who have ABB (Anything But Black) syndrome who feel the need to justify or explain their own preferences by way of pervasive and damaging stereotypes of Black/African women, as the perceived “issue” or “problem” with their own women folk instead the problem they may infact have with themselves and/or the society that created an environment that created such ‘issues’ and ‘problems’. Satoshi Kanazawa psuedo scientific article in Physcology Today is still fresh on my mind and one of the reasons I created the blog An Afroetic Narrative, 400 yrs of black womanhood and struggles is largely ignored or deemed second class and irrelevant which cause many black women to question her own self worth and her contributions as the back bone of the black community.
I absolutely enjoy reading your blog post, and will continue to do so because I have an interest in Afro Asian relations, and feel that these relations can be and should be strengthen with cultural understanding and and respect. So please, don’t take what I’ve said offensively or as a personal insult. Just like you, I speak from experience and the experience of real people. I have personally been to Japan, and the experience was unforgettable in a postive and negative way. I agree that for a Japanese (or any Asian) person regardless of their gender to date or marry an African/Black American man or women is in a way rebellious, considering how pale skin is valued above all else, in many if not most Asian societies.
In Solidarity I stand
Peace and Uhuru
Thank you so much for this beautiful and thoughtful commentary. I was planning a blogpost on this topic after doing more research. I am also interested in finding co-bloggers to make this more of a communal blog with intellectual, artistic, historical, political merit. WHat would you say to writing a series of posts on this topic? Or do you know someone who would be willing and able? This is very important, if not to note the continually invisible and proliferating Black=Pacific to the majority of historians and politicians and everyday folk. Japanese men and African women, as well as Japanese men and African-American women–are topics that need to be told. I hesitate to write until I do more research, but I will. However, finding someone to be a guest blogger on this, would be great.
Thank you so much.
fredrick douglas kakinami cloyd
I agree with what you’re saying but an article discussing the plight of 3 BM + JW couples does not reflect what was going on , on a large scale and then comparing that to Japanese men’s sexual dealings with Congolese women can paint a picture that may not be very accurate. I know the focus is Japan here but in countries like China, Korea and of course Vietnam and Philippines there was such an influx of abandoned mixed children (even today in countries like Philippines). I’ve heard of mixed black babies left in bins and about 42% of mixed Korean adoptions were half white babies by military men. I’m not sure if all these women were sex workers but women of all races are oftentimes used for their sexual services (or maybe they used them for money) by foreign men but oftentimes they had families back home or did not want to bring mixed children back to their countries. I think it’s important as BW to look at things with nuance. Every Asian woman was not taken as a wife and just like many other women where foreign men enter their countries, had to deal with the repercussions just like those Congolese women had to .
I have to apologize for the many typos and errors of my last response. I was using my mobile phone which is one of those android-touch screen phone that thinks it’s smarter than me. I would love to contribute and be a guest blogger on your blog. But you will have to be patient with me, I’m still learning and absorbing information on this topic as well and I don’t pretend to be an authority on this subject. But in my studying, research and travels, I have learned that the dynamics of African and Asian relations are many faceted and complex, and expands beyond World Word I and II and into antiquity.
I understand your hesitation, perhaps we should discuss further?!
I didn’t find any means of contacting you by email, but you can contact me at email@example.com.