Dream of the Water Children: The Black Pacific

Maintaining, Exporting, Protecting Racism

From Jet Magazine, February 28, 1952

When the Amerasian School of Okinawa opened its doors in 2003, it already opened amidst controversy. I will not go into any details about most of it here. But my point in bringing this up is the particular criticism that this would further the divide between “ordinary” Okinawans, and mixed-race Okinawans fathered by American military personnel, American civilians, and other non-Okinawans.

In the period following the Korean War (1950-1953) through the 1980s, the Korean transnational adoption structure intensely focused on shipping its mixed-race Korean babies, mostly fathered (and abandoned) by American military personnel, out of Korea and to the United States.

And as we can see from the above clip taken from the February 28th, 1952 issue of Jet Magazine, an African-American-owned magazine, that the same has been true for Japan in their postwar period, which began earlier than in Okinawa.

In all of these instances, the question of “exporting” mixed-race children out of their respective countries, would seem realistic in the face of a dominantly hostile and brutal environment raised against mixed-race babies sired by the former enemies and/or occupiers. On the one hand, yes, instead of having the children endure the violence and the demeaning and hateful looks and the comments thrown at them from their other mainstream citizens, they would be kept relatively safer in their own environments—educated and cared for without incident. For Japan, for Okinawa, for Korea, it is a way to “not let” the violent society/culture inflict their prejudices against the little ones (and the adults they would grow into).

However, a main aspect that the criticism of out-adoption and special institutions for Amerasian children points to, is the convenient lack of introspection and policies that would combat the steaming racism and prejudice against mixed-raceness and entitlements to violence to act out those prejudices. “Let’s export the babies, or keep them away from us because we are violent, it’s just the way we are”— this is what is also at play, side-by-side with the safety and protection issue.

Ideally, the cultures (in this case: Japan, Okinawa, Korea), would take steps to look at their racisms and prejudices and to institute structural change to change their societies. In the United States, this is attempted in many ways, but structurally, it has changed only a slight amount, to be made less overtly racist and also developing strategies of maintaining white supremacy.

The issue of protecting racism in East Asia (yellow supremacy), is quite complex. Yellow supremacy is very much linked to global white supremacy in world history. Not only has colonial contact with white superiors versus the “other” been a sign of how the global order is to be practiced as it has been forced upon the Asian and global contexts outside of the white nations, it is also mixed up and confused with war, devastation, cultural survival, assimilation, and being occupied (economically or totally) by the United States and certain European powers.  In most cases, these nations have been invaded by each other while also being invaded and/or threatened by various white nations (including Russia/Soviet Union), as well as homogenizing their own nations by destroying their own diversities within, in response to encroaching white colonialism (along with their white supremacist racism). In this way, a national identity is made up of, and almost insists upon its racism. Internal racisms have an important link to national identity, especially in the face of being invaded or colonized by the white others.

While the anti-mixed-race sentiments were linked with white supremacist Christian and white national secular ordering of humans, each of the Asian nations developed their own identities as nations, separately from each other, but practicing the same Orientalizing (a la Edward Said) in order to create identity.

This is why even today, it is difficult to struggle with eradicating racism in East Asia (and most likely everywhere else). It is deep and a part of national identity. To change it means to change so many structures. In capitalism and its global transnational networks, it is increasingly difficult in relation to resources and capital and their links to ethnic identity and the owning of domination-powers. These powers, as well, are linked with how other nations relate to them and strategies of capital, cultural identity, and self-representations in relation to things such as international human rights (and lack thereof) and who has the power to police, to discipline, to punish, to restore, to heal, to respond, to represent, to speak, to decide the movement of power.

We must also remember, that although we speak to a large brush stroke of national cultural racisms, we are talking about the power within nations, to dominate. What I am pointing to here is that hope of a power shift. The racism against mixed-race children (and foreigners, etc.) is practiced by a sub-section of people within any society, larger or smaller. In Japan, for instance, their parliament had many meetings during the postwar, where the “issue” of konketsuji (mixed-blood) children was raised and argued about intensely between different factions of the Japanese government. There were also reports of people coming to blows. It was intense. And we can see that not everyone of any given population, believes or acts in the same way. This also goes for East Asia. The issue is that those in positions of power, who make the regulations and policies, are the ones who have temporarily  grown into positions where certain forms of their culture will be branded and decided upon and enacted. And seen by others. Then, in turn, this will be in relation to international and inter-cultural relations and laws.

Mixed-race babies and laws associated with it, can be said to be crucial in the ongoing discussions of identity linked with violence and its exporting and importing and how ignoring it and making racism a “natural” and “normal” aspect of any nation’s identity. Can we keep children, women, men and ecologies safe, without exporting? Putting up walls? Making it a sort of extra-juridical formation?

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