Racial Mixing in a Racial Regime: Japanese Nativism during and after the Pacific War

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 4:30 PM
Columbia 8 (Washington Hilton)
William Puck Brecher, Washington State University
Wartime Japan quelled public alarm by couching its wars in Asia and the Pacific as racial crusades (race wars). Following defeat in 1945, it sought reacceptance into the international community by vigorously disavowing racial enmity. Astonishingly, throughout the course of this dramatic wartime-postwar paradigm shift, grassroots racial attitudes seemed to change relatively little. In fact, some evidence suggests that they evolved in the opposite direction: from more racially tolerant during wartime, to less tolerant during postwar reconciliation.

This paper compares the status of Japanese race relations during and immediately following the Pacific War with a view toward illuminating the impacts of state policy and ideology on citizens’ racial attitudes. Specifically, it seeks to reveal the treatment and experiences of Japan’s most understudied racial demographic: mixed-race individuals, and Eurasians particularly. Discussion will include analysis of racial science used by Japanese nativists during the war to validate myths of Japanese racial superiority, and assessments of how that knowledge affected official and unofficial treatment of mixed-race individuals. The paper then considers the efforts of Occupation and he Japanese authorities to reverse nativist racial narratives and promote racial amity. Of particular interest will be the reception and experience of the roughly 200,000 mixed-race “occupation babies” born during that period. Were official efforts to eradicate systemic racism and foster racial inclusivity effective in tempering unofficial “on the street” treatment of occupation babies and other mixed-race cohorts? The experiences of multiracial individuals under these two antithetical (wartime and postwar) regimes illuminates the impacts of state policy on public discourse, race relations, and racial experience.

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