“Take Japan, for instance” is that argument where White Americans compare themselves to the Japanese to show that their racism is natural, reasonable or not all that bad, that it is what anyone in their position would do.
“I don’t think white people are unique in how the view themselves or ‘others’. Japanese for instance, view themselves as ‘normal’ and everyone else as ‘strangely different’.
As a moral argument this is terrible. It is the “everyone does it” excuse, the Arab Trader argument. Even eight-year-olds know better than that.
Japan is hardly a good moral example:
- Bataan Death March,
- Rape of Nanking,
- comfort women,
- forced mass suicide of Okinawans.
Etc. This stuff is used in another piece of White racist sophistry: the Asian Atrocity argument, wherein White Americans show that they are not “uniquely evil”, as if anyone said they were.
And if all that was “too long ago”, there is discrimination going on right now, today, in Japan against the millions who do not belong to the main ethnic group, the Yamato:
- Japanese Brazilians,
- Japanese Filipinos.
Etc. As well as the Burakumin, the untouchables among the Yamato.
But for some, that is the whole point: See, non-White non-Westerners are racist too! Racism is part of the human condition.
Except that racism in Japan was copied from the West!
- In the late 1800s, Japanese scientists measured skulls, just like Western scientists did. But, unlike Westerners, they were not measuring them before 1853. That was when Matthew Perry arrived from the US with his black ships to open Japan to the West.
- In the early 1900s, eugenics came from – the US.
- In 1943, the Japanese government wrote a secret document called “An Investigation of Global Policy with the Yamato Race as Nucleus”. Among other things, it talked about settling Australia and New Zealand in the 1950s. It used ideas of race to argue that the Yamato know best and should rule East Asia and the Pacific. Yet, when it talked about the history of the idea of race, that history goes back to – the West. To Britain and Germany, in particular. It even used the phrases “blood and soil” and “living space” – which come from the German Blut und Boden and Lebensraum.
Most of what White Americans think of as Japanese racism is directed at fellow East Asians. It is not racism so much as nationalism or ethnocentrism – thinking one’s nation or culture is best – which are extremely common and not what White racism is about.
- Germany wiped out half the Jews of Europe because it thought they were racially too different to ever become good and loyal Germans.
- White Americans, likewise, wiped out Native Americans.
That is racism.
Japan, on the other hand, did not try to wipe out the people of Taiwan and Korea. Instead it took over their countries and tried to force Yamato ways on them to make them into good and loyal Japanese. That is ethnocentrism, not racism.
Thanks to commenter Jefe for suggesting this post.
– Abagond, 2015.
Sources: Mainly “Race in North America” (2012) by Audrey and Brian D. Smedley.