I was born in the 80s and so my only recollection of an opposing superpower was the stories of the Soviet Union that I heard growing up. With the rise of the Asian nations, India and China, I wonder if any potential hostile attitudes created by a rivalry will be exacerbated by the difference in “race”. I use the term race loosely here to indicate people who look different from us.
For the history buff in here, what are your thoughts? Will differing races make us even more distrustful than in the past with the Soviet Union, or is this largely a nonfactor compared to the overall economic and military strength of the opponent?
During Japan’s economic rise in the late 80s and early 90s (especially with Japanese corporations purchasing American companies), there was were some racial overtones in the media and even outright racist attacks on Asian Americans by some ignorant autoworkers.
I think China’s rise may be different. There will always be racists who will view this through their colored glasses, but blatant racism has become much less tolerated in the last 20-30 years.
Short answer? Yes. We always demonize the enemy, which was difficult enough to do with a nation of Euro-Caucasians who used a funny alphabet. When they’re Asian, racism old and new will become a part of it. A few “hot” incidents and language not seen since the early 1940s will reappear in mainstream usage.
I guess AB’s argument depends on the specific demographics and geography of the country. Groups that feel comfortable using language unheard since the 1940s are likely comfortable using that language today.
I do see the potential of more subtle types of xenophobia. Maybe something along the lines of a novel like Rising Sun in the 90s, which I felt was incredibly anti-Japanese and that painted Japanese in a grotesque way. But even then Michael Crichton received some criticism for this at the time.
I agree. Fundamental human nature doesn’t change. Look to WWII for a historical parallel. The Allies were fighting a two front war against the Germans and Japanese. We can argue all day long about which one was worse but I think we can all agree that both sides were the epitome of evil. Even then, the Japanese and Germans were viewed differently and that was bilateral. The number one ethnic group in the U.S. was and is people of German descent (Eisenhower was a top U.S. General after all). The treatment of POW’s was completely different on both sides.
Despite the atrocities that occurred because of the German ethnic cleansing campaign, U.S. soldiers in German POW camps generally weren’t treated badly at all. There was even a popular sitcom, Hogan’s Heros, based on that theme. As long as they played by the rules, an American soldiers confinement in a German POW camp was supposed to be more of a time-out period and less of a punishment. I just found out recently that there was a German POW camp near where I grew up in the Louisiana/Texas border are even though I had never heard it mentioned before until some really old people shared some pictures and told stories about it. It turns out that there were a lot of them spread across the Southern U.S. It was less of a prison and more of boarding school/camp for captured German soldiers. They even got to take field trips into town and had their own movie theater. The pictures make it look fairly pleasant as far as those things go and the people that were there said they were never mistreated.
Contrast that with the Japanese POW camps. They were brutal on the Japanese side. You did not want to be an Allied soldier sentenced to a Japanese POW camp and I believe a key part of that was because of ethnic differences. Back at home, Japanese-Americans lost their land and were rounded up and put into their own confinement camps with no evidence of any wrongdoing.
My position is that you can have hostility and atrocities among people that are ethnically similar (see Northern Ireland or the Serbian region for example). However, those require special circumstances like historical feuds or differences in religion. That is slightly different than obvious ethnic or racial differences. The default is for there to be conflict and you have to work really hard to keep alliances together. In times of war, those alliances will naturally fray and the situation will default back to the easiest us vs them mentality.
Implying proud Anglo-Saxons and Nordics are the same as the Slavs. Come on, don’t be lazy with the racism just because we’re Americans and have it easy. Europeans had to divide pasty white people into all sorts of sub-categories. Don’t throw that heritage away. Next you’ll be saying Italians are white too.
You kid but not really. Italians and the Irish had to work fairly hard to become white in the U.S. I can almost see the former (my kids are 1/4 Italian). I never really understood the Irish thing.
You do bring up a good point though. Almost all white Americans are a hopeless mix of white European heritage. We don’t really subdivide based on that. You can be some mix of English, Russian, Italian, Portuguese or even Spanish and it doesn’t really matter unless there is money involved. It is just white. The Europeans have gotten it down to a much finer art over the centuries so that smaller differences carry much greater weight. Europeans will kill anyone or anything based on the slightest differences if history is guide. They are in a lull now after WWII except for Kosovo a few other conflicts especially on the Russian side but it could come back.
My point is that those fine subdivisions fly out the window once you get into greater divisions. It is human nature. Native French people may hate other slightly different French people until they realize that they have too many Muslims from the Middle East causing problems in their homeland. Suddenly they are best friends again at least on that cause.
The same thing is true for everyone. The best thing that could happen to humanity is a small-scale alien invasion. We would all band together instantly until it was over and then those bonds would slowly start to degrade again over time.
Because the imperial Japanese saw them as even lower animals than Caucasians. Koreans and rural Chinese in particular were little more than vermin to be exterminated so the Master Race could expand into “Manchukuo.”
That doesn’t exactly counter the argument. White people may see Asians as one general category but the Japanese certainly didn’t and still don’t. Chinese, Koreans and Malaysians were a completely separate ethnic category to them.
China has been a “super power” several times in the past. In was clearly far more advanced than Europe during the MIddle Ages and only “fell behind” due to policies imposed upon the country by its rather idiotic imperial leadership. Had this not occurred the Chinese would have become the dominant power on Earth today.
Frankly, China seems to continue down paths which lead it into widespread civil unrest. Unless they are somehow able to avoid it this time, their time as an intact super power will be brief. That may mean that considering how we (the West) will feel about China may be a minor issue.
You said that Japanese treated Europeans worse because of greater ethnic differences. But Koreans are ethnically *more *similar to Japanese than Europeans and they were treated worse. Which exactly counters your argument. The standard of treatment has nothing to do with ethnic or racial similarity.
Just as Japanese see Europeans people as one general category, but Whites didn’t and still don’t. As has already been noted in this thread, Slavs, Mediterraneans and Irish were a completely separate ethnic category to WASPS.
That is the whole point, and it counters the argument precisely. We’ll demonise people based on their group even when they are physically and genetically utterly indistinguishable from us just as the Japanese did. If we are inclined to be psychotically xenophobic as the Japanese were, then race won’t change that in any way at all.
And irony of ironies those field trips German POWs were allowed into shops & theatres that some of the American soldiers assigned to their camps weren’t due their race.
China’s facing a pretty bad demographic situation. Not enough young people to care for the old (granted that’s not unique to China), and an entire generation of extra males with no change of finding mates. Beijing is trying to fix this by making adjustments to the One Child Policy, but I doubt it’ll be enough. They’ll grow old before they grow rich.
You are trying to argue with me when we mostly agree. My point is that people will demonize different ethic groups in adverse circumstances. They view those differences in many different ways both large and small. For the Japanese, everyone who is not Japanese is an ‘other’. For a European person, it might be a person from a different country (say France versus England). For a White American whose heritage is hopelessly mixed, it could be any foreign person of a different race. People tend to go with the easiest difference for them to differentiate ‘others’ based on their culture and that varies.
There is a hierarchy of this type of thing and it is complicated based on culture. I think that is where we are getting into a disagreement.
I think you are taking offense when none is given. You don’t need to look for offense for honest questions like that. It is disingenuous. Everyone knows that not all Americans are white nor were all American WWII soldiers white. It is much more complicated than that. You have to understand the concept of 'the ‘other’.
It can mean anything based on your cultural groupings. For example, I am from the American South yet I live in New England now. I was brought up with the prejudice that Yankees were the other. You might think that Southerners are all racist but I was brought up by black nannies and raised among black people.
People in the Boston area intellectually liberal towards minorities but not generally in a social or practical way. The black people here flock to me because almost all of them are from the South or have family there and so we have a common bond. Black Southerners here are more my people than say the recent Italian immigrants.
The concept of the ‘other’ is a powerful but real concept but it depends on cultural and historical circumstances. It is often based on race or ethnicity but isn’t always. WWII was unusual in that the U.S. invading forces into Germany had a huge proportion of soldiers that were 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation German emigrates and it was hard for the average German soldier to abuse people they saw as roughly equal to themselves.
The Japanese were different. They have always made a strict distinction between themselves and even other Asians let alone everyone else. The question in their mind was ‘Are you Japanese or not’? If not, please proceed straight to the torture camps.