We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Race War!

White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire

Gerald Horne

Publication Year: 2004

Japan’s lightning march across Asia during World War II was swift and brutal. Nation after nation fell to Japanese soldiers. How were the Japanese able to justify their occupation of so many Asian nations? And how did they find supporters in countries they subdued and exploited? Race War! delves into submerged and forgotten history to reveal how European racism and colonialism were deftly exploited by the Japanese to create allies among formerly colonized people of color. Through interviews and original archival research on five continents, Gerald Horne shows how race played a key—and hitherto ignored—;role in each phase of the war.

During the conflict, the Japanese turned white racism on its head portraying the war as a defense against white domination in the Pacific. We learn about the reverse racial hierarchy practiced by the Japanese internment camps, in which whites were placed at the bottom of the totem pole, under the supervision of Chinese, Korean, and Indian guards—an embarrassing example of racial payback that was downplayed by the defeated Japanese and the humiliated Europeans and Euro-Americans.

Focusing on the microcosmic example of Hong Kong but ranging from colonial India to New Zealand and the shores of the U.S., Gerald Horne radically retells the story of the war. From racist U.S. propaganda to Black Nationalist open support of Imperial Japan, information about the effect of race on U.S. and British policy is revealed for the first time. This revisionist account of the war draws connections between General Tojo, Malaysian freedom fighters, and Elijah Muhammed of the Nation of Islam and shows how white racism encouraged and enabled Japanese imperialism. In sum, Horne demonstrates that the retreat of white supremacy was not only driven by the impact of the Cold War and the energized militancy of Africans and African-Americans but by the impact of the Pacific War as well, as a chastened U.S. and U.K. moved vigorously after this conflict to remove the conditions that made Japan's success possible.

Published by: NYU Press

Race War!


pdf iconDownload PDF (43.5 KB)
pp. v

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (77.7 KB)
pp. vii-xviii

As the Great Depression was unfolding, Robert Abbott, the wealthy African American publisher, sailed eastward to England with his spouse. The experience proved to be a racial nightmare. Upon arriving in London—headquarters of the powerful British Empire—he was refused a room in the prestigious Savoy in the West End, though he arrived with reservation in hand. Why? He was informed curtly that ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (32.7 KB)
pp. xix-xx

In researching a book of this type—a venture that involved traveling to five continents—one inevitably incurs debts of various sorts. Thankfully, I was the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship that brought me to Hong Kong University, where I spent a fruitful academic year. The students, staff, and faculty in American Studies, History, and English—in ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (92.2 KB)
pp. 1-16

WITH ITS MAGNIFICENT HARBOR, steep peaks, and verdant surrounding islands, Hong Kong is one of the world’s most physically imposing cities. The territory’s 423 square kilometer area is divided into four areas: Kowloon, the New Territories, Outlying Islands, and the center of commerce: Hong Kong Island. This Crown Colony was punctuated by Victoria Peak, thirteen hundred feet above sea level, which ...

read more

1. To Be of “Pure European Descent”

pdf iconDownload PDF (123.8 KB)
pp. 17-42

IF A VISITOR FROM THE U.S. SOUTH had arrived in Hong Kong in November 1941, he would have recognized a kind of racial segregation and racially coded deprivation that would have made him feel at home. Lucien Brunet was born in Montreal and was not unfamiliar with discrimination, being French Canadian, but even his otherwise blas

read more

2. The Asiatic Black Man?

pdf iconDownload PDF (94.5 KB)
pp. 43-59

IN THE PERIOD PRECEDING THE ATTACK on the British Empire, Japan was—without question—the nation most admired by African Americans. Many reasons account for this now mostly forgotten fact: Tokyo assiduously courted black leaders and, in any case, the latter looked to Japan as a living and breathing refutation of the very basis of ...

read more

3. Race/War

pdf iconDownload PDF (106.7 KB)
pp. 60-79

THE BRITISH COULD HARDLY AFFORD to alienate anyone—least of all Chinese—as they faced the grim prospect of a Japanese invasion. But such dire realities were far from the mind of the working-class men fleeing the austere future awaiting them in a Britain fearful of being overrun by Germany. Harold Robert Yates was “really looking forward ...

read more

4. Internment

pdf iconDownload PDF (118.3 KB)
pp. 80-104

AFTER BEING COMPELLED TO RESIDE temporarily in a sleazy brothel, several thousand disheveled and disarrayed Europeans and Euro-Americans were marched off to what became Stanley internment camp. Even this brothel, otherwise a site of degraded pleasure, was fraught with racial tension. ...

read more

5. War/Race

pdf iconDownload PDF (115.0 KB)
pp. 105-127

WHEN THE PACIFIC WAR COMMENCED, London and Washington faced a vexing problem: after tirelessly cultivating a disaffected Negro population over the years Japan had won legions of adherents. At a time when the black population on the West Coast was still relatively small,1 migrants from former British colonies in the Caribbean—many ...

read more

6. Race Reversed/Gender Transformed

pdf iconDownload PDF (139.5 KB)
pp. 128-158

THE BRITISH AUTHORITIES WERE VERY CONCERNED with the presumed enemy within the gates of U.S. territory.1 Weeks after Hong Kong surrendered and just as Singapore was about to do so, the Foreign Office briefed the United States on “lessons” to be drawn from the at-tack on Pearl Harbor. “For some days before” the assault on U.S. territory, ...

read more

7. The White Pacific

pdf iconDownload PDF (134.0 KB)
pp. 159-186

BRITISH SETTLERS IN AUSTRALIA in the latter part of the eighteenth century began to create a “successful” white supremacist system in the Pacific. As the Pacific War approached, this system provided Japan with a lush opportunity to appeal to the downtrodden who were not of “pure European descent.” ...

read more

8. Asians versus White Supremacy

pdf iconDownload PDF (146.5 KB)
pp. 187-219

WHITE SUPREMACY GENERATED AS STURDY and resolute a response in the region from the Malay peninsula to India as it had in the South Pacific. Unlike the latter, for the most part the former did not involve settler states of the type and magnitude of New Zealand and Australia. Here colonialism was more in line with that found in Hong Kong. ...

read more

9. Race at War

pdf iconDownload PDF (141.4 KB)
pp. 220-250

OF THE NEARLY FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND MEN in the U.S. army in 1940, only forty-seven hundred were Negroes, all serving in segregated units. Black officers could be counted on one hand—three chaplains, a colonel, and a captain. The navy allowed Negroes to enlist only as messmen. The marines and the air corps excluded Negroes completely. In the most notorious example of this system of racism, blood ...

read more

10. Race World

pdf iconDownload PDF (133.2 KB)
pp. 251-278

RACE MADE MORE CONVOLUTED and intricate the ability of allies on all sides of the war to come together. Even when seemingly absent, as in relations between Washington and London, the infamous “colour bar” provided fertile soil for the growth of ethnic and other differences. Such differences also made it more difficult to confront Japan’s particular ...

read more

Conclusion: In the Wake of White Supremacy

pdf iconDownload PDF (169.8 KB)
pp. 279-318

THE ATOMIC BOMBING of Hiroshima and Nagasaki effectively ended the Pacific War and with it Tokyo’s dream of a complete racial reversal. On the other hand, the changes that had been wrought in the theater of war had been so deep-seated and profound that it was no longer possible to return to the status quo ante.1 Hong Kong witnessed the decline of racial segregation and the arrogance that accompanied it, ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (69.2 KB)
pp. 319-328

HONG KONG, with a phenomenally high level of concentrated wealth, remained a colony until 1997. This was partly the result of circumstances: the Nationalists, mired in corruption and infighting, could not mount an effective challenge to London, while the Communists, intermittently ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (267.8 KB)
pp. 329-378


pdf iconDownload PDF (178.9 KB)
pp. 379-408

About the Author

pdf iconDownload PDF (42.7 KB)
pp. 409

E-ISBN-13: 9780814773352
E-ISBN-10: 0814773354
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814736401
Print-ISBN-10: 0814736408

Page Count: 432
Publication Year: 2004

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Japan.
  • Asia -- Race relations.
  • Racism -- Pacific Area.
  • Caucasian race -- Social conditions.
  • Racism -- Japan.
  • Racism -- Asia.
  • Japan -- Race relations.
  • Pacific Area -- Race relations.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Asia.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Pacific Area.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access