Friday, August 21, 2009

Not Racism

The next time someone claims the Pacific venue of World War II was a racist war, you might want to remind them of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz's (CincPac) directive of August 15th, 1945, the day Japan announced its agreement of surrender terms, quoted in E.B. Potter's Nimitz at 390 (1976):
With the termination of hostilities against Japan, it is incumbent on all officers to conduct themselves with dignity and decorum in their treatment of the Japanese and their public utterances in connection with the Japanese. The Japanese are still the same nation which initiated the war in a treacherous attack on the Pacific Fleet and which has subjected our brothers in arms who became prisoners to torture, starvation, and murder. However, the use of insulting epithets in connection with the Japanese as a race or as individuals does not now become the officers of the United States Navy. Officers in the Pacific Fleet will take steps to require of all personnel under their command a high standard of conduct in this matter. Neither familiarity nor abuse and vituperation should be permitted.
They weren't an inferior race--the Japanese were enemies in war.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good on Nimitz. The man was from Texas, and understood honor and dignity. The order becomes him.

OBloodyHell said...

It's not even so much a matter of racism, as it is of recognizing that one's cultural conditioning needs to change because it is based on a flawed premise, and making the effort to make such a change in one's self and encourage it in others:

"My forebears were Confederate... Every factor and influence in my background -- and my wife's, for that matter -- would foster the personal belief that you are right.
But my very stomach turned over when I learned that negro soldiers, just back from overseas, were being dumped out of Army trucks in Mississippi and beaten.
Whatever my inclinations as a native of Missouri might have been, as President, I know this is bad. I shall fight to end evils like this."
- Harry S Truman -

Even if one never fully succeeds in eradicating the flawed outlook in one's self, the effort is a sign of both common sense as well as essential human decency, and, more importantly, has the potential for making massive changes over time.

Carl said...

Anony:

Agreed--I've even visited the Nimitz memorial in Fredericksburg Texas, and also recommend the Austin Lounge Lizards singing the Chester Nimitz Oriental Garden Waltz (1999).

OBH:

Yes, I agree, but was particularly impressed with how rapidly and forthrightly Nimitz acted to change that outlook--see Halsey at Tulagi--the moment it became appropriate to do so.

suek said...

This isn't exactly in the same category, but I enjoyed reading it:

http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2009/08/enduring-legacy-of-fort-pickering.html

OBloodyHell said...

> Yes, I agree, but was particularly impressed with how rapidly and forthrightly Nimitz acted to change that outlook--see Halsey at Tulagi--the moment it became appropriate to do so.

Well, it's not like Truman was a slouch when it came to race issues -- the Dems had a major schism over it less than two years later.

Carl said...

suek:

Good article; thanks.

OBH:

Agreed--integrating the military over howling objections was another of Truman's finest hours.

suek said...

I've wondered just how much of an effect the integration of blacks into the military services has had on the integration of blacks into society in general. I suspect that it has had a much greater effect than it has been given credit for, but maybe that's just personal bias.

It certainly is personal opinion - I don't know of any studies on it.

OBloodyHell said...

> Agreed--integrating the military over howling objections was another of Truman's finest hours.

Ever see "A Soldier's Story"?

Def. a forgotten gem about race relations.

> I've wondered just how much of an effect the integration of blacks into the military services has had on the integration of blacks into society in general.

Well, if anything was capable of dispelling the myths of them as cowardly pickaninnies it was seeing them performing just as well as the white guy on the other side of you in the middle of a battlefield.

I think the integration into sports teams was also relevant. Again, a case point of exposure making a generation realize that the "classic" derogatory cliches were inaccurate.

One of the greatest points which belies the notion of a general widespread racism is the fact that, in the 1980s, one of the consistently top-rated series was a story of a successful black man, his successful wife, and their kids. I'm sorry, but that says that an entire generation of people now fully accepts the idea that a black man need be neither a buffoon nor a loser.

...And that was in the 1980s.

Given that the first interracial kiss took place on Star Trek in the mid-60s, the first generally accepted black leading man (Sydney Poitier) was in the same time frame, and the first TV series to even star a black person was (again) in the mid-1960s (I Spy, and later, Julia, for a black woman), that's a pretty radical shift in viewpoint in a fairly short timespan. From widespread segregation to widespread acceptance in only about 40 years.

Carl said...

I agree with suek (though I don't have any studies handy) and OBH: "from widespread segregation to widespread acceptance" in 40 years--and to a President in a bit over 60 years.