Japan on the Globe No.132 

African-Americans, the most familiar friend Japan had

translated by Amamoto Mikako

We African-Americans, pay our greatest respect to the Japanese.

"Twelve million African-Americans in the States are watching the course of the meeting."

During the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, African-Americans kept their eyes on the Japanese who participated and who suggested the idea of the "racial equality" at the meeting. When the Japanese Mission Plenipotentiary stopped in New York on their way to Paris, four African-American leaders bypassed President Wilson and directly told the Mission to try hard to abolish racial discrimination all over the world. African-Americans who suffered from racial discrimination saw the Japanese as leading bearers because they were admitted into the World Power in spite of their color. At the meeting, the Japanese suggestion won the approval of 11 out of 16 countries. However, President Wilson, the chairperson, rejected this result saying, "This is not unanimous." This statement led to riots throughout the country where more than a hundred people were killed and several thousands injured.

Brown men continue beating Caucasians.

It was during the Russo-Japanese War that African-Americans put their hope in the Japanese. They thought that a small colored country was challenging a bold fight against a big Caucasian country. If Japan won, the day would come when they would cry, "Asia only for Asian people." African-American leaders thought that this foresees well for the future of Africa, their Mother Country. The Russo-Japanese War challenged a myth made by Europeans saying, "Colored people will never win over the Caucasians."

A sense of solidarity and understanding of sympathy between African-Americans and Japanese immigrants.

African-Americans warmly accepted Japanese immigrants who came to the U.S. in the 1920's. The Philadelphia Tribune expressed the following: African-Americans respect Japanese people from the bottom of our hearts. Although they are an oppressed race like us, we should follow their behavior to make great efforts to achieve the goals. In Oakland, California, Japanese often put advertisement in newspapers published by African-Americans. Likewise, Japanese newspapers ran articles that criticized racial discrimination targeted against African-Americans. Also, a Japanese hospital hired two African-American doctors, so the California Eagle expressed, "It is a great thing that a Japanese hospital opened the door to other races. "The image of Japanese as equal to African-American spread rapidly in the West Coast through the media." The words, "a sense of solidarity and understanding of sympathy" were often used to describe the relationship between the two.

Save Japanese

One African-American who heard about the news of the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 wrote to the Chicago Defender, "Colored people in America, that is to say we, African-Americans, indeed can save the Japanese, the same colored people as us. "Soon the paper began a campaign to save the Japanese. "Surely we are poor. However, if we do not donate now, when on the earth will we donate." The eager message in the paper penetrated into the African-American community and they donated a large amount of money to Japan.

Japanese countenance to Ethiopia

Against the aggression to Ethiopia by Italy, African-Americans tried to help this one and only independent country in Africa as a fortress. Compare with the negative attitude of the United States, Japanese appeals for Ethiopian support, which had more appeals than the United Nations, moved African-Americans. And above of all, what moved African-Americans was a plan for the marriage between the Ethiopian crown prince and a lady of the Japanese imperial family. Although this could not be brought into fruition, this is an evidence that Japan was interested in making an alliance with Ethiopia.

Unforgettable experience in Japan

In 1936, W. E. B. Du Bois, a leader in the African-American community, wrote a column about his two weeks stay in Japan to the Pittsburgh Clear entitled, "Unforgettable Experience." When he was checking out one of the hotels in Tokyo, a typical American white lady wedged in front of him. A receptionist lady ignored the American lady and kept attending to him. After he finished his check, the receptionist made a deep bow to Du Bois, then she began to attend to the American lady. Her resolute attitude foresaw the opening of a New World.

There is no reason to fight with the Japanese.

About the Japan-US War, Du Bois said, "If America admitted Japanese rights, the war would not have broken out." African-American soldiers who experienced racial discrimination in the military could not find a reason why they should fight against the Japanese, the same colored people as them, for Caucasians.

Do we pass off the Japanese camps?

During the war, Japanese immigrants who had American civil rights were interned in camps. African-Americans were shocked deeply. First, the fact that only Japanese Americans were interned in camps, not German Americans or Italian Americans, was clearly an example of racial prejudice. Second, African-Americans could have been interned in camps because it happened to the Japanese Americans who also had the same American civil rights as them.

Do we, African-Americans, pass off that a hundred fifteen thousand Japanese Americans were deprived of their freedom as Americans at one time?

One columnist of the Los Angeles Tribune called the All African-American Improvement Committee, so the chairperson of the committee submitted the following, "We must stand against having our rights as Americans because of our races and colors of skin being invaded." After the war, African-American society warmly welcomed the Japanese who came back from the camps. They helped their fellow Americans look for jobs and invited Japanese Americans to their churches.

The most familiar friend whom Japan had in history

Dr. Reginald Carney, a scholar of African-American studies, wrote: "The most familiar friend whom Japan had in history was the African-American. At one time, the Japanese were respected by African-Americans and considered as the same colored people. I am eager for the Japanese to take back such thoughts of reverence and endearment once more."