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Global White Supremacy and the Opening of Japan: An African American Perspective
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
Ronald K. Richardson
Boston University, United States
The proposed paper conceptualizes the "Opening of Japan" in the context of the European and American attempt to impose white supremacy globally by military, economic, and cultural aggression against Asian and African peoples. This onslaught was characterized by the use of military force, but also by the imposition of western notions of race and a global racial hierarchy. I argue that global white supremacy was a movement at both the conscious and unconscious levels in support of the western autonomous self. The existence of that species of self required vast resources extracted from across the globe; and the psychological assurance of its universal legitimacy and appropriateness. Both dynamics drove white western imperialism and the racial oppression of black and Asian peoples. I argue that the "opening of Japan" is best seen as an episode in this movement. As such it included the resistance of the Tokugawa and then of the Meiji oligarchs to white westernization, including the drive to nationalize, industrialize and militarize, which entailed the suppression of alternative popular ideas of community and spirituality and the mobilization of the resources and energies of the people on behalf of the nation as conceived in the oppressive vision of the oligarchs from Satsuma and Choshu. In its fight against global white supremacy the Meiji government adopted its own version of the racial nation with destructive consequences for many Japanese and millions of Asians. In this context I place emphasis on the struggles between government and people over competing visions of nation.