Transpacific Antiracism: Afro-Asian Solidarity in Twentieth-Century Black America, Japan, and Okinawa

Transpacific Antiracism: Afro-Asian Solidarity in Twentieth-Century Black America, Japan, and Okinawa

Transpacific Antiracism: Afro-Asian Solidarity in Twentieth-Century Black America, Japan, and Okinawa

Transpacific Antiracism: Afro-Asian Solidarity in Twentieth-Century Black America, Japan, and Okinawa

Synopsis

Transpacific Antiracism introduces the dynamic process out of which social movements in Black America, Japan, and Okinawa formed Afro-Asian solidarities against the practice of white supremacy in the twentieth century. Yuichiro Onishi argues that in the context of forging Afro-Asian solidarities, race emerged as a political category of struggle with a distinct moral quality and vitality. This book explores the work of Black intellectual-activists of the first half of the twentieth century, including Hubert Harrison and W. E. B. Du Bois, that took a pro-Japan stance to articulate the connection between local and global dimensions of antiracism. Turning to two places rarely seen as a part of the Black experience, Japan and Okinawa, the book also presents the accounts of a group of Japanese scholars shaping the Black studies movement in post-surrender Japan and multiracial coalition-building in U.S.-occupied Okinawa during the height of the Vietnam War which brought together local activists, peace activists, and antiracist and antiwar GIs. Together these cases of Afro-Asian solidarity make known political discourses and projects that reworked the concept of race to become a wellspring of aspiration for a new society. Yuichiro Onishi is Assistant Professor of African American & African Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Excerpt

As the culture of liberation, the tradition crossed the famil
iar bounds of social and historical narrative.
—Cedric J. Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the
Black Radical Tradition
(2000)

In late 1936, W. E. B. Du Bois toured the library of Tokyo Imperial University during his brief sojourn in Japan. He must have walked through rows of bookshelves, casting his eyes for any evidence of race contact between the African diaspora and Japan. With the help of an interpreter, he probably located some of his own books, most likely The Souls of Black Folk and The Negro. He also saw a collection of Japanese art, including the prints of Commodore Matthew Perry’s expedition to Japan in 1854. The significance of this event in Japanese history was well established; the story had been retold many times to mark Japan’s opening to the West. This event ushered in a new era called Meiji and introduced a new polity, economy, technology, and culture to an emergent modern nation-state. Du Bois, however, derived a different meaning of this event in history when he saw one of the prints. “I … saw a print of Perry’s expedition with Negro sailors,” he later wrote in his column for the Pittsburgh Courier.

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