Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

We've Already Had a Race War

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

We've Already Had a Race War

Article excerpt

He wanted to start a race war.

That, you will recall, was what authorities say white supremacist Dylann Roof had in mind when he shot up a storied African-American church in June. It might have surprised him to learn that we've already had a race war. No, that's not how one typically thinks of World War II, but it takes only a cursory consideration of that war's causes and effects to make the case. Germany killed 6 million Jews and rampaged through Poland and the Soviet Union because it considered Jews and Slavs subhuman. The Japanese stormed through China and other Asian outposts in the conviction that they were a superior people and that Americans, as a decadent and mongrel people, could do nothing about it.

Meantime, this country was busy imprisoning 120,000 of its citizens of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps and plunging into a war against racial hatred with a Jim Crow military. The American war effort was undermined repeatedly by race riots - whites attacking blacks at a shipyard in Mobile, white servicemen beating up Mexican Americans in Los Angeles, to name two examples.

So no, it is not a stretch to call that war a race war.

It ended on August 15, 1945. V-J - Victory over Japan - Day was when the surrender was announced, the day of blissfully drunken revels from Times Square in New York to Market Street in San Francisco. But for all practical purposes, the war had actually ended nine days before - 70 years ago Thursday - in a noiseless flash of light over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. One person who survived - at least 60,000 people would not - described it as a "sheet of sun."

The destruction of Hiroshima by an atomic bomb - Nagasaki followed three days later - did not just end the war. It also ushered in a new era: the nuclear age. To those of us who were children then, nuclear power was what turned Peter Parker into a human spider or that lizard into Godzilla. …

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