Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Racist Bomb

Why were atomic bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but not Berlin and Munich? Was Hitler not as evil as Hirohito? Why was the United States willing to bomb over 200,000 Japanese lives, but sought other military tactics on the Western front?

The issue of atomic nuclear bombs is always a sensitive topic, and rightfully so. Two bombs that ended a world war, destroyed two cities, claimed so many lives and still impact people today deserve no less discussion or speculation. An atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and another one on Nagasaki three days later in attempt to stop the last dictator of the Axis Powers of WWII. Mission accomplished.

However, why weren’t atomic weapons considered to end the war against Germany? Is there a difference between taking Asian lives over European lives? Apparently, there was. Above all, the Second World War was a war of racism across all fronts: European, Asian, and American. The government, media and public in the United States all agreed that Japan was more evil than Germany.

Why? Racism usually tends to be an implicit stereotype, which is unacknowledged attitude towards something. Nevertheless, racism become quite explicit and expressed during WWII. In fact, “prejudice and racial stereotypes frequently distorted both Japanese and Allied evaluation of the enemy’s intentions and capabilities. Race hate fed atrocities…Such dehumanization, for example, surely facilitated the decisions to make civilian populations the targets of concentrated attack, whether by conventional or nuclear weapons.” (Dower, 1986) Furthermore, Joseph
Grew, ambassador to Japan, had declared that Japan associated itself with a system of predatory powers, thus justifying any possible actions the US would take towards them.

I believe that racist attitudes were partially responsible for the decision to use atomic bombs over Japan, and as a result, killing over 200,000 people. Although the American society has made giant strides to combat racism since then through the Civil Rights movement, all humans are still susceptible of implicit stereotype. I think it is crucial for lawmakers and all citizens to be aware of this when making decisions, especially life and death circumstances.

Dower, John A. (1956). War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. New York: Random House, Inc.

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