Seventy years after the Detroit riots, LIFE.com offers a series of photos from a great American city in turmoil — pictures that, whether we want to remember this slice of history or not, remind us that for a significant number of Americans, both then and now, allegiance to race trumps allegiance to country every time.
That line shook me. And how true it is.
So while this article of Opa's rubs me the wrong way, I believe the main reason is because it speaks the truth of where America was then, and is now. Race is still a marker for division rather than a celebration of diversity and nuance in our culture. War is still the dark innovator of all things: new technologies and hope for advances in equality (because we need something from "them"). When the war ends, will the minorities and women then be asked to step down, thank you for your temporary help, we don't need you anymore? (Yes they will.) I suppose an advance even for the wrong reasons can still result in a positive step forward despite ourselves.
But my God, how are we so crass and dumb as a human species?!
At the very least, Opa does point out the hypocrisy of America asking for Pacific Islanders to rally for their cause when they treat minorities in their own country so poorly. Why would the Islanders think they would be treated any differently? Of course there is a deeper scar when dealing with African Americans whose family trees were ripped apart and sold into slavery for generations. But for Japan and Germany, they can use this hypocrisy to their advantage. Japan can promise that they are the liberating power in the face of this powerful nation that mistreats even their own citizens. Germany can say that America doesn't have their act together after all, so the Allied powerhouse is not so strong after all.
This propaganda is especially dangerous, because there is truth in it. Democracy is built on diversity of people, opinion, and religion. If we as Americans decided that a certain people, opinion, or religion should be privileged over another, we lose a stronghold of our democracy. We start to chip away at it so we can be "more efficient." But a more efficient democracy in this vein, is simply a path to dictatorship.