“The European and U.S. colonial powers were products of the European Enlightenment. They therefore believed in the equality of all human beings. The Japanese believed in the racial and cultural affinities between themselves and the other Asians whom they colonized. (A) Therefore, whether EuroAmericans or Japanese, these colonial powers did not practice racist discrimination.  Moreover, due to their beliefs in the principle of the ultimate equality of the colonizers and the colonized (even if this equality was actually contradicted in practice), (B) these colonial powers endeavored to lift up the status of colonized women. As Fanon explained, the colonizers were committed to “unveiling” (in a metaphorical sense) or liberating the colonized women. Although colonialism is generally portrayed in a negative light, (C) the colonial rulers were in fact quite enlightened, at least insofar as race relations and the relations between the sexes is concerned.”


The following addresses the three debatable statements of the essay question above. The statements are labeled in order as “(A)”, “(B)”, and “(C)”. Paul Kramer’s “Race-Making and Colonial Violence in the U.S. Empire” and Peter Duus’ “Defining the Koreans” are referred to answer statement (A). The answer looks at several cases to demonstrate that the U.S. and Japan employed racial discrimination to legitimize their colonial expeditions. These cases include Filipinos’ quest for civilizational status, U.S.’ racialization of Filipino guerilla warfare in the Philippine-American War, and Japan’s use of ethnic-based rational to colonize Korea. To answer statement (B), Frantz Fanon’s “Algeria Unveiled” is referred to. The answer aims to show that, while France’s outlawing of veiling could be interpreted as lifting up the status of Algerian women, it was rather a means to weaken Algeria’s capacity to resist French colonialism. Lastly, Ann Stoler’s “Making Empire Respectable” is referred to answer statement (C). The answer examines several cases to show that the Dutch failed to incorporate the “equality of all individuals” principle into Indo-Dutch and sex relations in the Dutch East Indies. These cases include the Dutch management of concubinage and Indo-European children, and fixation on upholding white prestige. Overall, this paper argues that U.S., Japanese, French, and Dutch empires failed to incorporate their “equality of all individuals” principle in their colonial activities, but carried out their activities under the façade of Mission Civilisatrice, women’s rights and freedoms, and racial-sexual equality.

The U.S held a belief of “equality of all individuals” since the Enlightenment, while Japan acknowledged the racial and cultural affinities between themselves and other Asian ethnicities. However, none of this deterred the two empires from employing racial discrimination to legitimize their colonial expeditions. Note that racial discrimination refers to an unfair treatment of an individual or individuals on the basis of their race. In the events leading up to and after the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), cases of the U.S. racially discriminating against the Filipinos was highly frequent. Following the Spanish defeat in the Spanish-American War (1898), the Spaniards relinquished all of its territories in the Asia-Pacific to the U.S. However, whether or not the Philippines will be ceded to the U.S. or declared as an independent nation-state was still under negotiations. In the midst of the Treaty of Paris (1898) talks, the Filipino elites launched legal and historical arguments on why the Philippines’ cession from Spain to the U.S. was illegitimate, and for the recognition of their civilizational status.[1] At the time, international law dictated civilizational status as a criteria for sovereign rights and independence.[2] To this concern, the U.S. dispatched two naval officers to determine whether the Philippines was civilized. The elites showcased what would constitute their state as civilized to the officers – like balls and operas, Catholic worships, and military drills.[3] However, despite the officers’ recognition of the Philippines as civilized, the island state was eventually ceded to the U.S. under the Treaty of Paris.[4]

Critically, there are two specific cases that displays U.S.’ use of racial discrimination to legitimize its cession. The first is that the Philippines needed to prove its civilizational status to have its sovereignty recognized by the U.S.; it otherwise risked legal colonization under international law. This was a clear double standard. Because the Philippines was an Oriental state, it was considered as uncivilized until proven civilized by default – whereas Western states were inherently civilized by nature. Further, the U.S. had a vested interest in the outcome of whether the Philippines was civilized or not. Regardless, it was the U.S., not a third-party state that determined the Philippines as uncivilized. This renders the Filipino effort to prove themselves as civilized useless.

Following the cession, the Philippine-American War broke out from 1889 until 1902. However, the fighting went on after 1902: The Filipinos started to conduct guerilla warfare against the Americans. The use of guerilla tactics was delayed due to concerns over the Philippines’ civilizational status. A war based on concealment and deception violated American standards of honour in combat. This would make it difficult for Filipinos to escape the uncivilized label.[5] The U.S indeed declared that a civilization would acknowledge its defeat in a war, and that it would be uncivilized to conduct further resistance.[6] Critically, this is an extension of the double standard. The U.S. did not consider that the Filipinos’ guerrilla tactics took form out of strategic concerns, but out of race. This is blatant racial discrimination. Also, to label all postwar resistance as uncivilized forces the Filipinos to either abandon their statehood and allow the U.S. to colonize their nation, or conduct guerilla warfare and surrender all opportunities to secure civilizational status in the future. As demonstrated, the racialization of the Filipinos and their conduct of war aided to legitimize the U.S.’ cession of the Philippines.

To continue, note that the U.S. legitimized its cession by emphasizing on the distinctions between the civilized Americans and uncivilized Filipinos. However, this could not be replicated by the Japanese to colonize Korea; the two were too similar.


Japan instead legitimized its colonization by emphasizing on the racial and cultural affinities shared by the two ethnicities.[7] Notwithstanding, the Japanese empire still considered Koreans as inferior.


Japanese travel writer Okita Kinjo’s “Korea Behind the Mask” considered “shit” and “lice” as one of Korea’s main imports, and depicted Koreans as lazy and backwards. Other writers like Onjoji Kiyoshi and Arakawa Goro dehumanized Koreans as well.[8]


However, to describe Koreans as inherently beyond redemption did not legitimize Japanese colonialism of Korea. To this, Japanese scholar Yamamichi Joichi put forward the idea that Koreans were not inherently inferior, but it was rather the exterior environmental forces that made them so.[9] This consisted of Korea’s economic oppression, aristocratic form of governance, and China’s influence over Korea.[10] This was convenient: Japan could acknowledge that the two ethnicities shared racial and cultural affinities, but Koreans would still be considered inferior under the above premise. This would legitimize Japan’s colonial takeover of Korea as an act of reunion between two similar ethnicities; and also as Mission Civilisatrice: Japan felt obligated to offer salvation and modernize their fellow Korean brothers. To Japan, the colonization of Korea was not treated as a colonial subjugation, but rather as an act of national integration.[11]


Critically, the idea of Koreans not as inherently inferior, but inferior due to external forces was put forward to maintain Japanese superiority over Koreans, and to legitimize the colonial takeover. This ethnic-based rational is a blatant racial discrimination, and risked the autonomy of all Koreans. Further, note that it was Japan that had a vested interest in the colonization of Korea. Regardless, it was Japan that determined whether Koreans needed their aid to modernize. This failure to consider Koreans in the decision to colonize Korea as a means to help Koreans also indicates racial discrimination. As demonstrated, the colonization of Korea was legitimized behind the façade of Mission Civilisatrice and an act of reunion.

Similar to the Japan-Korea case above, France’s efforts to offer more rights and freedoms to Algerian women were a façade to weaken Algerian society’s capacity to resist French colonialism. Cultural clothing is an expression of a society’s values and norms and constitutes a society’s uniqueness over others.[12] The French administration’s decision to outlaw veiling in French Algeria was for this very reason: The destruction of a deeply held Algerian tradition would simultaneously destroy Algerian society as a whole, and weaken its capacity to resist French rule as a result.[13] The French looked at a veiled woman as humiliated, sequestered, and cloistered, and thought that unveiling them was synonymous with liberalizing them.[14] As an extension to the unveiling, the Algerian women were also invited to play a more critical role within Algerian society. The French believed that by making the Algerian woman adopt French values and norms, Algerian culture would be destroyed, and simultaneously, resistance to French colonialism would render stagnant.[15] However, the Algerian woman did not adhere to French culture. Rather, the unveiled Westernized Algerian women aided resistance movements in French cities. The women delivered weapons and false identity cards to other revolutionaries. The French patrols failed to consider them as terrorist suspects.[16] Critically, outlawing the act of veiling could be interpreted as lifting up the status of women. However, this is exclusively a French or Western point of view. There is no indication that the Algerian woman felt humiliated under the veil. The French abolished the tradition out of their own context. Further, note that the French initially outlawed the act to destroy Algeria’s culture, and to restructure it as a one that embraces French values and norms. A cultural destruction is blatantly oppressive to all individuals associated with that culture. This includes both men and women. As demonstrated, the French did not lift up the status of Algerian women in French Algeria.

The Dutch also failed to incorporate the “equality of all individuals” principle into the relations of race and sexes in the Indies. The Dutch rigidly regulated sexual activity, reproduction, and marriage to uphold class distinction and white prestige.[17] The rigidity was due to the blurred legal and social classification that designated who was white or native.[18] To explain, the Dutch administration legally made concubinage the most attractive form of sexual relations a Dutch men could have.[19] Concubinage refers to the cohabitation of two individuals who share a sexual relationship; it is not a legal marriage. To the administration, concubinage was a positive reinforcement: It kept Dutch men out of brothels, taught them Indo culture, and most critically, they did not need to fulfill the financial responsibilities a European women was thought to demand.[20] Because a marriage with a European woman risked poverty, it risked class distinction and white prestige. A Dutch man needed to be seen as superior over the natives at all times.[21] The administration went so far as to limit the migration of European women, and only selected bachelors as recruits.[22] However, concubinage was socially lauded when the number of Indo-European children rose. These children were a classificatory problem, and threatened white prestige.[23] Further, all Dutch individual deemed socially, physically, or mentally unfit were barred from entry to the Indies and institutionalized if they were already there. This was done to “maintain the Indian respect for the superiority of the European character.”[24]

As demonstrated, the Dutch shaped its race- and sex-related policies to uphold class distinctions and white prestige. Note that the Dutch tried to eliminate all risks that threatened the superiority the Dutch had over the natives – in terms of both wealth and race. Concubinage was embraced as it kept Dutch men economically secure, but discredited soon after Indo-European children blurred the distinction between the superior Dutch individuals and inferior natives. Aforementioned, the colonial administration also filtered which Dutch individuals were to be seen to the natives to not risk the “respect” the natives had of the Dutch. Critically, the Dutch strictly forbid compromising the institution of class and racial hierarchies that made the Dutch supposedly distinct and superior to the natives. The “equality of all individuals” principle was absent in their colonial policies.



[1] Kramer, P. (2006). Race-Making and Colonial Violence in the U.S. Empire: The Philippine-American War as Race War*. Diplomatic History, 30(2), 176.

[2] Kramer, P. 171.

[3] Kramer, P. 177-178.

[4] Kramer, P. 180.

[5] Kramer, P. 194-196.

[6] Kramer, P. 197.

[7] Duus, P. (1995). Chapter 11 – Defining the Koreans, Images of Domination. In The Abacus and the Sword: The Japanese Penetration of Korea, 1895-1910 (p. 397). Berkeley, California: University of California Press.

[8] Duus, P. (p. 402-404).

[9] Duus, P. (p. 407-408).

[10] Duus, P. (p. 409-411)

[11] Duus, P. (p. 423)

[12] Fanon, F. (1967). Algeria Unveiled. In A Dying Colonialism (p. 35). New York City, New York: Grove Press.

[13] Fanon, F. (p. 37).

[14] Fanon, F. (p. 38)

[15] Fanon, F. (p. 39).

[16] Fanon, F. (p. 51).

[17] Stoler, A. (1997). Chapter 18 – Making Empire Respectable: The Politics of Race and Sexual Morality in the Twentieth-Century Colonial Cultures. In Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives (p. 367). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

[18] Stoler, A. (p. 345).

[19] Stoler, A. (p. 347).

[20] Stoler, A. (p. 348).

[21] Stoler, A. (p. 350).

[22] Stoler, A. (p. 348).

[23] Stoler, A. (p. 360).

[24] Stoler, A. (p. 357).