Nuclear weapons arose from racist ideology. The U.S. raced Hitler to the development of the atomic bomb, and thankfully, we won. Hitler envisioned the power of nuclear weapons as a means of mass instant genocide to further the dominance of the Aryan race. Unfortunately, they are still an expression of racism and hatred. The atomic bomb seems to have become Hitler’s most respected idea; nuclear capabilities are usually perceived as a measure of a country’s prestige and power. In the international arena, the highest ranking of international powers is given by membership in the United Nations Security Council, and five permanent members are five declared nuclear weapons states.
Although the truth is bitter and repugnant, the U.S. fulfilled Hitler’s vision of using nuclear bombs during the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This act was made possible by the extreme racism that was pointed at the Japanese during the 1940s. Magazines such as Time, Life, Newsweek, and Reader’s Digest, among many others, frequently referred to Japanese people as “Japs” or “Nips” with comics and references to Japanese as animals, usually rats and monkeys. This is the basis of all metaphors traditionally employed by white supremacists to demean non-white people and make them seem ridiculous. By portraying the Japanese as rats, the message was that they are vermin; better to exterminate them. Even Warner Brothers Studio made a short, animated cartoon titled, “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips.”
The racist methods of portraying the Japanese was accepted by a majority of Americans and often even seen as comical. But it was this attachment of a stupid, bestial and pestilential characterization of Japanese that made it possible to see them as inhuman, and thus allow the public to rationalize the bombing of non-military targets after the Japanese had already agreed to surrender.
The U.S. government’s use of nuclear weapons and handling of radioactive and toxic materials continues to reflect racist ideology, even within our own country. Inside the U.S., areas with a high population of minorities continue to be dumping grounds for radioactive and nuclear materials by businesses and federal and state governments. Native Americans face continued nuclear oppression. This past year, the U.S. government has made moves to resume full-scale nuclear weapons testing and open Yucca Mountain as the national repository for nuclear waste. This land is in fact part of Newe Sogobia, the Western Shoshone Nation, the most bombed nation on earth. Since 1951, over 1,000 full-scale nuclear weapons explosions have shook this land. Subcritical nuclear weapons testing continues and the site has become the nation’s largest low-level nuclear waste dump.
Student Advocates for Responsible Security (StARS) is a group on the UCSB campus that focuses on leading the UC Nuclear Free campaign. Currently the University of California manages three national laboratories for the government to oversee, research and develop nuclear weapons technologies. We are appalled that our University is involved in the nuclear weapons business and we look forward to the cancellation of the UC Regents’ $3 billion per year contract with the Department of Energy when it comes up for renewal in 2005.
StARS holds weekly meetings, speaks at regents’ meetings, collects signatures for a petition, and puts on speakers, concerts and other activities in the community. Currently we are planning a camping trip to the Nevada Test Site for the weekend of Oct. 11-13 to take part in a huge music festival, protest, candlelight vigils, and workshops put on by the Western Shoshone National Council. This trip will allow us to hear personal experiences of those abused by nuclear policies and provide us with personal motivations for our campaign. If you would like to join StARS please contact Kristen at or for more information go to .
Kristen Eschner is a senior global studies major and a member of StARS.