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Honorary whites: Wikis


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Honorary Whites is a term that was used by the apartheid regime of South Africa as a designation for the Japanese people, which granted them almost all of the same rights and privileges as Whites (except for the right to vote, as well as being exempt from conscription), after a trade pact was formed between South Africa and Japan in the early 1960's, when Tokyo's Yawata Iron & Steel Co. offered to purchase 5,000,000 tons of South African pig iron, worth more than $250,000,000, over a ten-year period.[1]

With such a huge deal in the works, Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd determined that it would be disadvantageous to their trade arrangements to subject the Japanese people to the same restrictions as other non-White ethnicities, since trade delegations from Japan would now regularly visit South Africa for business. Thenceforth, Pretoria's Group Areas Board publicly announced that all Japanese people would be considered White, at least for purposes of residence. Johannesburg's city officials even decided that "in view of the trade agreements" the municipal swimming pools would be open to all Japanese guests.[2]

These changes seemed grossly unfair to South Africa's small Chinese community of roughly 7,000, at that time, who, it seemed, would enjoy none of the new benefits given to the Japanese. "'If anything, we are whiter in appearance than our Japanese friends.' huffed one of Cape Town's leading Chinese businessmen. Demanded another indignantly: 'Does this mean that the Japanese, now that they are [considered] White, cannot associate with us without running afoul of the Immorality Act?'"[3]

Chinese people could nevertheless often get by by riding on Japanese coattails, at least at the swimming pools, because, as the chairman of the city council's Health and Amenities Committee admitted, "It would be extremely difficult for our gatekeepers to distinguish between Chinese and Japanese".[4]

Up until the abolishment of apartheid, the "Honorary White" status was eventually extended to people of other East-Asian nationalities, including those from South Korea and Taiwan.[5]

The term, or other similar terms, have been used to refer to East Asians in other "White" or Western countries as well, including Germany, England, Italy, and Russia—albeit in different historical periods and circumstances.

In addition, certain non-South African Black individuals, such as the writer E.R. Braithwaite and members of the West Indian rebel team who were invited to South Africa during the apartheid regime, were designated "Honorary White" to circumvent legislation.

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