Honorary whites is a term that was used by the apartheid regime of South Africa to grant almost all of the rights and privileges of whites to those who would otherwise have been treated as non-whites. This was made on a case by case basis to select individuals but also to groups of people, mostly people of East and Southeast Asian descent who were ascribed as honorary whites. Such examples include some Austronesians, Japanese, Koreans and residents of Taiwan which were granted this "honorary white" status, and later on other Chinese and individually designated figures of various other races were added as well.


The designation was ascribed to all Japanese people (who also once were ascribed as Honorary Aryans by Nazi Germany) in the 1960s. At the time, Japan was going through a post-war economic miracle, and this designation assisted a trade pact formed between South Africa and Japan in the early 1960s when Tokyo's Yawata Iron & Steel Co. offered to purchase 5 million tonnes of South African pig iron, worth more than $250 million, over a 10-year period.South Africa: Honorary Whites
''TIME'', 19 January 1962
With such a huge deal in the works, then Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd determined that it would be tactless and disadvantageous to trade arrangements to subject the Japanese people to the same restrictions as other ethnicities because trade delegations from Japan would regularly visit South Africa for business and trade. Afterward, Pretoria's Group Areas Board publicly announced that all Japanese people would be considered white. Johannesburg's city officials even decided that, "in view of the trade agreements", the municipal swimming pools would be open to all Japanese guests. The designation gave Japanese almost all of the same rights and privileges as whites (except for the right to vote; they were also exempt from conscription). Until the early 1970s, opposition party politicians and the press questioned why Japanese were granted special privileges, citing hypocrisy and inconsistencies with apartheid.Afro-Hispanic Review
White, Honorary White, or Non-White: Apartheid Era Constructions of Chinese
Dr. Yoon Jung Park (Univ of Johannesburg), Spring 2008


The new designation granted to the Japanese seemed grossly unfair to South Africa's small Chinese community (roughly 7,000 at that time), who it seemed, would enjoy none of the new benefits given to the Japanese. As ''Time'' reported one of Cape Town's leading Chinese businessmen's saying "If anything, we are ''whiter'' in appearance than our fellow Japanese friends." Another indignantly demanded: "Does this mean that the Japanese, now that they are onsideredWhite, cannot associate with us without running afoul of the Immorality Act?" Furthermore, inclusion of other Asians as honorary whites complicated matters on how the Chinese were treated, and apartheid regulation on Chinese varied from department to department and province to province as locals could not distinguish these Asians apart from each other, due to similar genetic traits. In 1984, the Group Areas Act was amended to allow Chinese South Africans to live in areas the government had declared white areas and use the facilities within them. Chinese South Africans were required to apply for a permit from the government in order to move into a white area. Permission had to be obtained from all the neighbours in the suburb for the application to be accepted.


The inclusion of Taiwanese was due to the important relations between South Africa and Taiwan (ROC), who at the time were being increasingly isolated from the world especially after Resolution 2578 when Chiang Kai-shek's regime lost its seat at the United Nations. By 1979, Taiwan had become South Africa's fifth largest trading partner. As South Africa's National Party continued to support the right-wing Chinese Nationalists (KMT) even after the Communist Party of China gained control of the mainland, the relations of the two warmed as both were isolated from the international community and treated as pariah states.

South Koreans

Unlike Japan and Taiwan (ROC), South Korea was unwilling and eventually outright refused to establish diplomatic relations with South Africa because of apartheid. Although South Africa offered honorary white status to South Korean citizens when the two countries negotiated diplomatic relations in 1961, it severed ties with South Africa in 1978 in protest against apartheid, and full diplomatic relations between the two countries were not reestablished until 1992 when it was abolished.


The "honorary white" status was given to other special visitors belonging to other races, including: * Guyanese author E. R. Braithwaite who wrote a scathing book ''Honorary White: Visit to South Africa'' about his stay; * Cricketers in the West Indian rebel teams; * Players of Polynesian (a sub group of Austronesian) Maori or Samoan backgrounds in the 1970 touring All Blacks rugby team * Australian Aboriginal tennis player Evonne Goolagong Cawley. * African American tennis player Arthur Ashe was also offered Honorary White status but he refused and explicitly demanded to be booked as a black man when he visited and played in South Africa."Remembering Arthur Ashe" ''Society of North American Sports Historians''
/ref> * Malawian diplomats

See also

* Honorary Aryan * Honorary male * Model minority * Racial hierarchy * ''Takao Ozawa v. United States'' *''An Investigation of Global Policy with the Yamato Race as Nucleus''


{{DEFAULTSORT:Honorary Whites Category:Role status Category:Apartheid in South Africa Category:Cultural assimilation Category:Ethnic groups in South Africa Category:Historical definitions of race Category:Political terminology in South Africa Category:White South African culture