Why not? Five years ago, I was a typical Japan fanatic who wanted to learn as much about modern Japan that a college loan and humble scholarship could get me. I read the beautiful writings of literary Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata and the quirky and disturbing tales of Haruki Murakami. And what Japanese culture class would be complete without academically disecting the latest anime.
But then something else was also included in the curriculum: Struggle and Success of African-Americans in Japan (1993). The documentary painted a mostly daunting and yet slightly optimistic set of experiences for African-Americans during Japan’s Economic Bubble. It was a far cry from the oh-so-happy adventures of the popular Yan and the Japanese People (1984) series of the fair-skinned artichtect living in Japan.
No, not all off the experiences were bad and many would stand to tell me that the many hardships black gaijins faced wasn’t a black thing– Most popular arguments are 1) all gaijins are discriminated against and 2) Japanese are racists. Here is why I raise the black card on this issue:
-Black stereotypes mostly created by the media and white soldiers stationed on American bases.
– 1980s Conservative Prime Minister, Yasuhiro Nakasone, collectively didn’t care to share Japan’s wealth with minorities anyway but he riled American’s and minority Americans stating that blacks, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans were the causes of America’s low intellectual level.
-On the flip side of the Diet aisle, Liberal Democratic Party leader, Michio Watanabe made a financial jab at blacks in 1988 stating. “They use credit cards a lot. They have no savings, so they go bankrupt.” He further stated that Japanese might commit suicide rather than enter bankruptcy.
-Oh and this one has always been my personal favorites:
Oh Japan and your lust for making everything cute.
So after reading, watching, and learning all of this I thought how on earth could I, a black female student who loves Japanese culture, was at a loss for words and very confused. By the time I watched Struggle and Success, I had already made friends in Tokyo. I refused to believe this sort of attitudes were still prevalent when I was treated with such warmth and respect.
Six months in, I’d say I’m doing pretty well. I still have yet to find a Sambo doll to keep…for historical purposes of course. (^_^)