Monthly Archives: May 2012

Japanese People: Racist? Racially Condescending? Racially Insensitive?

I’d say Japan has a history of being racially insensitive but is drastically improving.

Since the Meiji Restoration, Japan has been completely obsessed with adapting western cultures from changing their traditional Japanese garbs for western suits and dresses to prohibiting that notorious homoerotic male culture.


Japan fought tooth and nail within itself to get all Japanese on board with assimilating to the western culture. There were numerous expeditions to Europe and America to learn firsthand how to live in a modern western world. One of their observations regarding race was that those with white or lighter skin had power. This assumption backed up their own norm of dark skinned Japanese being broke field workers and light skinned Japanese being wealthy or noble or wealthy and noble.

To be honest, I can’t really blame many Japanese for disregarding those with darker skin and foreigners with dark skin. During Occupation there were a lot of bad rumors going around about black soldiers. Even prostitutes were scared to give service to black soldiers because of the assumption that black men were vicious in bed…and had atrociously huge packages. Once more, African-American and Latino-American portrayal in the media during Japan’s economic bubble didn’t help either. The most soundbites on racial equality went along the lines of, “If whites are ostracizing dark minorities then we’ll do it do because we love white image. (*´▽`*)”

But on the flip side, there are so many positive and humorous reports from other black bloggers and video bloggers about their own experiences. My personal favorite will always be Kemushichan, a very genki Japanese research student who has evolved her blog to new heights since 2006. I began following hers and some other YouTubers when I studied abroad in 2009. But, not all blogs have been positive. There are some discouraging stories for every non-Japanese race. The Dear Life Japan series, at times had some pretty discouraging observations on being a black female in Japan. Also, *giggles for this one* one blogger wrote that an older Japanese man tried to lick her hand because he thought it would taste like coffee. I’m not sure what the Japanese guy was going to expect from the coco bean looking hand but it did earn him a spot on the Black Experience board. It’s best to note that Japan is one of the most homogeneous first world countries on Earth.  It’s bound to have its bumps and bruises when it comes to hosting foreigners in its country.

So…as a black American in Japan am I really going to call the next Japanese kid who looks at me then looks the other way in fear, a racist?


Probably not.



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“THAT’S RACIST!” Well…no not Really.

Nine times out of ten the conversation about race starts after a controversial event has occured. In 2012 we’ve all sat down had many discussions from Billy Crystals’ blackface at the Oscars to the Trayvon Martin murder. There are many stereotypical characters in this open discussion. Here’s how I picture the race debate forum:

Every discussion has to have the Scorned Minority, AKA the person who wants to make sure everyone out there knows their group has been scorned and will fight you on it.

That wasn’t cool, in fact that was racist!

Then there’s the Post-racial thinker, AKA the people who really want to push to ignore the racial factors in favor of other factors that may have initiated the situation for the sole purpose of trying to live in a colorless world.

It’s all cool bro!

Sitting across from them are the Closet Appeasers, who are mostly politicians or people who may know of a racist or two in their circle of friends. To me these guys don’t want to come off as insensitive but don’t want to look like traitors to their friends, constituents, or family members. Many usually preach to the post-racial choir making it a great façade that kills two birds with one stone.

Don’t worry boys, I got this liberal media thing covered.

Finally the actual racists, the ones that have no problems walking in their bigoted paraphernalia nor selling target sheets similar to a certain teenager boy with a bag of skittles. They unapologetically shun every ethnic group urging them to swim, fly, surf, or drive back to their respecting countries without considering that Native Americans have that very authority first and foremost. Hmm…what country will they be swimming back to?

You in trouble now boy!

Stick these four people in a room and you almost always get the same results:
Scorned Minority: That’s racist!

Post-racial Thinker: That’s not racist. There’s nothing regarding race in this context.

Scorned Minority: My people have been victimized by your people for too long. We will fight for equality now, we will fight for equality tomorrow, we will fight for quality forever.

Closet Appeaser: Now look here. My friend here is right. We ridded bigotry a long time ago. We just don’t do that here anymore. You are demonizing me and my three friends that look like you.

Actual Racist: See what that dog-eating Muslim has done to this proud nation!! Where’s my target sheet?!

Result from this conversation: A whole lot of nothing.

A larger portion of this much needed conversation is definitely dictated by how it is started. Yep, I’m looking at you Scorned Minority *cough* The Grio *cough cough.* A lot of the anger and frustrations comes from how the conversation is approached and a large part of that is identifying the situation for what is it. And a lot of times it’s not always racists.

‘That’s racist!’ should be the most extreme label for actions that a majority of the people discussing can agree on. It must clearly be blatantly racist, like this example. A year ago two white Mississippi teens killed a black bystander for kicks – did I mention that was a year ago. There isn’t much to dispute on the presence of racism and the intent the two teens had when they went to, “run that nigger over.” There’s even video of the the truck tramping right over this innocent man. There’s no way any other conservative politician can wiggle their way out of disproving the racism in this one. To make my point, while there is ample evidence confirming this hate crime, its a far cry from giving Billy Crystal the same label for his Sammy Davis routine. No worries. Here are some other terms we can observe aside from ‘That’s racist!’

Racially Insensitive: Meaning the person/ people who said it/did it didn’t really think of all the possible responses to the action itself after they did it. Mostly ad agencies and comedians mess up in this one. A large part of it is ignorance which makes ‘That’s racist!’ seem blindingly harsh. My new smh favorite is the new Snapple half and half commercial. I must also point out that I loathe the European promo poster for PSP white:


And don’t get me started on the 2008 Lebron James | Gisele Bundchen Vouge cover. Even with my disdain said, the Scorned Minority has to learn that everyone isn’t born with the Rules and Responsibility handbook on dealing with other groups of people. Take it for what it is—a flub on the other guys’ better judgment—and cordially begin the conversation:

Scorned Minority: Yeah man, that can be insensitive for some folks.

Racially Insensitive Person: Really? I had no idea. How come?

Scorned Minority: Well, for one, I’m not Puerto Rican. I’m Chilean.

I’m not going to continue this staged conversation but given that I’ve had similar ones with many people in my past, I didn’t have to cut tensions after a race talk with a jack hammer afterwards.

Last, Racially Condescending: Racially Insensitive usually labels other races based on ignorance or just as a bad joke. Racially Condescending just flat out puts the opposing group down…subtly. Maybe the good intent was there and the third party person can see it but the execution just fell flat on its face. Several examples include a recent blog post from a teacher questioning the purpose of black studies – that was put nicely, she actually called it the clap trap. Then there was Newt Gingrich’s attempt to make black children better money managers by suggesting they do janitorial work. And for those who were loyal to reality TV viewing before Jersey Shore and Housewives might remember that short-lived Green Card show which in fact made immigrants do Amazing Race-like tasks in efforts to gain American citizenship. Even the “white man to the rescue” shows such as Webster and Avatar can be labelled as racially condescending by its viewers – Yes I know, those two shows couldn’t be any further apart from each other.

I see a lot of Closet Appeasers partaking in this one for many reasons 1) it shows how out of touch they are with other opposing groups despite them wanting to help. 2) This category provides a large margin for them to deny any racist bone in their body and count the number of Scorned Minority friends they have on their one hand. Much like Ted Nugent and Don Imus helping poor dying children thus making them more post-racial and kindhearted than Ghandi.

In all seriousness, ‘That’s racist!’ is just an immediate knee-jerk label that many Scorned Minorities use repeatedly because –and to be honest—we’re just used to it. It’s our bat signal for prominent civil rights leaders to stand at the front of the pack and demand action…which at times can be overkill. ‘That’s racist!’ simply generates unwanted anger, confusion, and frustration on all sides and nothing changes or gets resolved until the next questionable commercial or blogger gets hip-deep in its own mess.

God forbid if it’s a joke. I’m looking at you Ashton Kutcher.



Posted by on May 16, 2012 in misoPOW!


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