Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Racism in Japan

A Google search for "ANA CM 批判" (ANA advert criticism) on the 29th: Almost all the hits on the first page are either completely neutral Japanese news articles, or news regarding LiLiCo's comments on the issue: "Do foreigners who come to Japan have so much free time [to make comments like that]?", and "as a foreigner myself, I find it very embarrassing".

Now, there are 2 points about this. Firstly, there are foreigners over here who feel, as I do, that crying out racism over adverts like that of the ANA actually is more of an embarrassment than the ad itself.

Secondly, LiLiCo's sentiment was regurgitated on the 2nd, 3rd and 7th results of a page full of otherwise neutral news.

On reflection, there is racism towards us with lighter hair and bigger noses in Japan*; however, I'm am dubious that the advert plays a significant role in this, and when criticism of the advert leads to news and blog articles that portray such criticism as childish (as I said it would), then I suspect that does more damage to the image of Westerners in Japan.

In my opinion, this is a cache 22. I'm beginning to think the advert should never have been released, and if someone finds the advert offensive, they have a right to speak out; however, the very act of speaking out makes us a target for more confusion.

It could be argued that we should speak out anyway, and this has been a way forward for a lot of civil rights movements. However, I don't feel oppressed here, and all while that is the case, I'm happy to find other ways of changing people's perceptions than complaining.

*that said, I've never been the victim of such racism, nor do I know anyone who was. In fact the closest I've come to Japanese racism is being told that my friend's friend (whom I didn't know) had been victimised, which represents 1 of more than a hundred overseas students at that time. Either I was lucky and surrounded by lucky people, or racism just isn't as big a problem in Okayama, where I did my exchange. In contrast, I've heard racism on my handful of visits to London, but again, perhaps that is more to do with location, the rest of the South that I've been to seems pretty OK.

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