Fuji TV removes blackface segment after outcry

by

Staff Writer

Anti-racist campaigners are celebrating a decision by Fuji TV to remove from a weekly music show a segment that purportedly showed performers sporting blackface makeup.

The broadcaster’s decision represents a “victory” for people who had petitioned for a rethink of the Saturday edition of”Music Fair,” said Baye McNeil, an African-American author and blogger in Japan who spearheaded the campaign over the past two weeks.

“(The decision) was very gratifying,” said McNeil, who is also a contributor to The Japan Times.

“But at the same time, I would still like to know exactly why they didn’t (air the segment). I imagine the petition had at least been some kind of factor, but I don’t know how much of a factor it played” in Fuji canceling the segment.

A heated debate over racism broke out across the Twittersphere last month when a picture went viral that showed members of the doo-wop-inspired group Rats & Star and idol group Momoiro Clover Z wearing blackface backstage during the filming of the show.

The image, posted by Rats & Star member Yoshio Sato, was posted with a comment by the singer: “We collaborated with Momokuro (short for the idol band’s name) in blackface during the shooting the other day. . . . Look forward to our performance on March 7.”

But the version of “Music Fair” broadcast Saturday contained no footage of anyone wearing blackface. Furthermore, a note appeared at the top of the screen explaining that the show had been “partially edited,” although it didn’t elaborate on what exactly was changed. McNeil also said the TV broadcaster never responded to his campaign.

Fuji TV on Monday acknowledged in a statement it had planned to air the performance but canceled it based on a “comprehensive judgment.” The broadcaster didn’t say if McNeil’s petition influenced its decision.

When the controversy first erupted on social media, the blackface picture was largely decried as evidence of Japan’s insensitivity to racism. Defenders of the image, meanwhile, said the racism likely wasn’t intentional and that it was probably a gesture by the singers to show admiration for black culture.

“I really do believe that their intention is to pay homage to black people and black music. But I think blackface is a horribly inappropriate way to do it,” McNeil said.

“Once you’re made aware of (what blackface means), you should adjust accordingly, especially if you’re going to be a part of the global community. I mean, with the 2020 Olympics coming up, the whole world is coming to Japan,” he said.

In his online campaign, McNeil described blackface minstrels as an “affront” to many African-Americans whose “parents and grandparents had to suffer the denigration and indignities of (the) Jim Crow (racial segregation law) and ‘blackface’d entertainment,’ ” slamming the practice as a “painful and shameful chapter” of history.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    So in Japan blackface is a way in which Japanese entertainers show admiration for African singers, and in America it is a racist derogatory act. But we are in Japan, so why should the American interpretation prevail over the Japanese one? If it was the other way around do you think that the U.S. cable networks would be cancelling an aspect of US entertainment because they want to avoid causing offense in Japan or to Japanese people living in the US? Of course not – it would be laughable to suggest otherwise. This is cultural imperialism. Fuji TV should tell the hyper-sensitive fools who are “offended” where to stick it.

    • Hendrix

      One of the most muddled ignorant statements i have ever read, were you paid to spout this nonsense?

      • Nick

        That isn’t muddled or ignorant and he makes some good points. The history of blackface in the US is totally different, tied with a history of theatrical denigration. That’s why it’s offensive–not because there is something inherently offensive about putting black make up on. By acting as such, we lose sight of the sins that got us here, whitewashing our history and the act of blackfacing. Moreover, consider that in Japan they have no such legacy. The act has a totally different meaning.. It isn’t meant as an act of hate or denigration, and the motivation of an act should determine its interpretation. Basically, this is something 19th century Americans did as part of a cultural program denigrating and ultimately oppressing black Americans. Leave the Japanese out of this.

      • JSS00

        Probably paid by the Japanese right-wingers.

      • John Smith

        Another Abe fanboy and brainwashed typical Japanese mental slave like the ones from WW2.

      • Shiki Byakko

        All up-voted by a bunch of brain-dead Americans. Typical. Basically Americans want the whole world to acknowledge the American racial sensibilities, even if those have absolutely NOTHING TO DO with the rest of the world.

        I remember another case like this in Australia, with a KFC commercial were a white guy gave Fried Chicken to Australian ABORIGINAL people, and then the Americans were all offended because in your racist country it was at some point seen that as racist towards African-American or something like that.

        I think NO ONE outside of the US, at least no one that hasn’t studied the story of racism in America, and believe, almost NO ONE does outside of the US, knows all the ways racists white Americans made fun of their black slaves, and now anything that a racist did on your country is internationally baned because of the American sensibilities, even if the context is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

        If the intension isn’t racist and if the action itself isn’t racist, the fact that a bunch of racists in some remote place of this planet did something like to make fun of people makes it automatically racist.
        There is nothing intrinsically racist about wearing black or any color face, if the purpose and performance has no racist connotations.

        Also, and let me remind this to the oh so moral superior Americans, black people =/= African American.
        Guess what, there are a lot of black people on this world, AND MOST OF THEM AREN’T AFRICAN AMERICAN.

    • JSS00

      I’m pretty sure most Japanese would also be offended if Americans painted their skin yellow and squinted their eyes, even if it was to show “admiration for the Asians”.

      However, not many complain when the Japanese youth subculture B-kei imitates the hip-hop culture and tan their skin and so forth.

      The fact is, if they admired the African American singers so much, then they should know enough to study the history of blackface.

    • Jeffrey

      You’re right. It’s not necessarily racist, but it is stupid. Especially so knowing that Rats and Stars had it pointed out to them at least 30 years ago that African-American entertainers might nots view it as a “tribute.”

    • Jim Jimson

      That argument might make sense if blackface developed independently in Japan. But in fact it was introduced in the 1850s by the US Navy in a series of minstrel shows. Anyone who emulates those deserves to be called a racist.

      As citizens of another country whose wealth was based on imperalism and slavery, the Japanese people should be more sensitive about these issues.

    • cobrawolf

      I wish for once the Japanese would take ownership of their actions. They always play the victim card. The world is watching.

  • Kisai

    Meanwhile in China, blackface is something they do to make fun of Americans. I’d link it, but it’s too easy to find on youtube.

    I think the Japanese may have not realized it (much like a lot of “Engrish” signage) that the meaning of blackface, like the swastika, is a hate-crime level of ignorance. Doing it purposely gives the wrong impression, so Fuji-TV might have decided to play it safe because it might otherwise torpedo their international sales arrangements and investors might jump ship.

    Not to mention it might do irreparable damage to the music groups reputations for going along with it.

  • scrying

    Nothing exists in a vacuum. If you want to take on an “appreciation” of black culture, then you agree to take on the baggage that comes with it, and that very well includes understanding what is and isn’t acceptable. Being in another country isn’t an excuse. In much the same way that people here know quite well that the n-word is considered a slur/epithet despite it “not existing” here, selective amnesia isn’t allowed.

  • Guest

    それはアメリカ人の文化では不愉快だろうが、日本語で日本人向けに放送している放送内容をアメリカに意見されるのはどうだろう。ハリウッドではいつも滑稽に表現された異教徒を惨殺しているのに。アメリカ人はいつも身勝手だ。

  • Hendrix

    Is that all you can do is post a wikipedia article? , very weak argument you have there, just because Japan doesnt have a history against black people like America had it dosent mean they can still use black face, what you are saying is japan is special and can be as racially insensitive as it likes.

    Black face was still on UK tv until the 1970s, they dont have the same history as America, but they stopped using blackface.,.. your argument is weak, you are an apologist and a sellout.

  • Yamashita_Kei

    You don’t need to paint your face black in order to express admiration for Africans. You just have to enjoy their great culture, which has contributed to world’s musics and arts since the nineteenth century. On the other hand, their skin colors are not great or mean, as well as Asians’ are not.

  • Shiki Byakko

    Hello and thanks for your reply.

    I read the original text, and yes, it does say what you say… well, not exactly. There is a whole argument about how even thou the facility has economic liberty, it also has a public business license, and that their actions clearly are against not only the international treaty, but also article 14 of the constitution, that even if the article itself cannot be applied to individual business, in this case, because of the ramifications of the business having a public business license, it makes it something of public interest.

    The moment customers are paying for the use of the facility, they are automatically accepting to comply with the manner rules of the establishment, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity, and that those who do not comply should just not be allowed.

    Then goes on the rebuttal of the arguments of the onsen, saying that their justification of bad manners of foreign customers really do not hold any water as a rational basis for the discriminatory policy, and then it goes to say that the policy is “Illegal, because it is irrational discrimination, and it is something that surpasses what it is socially acceptable”

    (不合理な差別であって、社会的に許容しうる制度を超えているものといえるから、違法であって不法行為にあたる。)

    The court is basically saying that public accommodations cannot discriminate, because they are of public interest (公共性を有するもの), and therefore article 14 of the constitution does play a role in what the business can or cannot do.

    Personally, I think you are doing an extremely personal interpretation of the ruling because it didn’t ended up in any completely clear anti discrimination legislation, which is all dandy and good, because in the end everyone has their own interpretations of almost anything, but you are mixing it with falsehoods, which is not so good and dandy.

    The court did said it is illegal, and that it constitutes as an illegal act. (違法であって不法行為にあたる。)

    And the quotation you did there is a little bit altered.

    It never said that what was too much was the discrimination. There is a comma between it saying it is an Irrational discrimination (不合理な差別であって、) and that it is something that surpass what is socially acceptable (社会的に許容しうる制度を超えているものといえるから), it no where says, like you quoted 「社会的に許容しうる制度を超える差別」

    It is incredible how much the meaning of this changes just by reading the actual quotation.

    Also, it goes to say about why the city isn’t responsible for not implementing legislation like it is stated in the UN treaty, saying that because the obligations of the treaty on creating legislation that prohibits racial discrimination as they are put in the treaty can be seen as unconstitutional, and therefore it is up to the city to implement what they think it is appropriate.

    Mr. Debito, the constitution was almost completely written by the US. It is a mix between the Meji constitution and the US constitution. As such, it puts a lot of weight on individual liberties.

    You know what other country also has not implemented the treaty in a representative law? The US. The US does negates not only sections of the treaty, but it says that the United States of America “does not accept any obligation under this Convention, in particular under articles 4 and 7, to restrict those [extensive protections of individual freedom of speech, expression and association contained in the Constitution and laws of the United States], through the adoption of legislation or any other measures, to the extent that they are protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

    The UN recommendations mean really not much, because what they are recommending is unconstitutional.

  • Shiki Byakko

    Once again, Japan is not a common law country, something that people from common law countries almost always fail to understand.

    In common law countries, a court can make a decision that is not backed up by any law, there is even what is called Jury nullification, but in civil law countries, the only thing the court can do is to interpret the law, as they do not have the liberties that common law countries judicial systems have.

    Therefore, in Japan all court decision are a legal interpretation of existing law. Meaning, yes, it is the law.
    There is no civil rights-type nor any european style anti-discrimination law. The first is because there has been no Jim Crow Laws in japan. The Jim Crow Laws were created to circumvent the 14th amendment of the US constitution, creating the “separate but equal” argument. And European style anti discrimination laws cannot be implemented in japan because their implementation would violate the law.

    I’m all for creating anti discrimination legislation. I’m a LGBT-rights activist in Japan, and I’m all for that, but the arguments of Mr.Debito holds no water. He wants for Japan to implement foreign legislation that is unconstitutional.

    His legal arguments for the implementation of the UN treaty are weak at much, and they are going to be rejected by Japanese legislators and the population in general because they do not understand the purpose of such legislation, because the rational basis for those are discussions that have not taken place in japan.

    I’m not even sure if what is needed is a European or American style anti discrimination law, I think that there must be a discussion about all types of discrimination actually taking place in japan, examine them, see were are the roots of the problem, and understand what can be done to make discrimination something of the past.

    But right now, it is not like there are no legal protections for anyone under the law, and that everyone is target of discrimination. That interpretation is also not true.

    I found impressive and funny see how someone like Debito, who WON a racial discrimination case says that in japan there is no legal protection against discrimination.

  • http://www.BlackTokyo.com/ Zurui

    Hmm! My earlier comment wasn’t approved. Not too happy with items being lifted from my blog or twitter account without proper attribution!

  • melonrose

    I noticed a lot of people saying Americans / African-Americans are just being pretentious..
    I am not sure if non-Japanese people know this or not but, Rats and Star used to use black shoe polish to do their blackface make-up. In fact, many Japanese people will state that fact.
    Black shoe polish was also used as makeup by participants of minstrel shows.

    They researched enough to know that minstrels used black shoe polish for their make-up , which means they certainly saw pictures of minstrels and quite possibly video footage as well. I highly doubt it was a coincidence, as black stage make-up definitely existed during the 80s, oil-based would have done the job just fine. I mean heck, check out any 80s metal band and you will see there was no shortage of black stage makeup, lol.

    I highly doubt anyone could look at an image from a minstrel show and think “Yes, that is obviously a display of respect towards black people. The cartoonishly large lips, the bugged out eyes, the rough and unkempt hair, the lack of intelligence being displayed.. yes let’s copy this. This is the perfect way to show homage!” In fact, I find a lot of the minstrel show performers to look quite scary.

    Similarly, I highly doubt any non-Japanese would look at a World War II propaganda poster and copy the buck-toothed, very slanty eyed character thinking it was a way to show homage and respect to Japanese culture.

    I do believe it was never their intention to harm anyone, however, ignorance and innocence shouldn’t be mistaken for one another in this case.

    If they could do enough research to find out black shoe polish was being used in minstrel shows, I think it’s safe to say they most likely realized that it wasn’t okay at some point.. but being in Japan, and a time before the widespread usage of the internet, they most likely figured no one would come after them for it.

    So, when you say it’s okay because it wasn’t their intention.. Is it still okay when they are copying a group of people who were obviously making a mockery of an entire race?

    And slightly off-topic but..
    There’s a restaurant in Gakugeidaigaku that has a “Picaninny Freeze” poster hanging up on their wall, right outside. lol. Blackface, watermelon, and all. Go take a look.
    I truly believe the owner simply thought it was “cute.”
    But when does it stop being okay?

    Oh,Japan. It’s gonna be okay.

  • cobrawolf

    The Japanese have no understanding on how to behave outside their own culture. They are socially inbred and ignorant to the modern global mindset.

  • cobrawolf

    As a visible minority, the Japanese will always make you feel different, uncomfortable, and scrutinized. They suffer from chronic guestism. They are a group narcissistic, xenophobic, misogynistic, and critically homogeneous inbred society. Their pleasantry is a facade. For example their attitude is akin to Americans calling ALL people that look Asiatic “China-men”, staring at them, making culturally ignorant comments like ” oh look they can use a spoon. We Americans must be building a new railroad somewhere” .To their credit however, there are very few violent crimes against foreigners, the Japanese insecurity is quiet and seething. I have heard the Japanese racism referred to as “mirco-abuse”. They take little out constant sushi sized bites like piranha. The funny thing is that most Japanese consider Japanese a race. It’s not, it is a nationality. So in essence they suffer from extreme nationalism, not racism, On a grander scale, there really is only one race on earth, human. Disagree? It was proven by a little experiment called the genome project in 2006. The Japanese are truly internationally retarded. No excuses. The current Japanese mindset really has no place in the modern global society. The world bank ranks Japan as the 30th best place to do business with … Singapore … #1. Japans enrollment in ivy league colleges has plummeted. Their population is aging. They have low immigration, massive age and sex discrimination in the workplace. They are not open to new ideas and cultural influence from abroad. They have lost their competitive edge in Asia. HOWEVER, Japan does have an ace up it’s sleeve. It has the ability to make massive cultural shifts fast and effectively. They will have to be ready to accept change or Japan will be the land of the setting sun.