Ingrained cultural divide at work

Regarding Debito Arudou’s March 24 article: We live in a world of instant media distribution. The Japanese culture to a large extent is fueled by the exportation of film and print that stereotypes some cultures as bad while portraying others as superior. Back in 2007 when the English-language teaching chain Nova was declared bankrupt, the blogs were full of opinions and theories — some supportive of the instructors, others expressing delight that instructors were mistreated. One comment that caught my attention said “Japanese students prefer to take lessons from white instructors.” Some believed that white instructors spoke better English and could teach better lessons. This type of discrimination may also be in operation at judicial levels when the rights of citizens vs. noncitizens are at issue.

One aspect of this idea is the policy at some schools that favors hiring whites in disproportionate numbers to nonwhites simply because the client requires it. Some of these same Japanese-run institutions are from countries where laws prohibit discrimination of any kind and provide stiff penalties.

Now, here’s an irony: Today the most powerful position in the world is held by the U.S. president. Barack Obama has captured the hearts and minds of the world. Even in Japan, English is being taught through the use of selected speeches by Obama — speeches from a man with an African father and name. At the same time, retail merchants have roughly captured Obama’s image in a figure/doll made of poor material, and it is on sale at almost any souvenir shop and elsewhere.

Imagine what would happen if these same producers made a similarly crude image of the Emperor of Japan or his family members. It’s certain that such a thing would get you in trouble. You might just be labeled unpatriotic — a “foreigner.”

derick prentice