Turn on the TV in Japan and you’re likely to see a black face from time to time. Rarely will it be in a drama, but on game shows, variety and comedy shows, even some commercials. I wouldn’t say we’re commonplace, but we’re out there. And, honestly, I used to dread every instance. Still do, actually, but for different reasons.
Previously, the dread was caused by the anticipation of some cringe-worthy displays — antics that, while presumably entertaining to Japanese audiences, to me were little more than otherization for comical purposes. Moreover, the knowledge that these antics would impact my everyday life directly, by becoming something that, in one way or another, I’ll have to answer for (because unfortunately everything a black person does here is a reflection on all black people) only exacerbated the dread. And, unfortunately, that was the best-case scenario. Sometimes that “black” person beneath that Afro wig or wearing that bone as a nose ring wouldn’t even be of African descent, but a Japanese person approximating some outrageous notion of blackness, also generally for comical purposes.