Following the killing of George Floyd in late May, the month of June echoed with marches in support of the ブラック・ライブズ・マター (Burakku Raibuzu Matā, Black Lives Matter) movement here in Japan.

Local media has been following the movement, too. Many use the katakana term ブラック・ライブズ・マター to refer to it, while newspapers have varied in their descriptions: 人種差別抗議デモ (jinshu sabetsu kōgi demo, protests against racial discrimination) was how Tokyo Shimbun put it, while Mainichi Shimbun went with 米黒人差別抗議デモ (bei kokujin sabetsu kōgi demo, protests against discrimination toward Black people in the States).

No matter how you describe it, people here are taking an interest.

“ニュース見た? 色んなことが世界で起きてるね” (“Nyūsu mita? Ironna koto ga sekai de okiteru ne,” “Did you see the news? There’s a lot of different things going on in the world”), I said to one friend.

“全部分かろうとするのは大変だよね” (“Zenbu wakarō to suru no wa taihen da yo ne,” “I know, it’s hard to understand [keep up with] it all”), was her reply.

“アメリカで、「ブラック・ライブズ・マター」を掲げて抗議している運動については知ってる?” (“Amerika de ‘Burakku Raibuzu Matā’ o kakagete kōgi shite-iru undō ni tsuite wa shitteru?” “Have you been following the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests in America?”) I asked, though I could have used 興味ある? (kyōmi aru? are you interested?) instead of 知ってる.

“うん。 難しい問題だけど、自分の支持を伝えたい” (“Un. Muzukashii mondai da kedo, jibun no shiji o tsutaetai,” “Yes. It’s a difficult subject, but I want to relay my support”).

People in Japan began to show their support at a march in Tokyo a month ago on May 30. They gathered in Shibuya to speak out against an alleged case of 警察による暴力 (keisatsu ni yoru bōryoku, police brutality) faced by a Kurdish man a week prior. There was another rally around the same time that sought to draw attention to both American and Japanese instances of 警察による暴力 as well as 人種差別 (jinshu sabetsu, racial discrimination).

A week later, the Black Lives Matter Kansai group held a march in Osaka where nearly 2,000 people showed support for the 社会運動 (shakai undō, social movement) and the マイノリティー (mainoritī, minority) groups at the center of it.

Social media became flooded with information on 制度的人種差別 (seido-teki jinshu sabetsu, systematic racism) as netizens used their platforms to promote organizations accepting 寄付 (kifu, donations) and writing up 請願書 (seigansho, petitions).

A group called Black Lives Matter Tokyo created a Facebook group on June 1 that helped in the organization of its first official march on June 14. The group stressed it would be a 平和的なデモ行進 (heiwa-teki-na demo kōshin, peaceful protest march) and worked to coordinate things with an eye toward safety — both from 右翼団体 (uyoku dantai, right-wing groups) and 新型コロナウイルス感染拡大 (shingata koronauirusu kansen kakudai, the spread of novel coronavirus infections).

Their hard work was rewarded with a turnout of more than 3,500 people who marched from Yoyogi Park to Shibuya’s scramble crossing, holding up signs that read, 「差別は人を殺す」 (sabetsu wa hito o korosu, discrimiation kills people), 「人種差別は日本でも起きている」 (jinshu sabetsu wa Nihon demo okite-iru, racism exists in Japan too), 「人種差別もパンデミックです」 (jinshu sabetsu mo pandemikku desu, racism is the pandemic too) and 「黒人の命が尊重されていない限り全ての人の命が尊重されていない」 (kokujin no inochi ga sonchō sarete-inai kagiri subete no hito no inochi ga sonchō sarete-inai, all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter).

Founder and main organizer of Black Lives Matter Tokyo, Sierra Todd, stated that one of the main goals of the march was アメリカで抗議していた人々と団結する, (Amerika de kōgi shite-ita hitobito to danketsu suru, to stand in solidarity with people protesting in America). Another goal was to start a conversation about racism here in Japan.

I’ve found that it’s rather rare to openly discuss 社会問題 (shakai mondai, social issues) with friends in Japan, but that has been changing recently among younger people. Still, the conversation is a new one for many and some of the concepts can be hard to grasp when you’re just starting to educate yourself. How do you get them to think about not only 白人の特権 (hakujin no tokken, white privilege), but also their own 特権 (tokken, privilege)?

Here comes social media to the rescue. While mainstream news sites have focused on the protests and riots overseas, a few Instagram accounts have popped up to help educate Japanese people on the language of ブラック・ライブズ・マター and systemic discrimination. They include @ko_archives and @hanasou.jp.

@ko_archives has shared infographics that cover 日本からは、何ができるでしょうか? (Nihon kara wa, nani ga dekiru deshō ka?, what can we do from Japan?) and 反人種差別主義になること (han-jinshu sabetsu shugisha ni naru koto, becoming antiracist).

@hanasou.jp covers a wider range of topics like 限定的免責 (gentei-teki menseki, qualified immunity) and 唱導する事 (shōdō suru koto, what it means to advocate).

June is coming to a close, yet information is still flowing and events such as ウェビナー (uebinā, webinars) about the movement are underway.

Despite a flurry of bad news this year, it has been good to see people try to educate themselves on such serious matters. 今、世界が大きく変わろうとしています (Ima, sekai ga ōkiku kawarō to shite-imasu, The world is now headed for a big change).

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