Public broadcaster NHK has apologized for its attempt to educate viewers on the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, after its video on anti-racism demonstrations came under fire for lacking context on racial injustice and the police brutality that had spurred such protests worldwide.
The video in question was presented as part of NHK’s Sunday news program “Kore de Wakatta! Sekai no Ima” (“Now I Understand What’s Going On in the World”), which targets younger audiences, and was posted on its official Twitter account Tuesday.
The 80-second long video featured a group of African American protesters led by a muscular African American man wearing a tank top and speaking in a rough and vulgar tone as he described the gap between rich and poor as the main cause of their outrage. The video was accompanied by a hashtag in Japanese that read “anti-racism protests.”
The release was met by harsh criticism mainly on social media that it was tone-deaf and offensive. The video failed to mention the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Many people also complained that the video did not contain any commentary on problems related to racism in the American justice system.
The content was also condemned by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
While we understand @NHK‘s intent to address complex racial issues in the United States, it’s unfortunate that more thought and care didn’t go into this video. The caricatures used are offensive and insensitive.
— ジョセフ・M・ヤング 駐日米国臨時代理大使 (@USAmbJapan) June 9, 2020
In a comment posted on Twitter, Joseph Young, who serves as the interim U.S. ambassador to Japan, wrote, “While we understand @NHK’s intent to address complex racial issues in the United States, it’s unfortunate that more thought and care didn’t go into this video. The caricatures used are offensive and insensitive.”
Tennis player Naomi Osaka, who has spoken out about racial injustice, also expressed criticism on Twitter by posting a GIF image of Steve Harvey showing disbelief. Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and Haitian father, had encouraged people last week to join a protest march held Sunday in Osaka in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) June 8, 2020
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon and published on its website, NHK wrote, “We received a lot of criticism and opinions about the video posted on Twitter, and have removed the video. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the lack of consideration when posting.”
The broadcaster said its intention was to explain the situation of African Americans in the U.S. while featuring the video in its nearly 26-minute program on political polarization of the American society.
“At NHK, we respect human rights and are committed to paying careful attention to such matters in our reporting and programs,” the broadcaster also stressed.
Baye McNeil, who has written extensively on his experiences as an African American living in Japan, criticized the commentary on the Black Lives Matter movement in the program, saying it failed to include voices from people from the community.
“I’m sorry we do not accept your lame excuses anymore. You claim ignorance about blackness and YET you feel empowered to make offensive racist commentary on black issues / #BLM without consulting anyone,” he wrote on Twitter, calling NHK’s approach to the issue “unacceptable.”
I’m sorry we do not accept your lame excuses anymore. You claim ignorance about blackness and YET you feel empowered to make offensive racist commentary on black issues / #BLM without consulting anyone! If you need help we are here but THIS BS is #UNACCEPTABLE @nhk_sekaima pic.twitter.com/Y43IKcV953
— Baye McNeil (@BayeMcneil) June 8, 2020