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Japan’s hapless health minister, Hakuo Yanagisawa, has drawn the ire of Japanese women with his comment on “baby-making machines.” Strangely, the far more offensive comments of Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, as reported in the Feb. 10 article “Trash Constitution, face China threat: Ishihara,” do nothing to dint this man’s inflated reputation.

Can it be that Japanese citizens object to insensitive and discriminatory attitudes only when they themselves are the targets, while remaining indifferent when Chinese or Africans are smeared? If so, that bodes ill for the future of Japan.

Just to focus on Ishihara’s disgraceful remarks about Africans, let me say that of the many Nigerians and Ghanians I have known here in Japan, all without exception speak English fluently. Thus Ishihara’s comment: “Africans . . . who don’t speak English are there [in Roppongi] doing who knows what” simply reveals his ignorance of the people he is smearing.

Has he attempted to hold a conversation with them in English? The Africans I know are hardworking and law-abiding people, and the smear that “this is leading to new forms of crime” such as car theft is simply outrageous.

One African missionary I know makes a point of chatting with policemen in order to show them that Africans are decent human beings. The insinuation in Ishihara’s remark that “we should be letting in people who are intelligent” vastly underestimates the intelligence of Africans and reveals the limits of the speaker’s intelligence. In my country, Ireland, such remarks as Ishihara’s would provoke a public outcry.

joseph s. o’leary

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