Paul de Vries’ May 26 article, “Expat life in Japan: the good, the bad and the meaningful“: I have a number of concerns with this article’s position that racial discrimination can be acceptable. First, “misbehaving Russian sailors” were not the ones barred from Otaru bathhouses, though that would have been entirely reasonable. In fact, those banned were foreign people, hardly a homogenous group, who cannot reasonably be held accountable for “their” behavior any more than black people ought to be held legally accountable for the high incidence of crime in the ghettoes of American inner cities.
Second, making spurious comparisons between groups of sportsmen and servicemen, whose group membership is transitory and freely chosen according to agreed codes of conduct, and racial groups such as “the Russians” is reminiscent of the most awful kinds of racism.
To take an example from the writer’s own country, I hope he would not support legal restrictions on the movements of Aborigines due to the distressing scenes of public drunkenness that now manifest themselves in many Australian cities after countless years of persecution and marginalization. Or perhaps he would. That would make his politics rather more clear.
I would emphasize that this is by no means a comment on my own experience as a foreigner living in Japan, merely a statement that discrimination on grounds of race, gender or creed is intolerable and articles that attempt to undermine that principle ought to be refuted.
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