Regarding Amy Chavez’s Aug. 16 column titled “What being a minority allows us to see“: Actually the fear and hurt I felt while dealing with certain bureaucratic nonsense in Japan allowed me to understand a small piece of the American minority experience.

When I was younger, we’d jokingly say to friends who were upset with us, “Is it because I’m black?”

We thought that was so-o-o-o funny because, really, what was it with black people always acting defensive? We laughed at the absurdity of their oversensitivity.

Then I came to Japan. And I found myself being maltreated by bureaucrat after bureaucrat. I looked at them and asked myself, “Is it because I’m foreign?”

At that moment, I remembered all the times we had laughed at that phrase, and it stopped being funny. Because I finally understood the fear and pain behind that question.

I truly did not know why these bureaucrats were treating me with such bile. Was it because I was foreign? Were they being racist? I didn’t know. To this day I don’t know what motivated that nastiness from them. No one can tell me what was going on.

Nor do black people in America, I realized, know sometimes what motivates the actions of those around them. But unlike me, they have to live with that fear every day. I had to deal with it a few times in a city office, but I never feared for my life. A black man in America [worries] every time he sees a cop car. …

So I didn’t even finish Chavez’s article, because frankly this is an asinine observation. It’s one of the first things that should come to mind when you experience racism in Japan.

If you don’t immediately sympathize with minorities in your home country, if you don’t immediately reflect on and repent of your past racism that you now understand better, if you don’t use your experiences to better understand and sympathize with your fellow man, then, well, you are stupid. Period.

Only a stupid man could go through the horrible crap we sometimes put up with in [Japan] and not reflect on what it means in his life. Only a stupid man can face racism and not reflect on his past racist transgressions.

from the japan times online

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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