Baye McNeil’s column in the Dec. 10 edition headlined “The push for real change in the 2010s” was all too familiar for people like me. Everything McNeil said was true. It’s a never-ending struggle for darker people in Japan. I won’t pretend to fully comprehend that struggle because I’m not black or brown. I’m what they like to call “half.” One half is Caucasian and the other is Japanese. But let’s be real for a minute. I’ve lived in Japan for over 15 years and a lot of the subtle racism is real. There’s even blatant racism that goes unchecked.
I remember a few years ago when I went to the bank with my wife. Oh, by the way, she’s Korean. I’ve actually got dual passports so she’s the foreigner in this story. We got to the bank and I asked a security guard if parking was free in perfect Japanese. He turned to my wife and answered my question while directly looking at her and acting as if I didn’t exist.
This happens more than I would like to admit. Japanese people seem to be programmed to disregard most people who look foreign and turn to Asian-looking people whenever possible.
I’m Japanese, although I don’t look “Japanese” to many people. My Japanese is nearly perfect. I graduated from a Japanese university and had no problem keeping up with my classes. I was often praised by professors and teachers for writing papers in Japanese that were more coherent and insightful than my peers. Yet this constant clash with Japanese people still exists. I think it’s time that Japan realizes that not all Japanese look “Japanese.” We come in all shapes and sizes. It’s time to re-educate the population and start treating all people as equals. Color never matters. We’re all one.
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.