“Being 'othered' in Japan is not the same as oppression” (June 29) is a very well-written, empathetic article. However, the fact that this article has come from a privileged "white" professor itself underlines the existence of racism in Japan.
How many Black or Asian (non-Japanese) professors do you find in Japan compared to their white counterparts? Why are they not writing about themselves and why do privileged white people have to write on their behalf? As the author has also claimed, white Western people in Japan do not understand racism. This may be for a number of reasons.
First of all, white people are the privileged lot in Japan. They are treated like upper caste people, have better job opportunities and are highly likely to receive better pay. They are also allowed a lot of freedom that other Asian people cannot even dream of. Their mistakes at work are more easily overlooked or forgiven than that of other races. Japanese people married to other Asians or Black people also face discrimination.
What is definitely different from Western countries is that there is usually negligible physical or verbal abuse of Asian and Black people in Japan compared to that in some Western countries. Here, the slights are likely to be more veiled and subtler. But that does not mean that the "other" people are treated as equals. Prejudice lies in the mind. It remains as prejudice whether people express it or not. And one has to be of a darker complexion and look different to really know what goes on here. Others are just speculating. Their empathy and compassion may be genuine, but they cannot really claim to "understand."
Last but not least, racism exists in most societies. It becomes a big issue when seen as an international problem and is not given much thought when it happens within the same country. Verbally attacking individual countries is highly unlikely to solve the problem. We need to deal with racism at the grassroots, rather than on an international level, to really make any sort of progress towards better societies. For example, darker children, irrespective of nationality, are often relentlessly bullied in Japanese schools. That's one place to make a start!
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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