Sunday, November 16, 2008
Japanese reaction to Obama
This entry was a comment on a Washington Post article discussing Japanese reactions to Obama (the photo is of one of many signs on businesses in Japan excluding foreigners--a growing trend):
I recall riding on a Tokyo subway back in '81. Every single person on that subway car--other than my spouse & me--had the same color hair, eyes, skin, and, roughly, height. And every single man was wearing a white--and I mean snow-colored white--shirt and a black tie.
Heck, even Japanese nonconformists operate in identically-costumed groups.
Any society that homogeneous and that isolated (i.e. on a string of islands) is bound to be racist, and the Japanese are, in spades.
How could it be otherwise? Rural Britain is no different. The difference is that urban Japan is no different--just quieter.
Their self-obsessed exceptionalism has also resulted in their inability, as a people, to own up to their part in WWII, in stark contrast to the German people.
I wasn't an enthusiastic Obama supporter because he believes Mexico's ruling elite should be allowed to outsource its homegrown overpopulation crisis to America. But I voted for him after McCain picked a vice-presidential candidate who was spectacularly unqualified to serve as President.
So from that perspective I'd say to the many right-wing posters on this thread: I can't prove it but rather than thinking that the Japanese response to Obama having nothing to do with racism, I'm more inclined to think that the paranoid frenzy of your opposition to him does have something to do with racism. Obama won because your leaders robbed us blind for six years and saddled us with multigenerational debts, and because you gave us precisely the gigantic, self-dealing, uncaring, incompetent, arrogant government you warned us about. Become actual Republicans again and the plurality of moderates will listen to you again.
Inserting these sour-grapes screends into a thread about Japan accomplishes nothing but making you sound like a bunch of whiners unable to man up and reform the Grasping Old Party.
As for Japan--I've been to Japan, as I indicated, and I've also studied the sociology of Japan for decades.
Japanese popular culture today is rife with the sorts of images of blacks that America sported in the 1930s.
But it's not just blacks. The Japanese are prejudiced against Japanese whose skins are slightly darker than other Japanese. You'll still see some Japanese women (mainly older, I'll admit) marching around on sunny days carrying parasols.
My brother was stationed on Okinawa during the Vietnam war, and he told me even the houses of ill repute there were segregated, with separate ones servicing black soldiers.
BTW the Japanese also consider themselves to be a different race than other Asians. Books are regularly published discussing how Japanese have different brains than other humans.
So it's both racism and exceptionalism.
I do cut them a little slack given their situation--they live with a level of racial and cultural homogeneity few Americans outside of, perhaps, Appalachia could imagine. They don't get many tourists because it's so expensive. They don't have many immigrants to multiculturalize them. They do have some thousands of Brazilians living in Japan--Brazilians who are the offspring of Japanese who'd emigrated to Brazil. So they're 100% Japanese racially, although they're Brazilian culturally. And they're generally not very accepted.
So I'm sure a fair number of rural Japanese perceive President-Elect Obama as some sort of talking monkey, while urbane Japanese give no voice to their thoughts but feel a sense of unease about him that stems from his race. Or, rather, his mixed race.
Note that mixed-race Japanese have a tough time of it--especially if there's a black in the mix.
This is the land where a popular saying goes "the nail that sticks up gets pounded down."
Obama's presidency will be good for them...even if they don't realize it.