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TRAVEL BLOG: Racism

26 Apr

Hello, everyone.  Let me first start by saying that I’m a bit nervous about this particular post.  I don’t want people to think that I am labeling the Japanese as a racist group of people, nor do I want you to think that I am an expert on racism (white, middle-class upbringing).  I chose to write about this issue because this is the first time where I have assumed the position of a racial minority.  Also, this position plays a heavy role in my study abroad experience of learning about a new culture.  How are foreigners seen by the people and what stereotypes do we generate?  Having said that, I want to write about how racism can be seen in Japan by foreigners.  Americans have a stereotype that all Japanese persons are super polite and very hospitable towards American students and travelers.  As is the case with stereotypes, there is some truth to this.  Foreigners in Nagoya are very rare, unlike Kyoto and Tokyo.  Thus, some people are intrigued by foreigners.  However, there are some cases where some people may seem nervous, or cautious, of foreigners (especially of different skin colors).  Back to stereotypes, it seems that a popular stereotype is that all white foreigners are from the United States.  I agree that many white persons in Nagoya are from America, but there also happen to be many French, British, Dutch, German and other European persons here.  For example, when I find a spot in the subway to stand or sit, some people simply move away from me, even if he/she is already a space away.  Also, there are some occasions where a person loses patience with an Asian-American student because of the assumption that they are actually from Asia (and thus proficient in Japanese).  I have also noticed some animosity towards other Asian persons, mainly against Koreans and Chinese.  Similarly, I have noticed, in some cases, negative feelings from Koreans and Chinese against the Japanese, probably stemming from Japan’s role in World War II.  Although this is generally disappearing with the younger generation, some older persons have bitter feelings towards these two nations.  Once again, I need to stress that this is from my point of view and this does not reflect the common opinion held by the Japanese, Koreans or Chinese.  I am merely making note of what I have witnessed in SOME situations.  Having said that, for the first time, I can begin to understand the obstacles, faced by racial minorities everyday in Japan.  I never really grasped the problems of racial minorities in the United States, especially living in a state where over 95% of the population is White.  But that aspect of being abroad only further enhances my experience here.  It can be a bit hard to make friends with Japanese students as a result of my race, but it beats clumping with other white people and just sticking together in a group.  Being abroad is about going out and getting a first-hand experience of life as a foreigner in an unfamiliar setting.  It’s about learning to live as an outsider.  And that’s exactly what I’m doing here.  I think I have covered my points here.  I hope this came out the way I intended it to.  Thank you for reading this week’s installment.  Next week covers smoking in Japan.  It sounds boring, but it really isn’t.  Thanks again and until next time, Jaa Ne.

 
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