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Anti-foreigner discrimination is a right for Japanese?

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The Japan Times recently ran an opinion piece written by Mr. Gregory Clark, vice president of Akita International University (AIU). Clark’s article, “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese” seems to run counter to AIU’s mission statement:  “…peaceful solutions to various obstacles require unusual capacities to understand and respect diverse values and to assume world perspectives.” Although I am a frequent reader of Mr. Gregory Clark’s various articles, this particular article seems to lack a common sense approach, especially in an era of CHANGE, diversity and calls for equality and justice in not only Japan but globally. Clark’s attempt to put the blame on people crying racism misses the mark!

In his article, Clark begins with the assumption that “Japan girai” — dislike of Japan — is an allergy that seems to afflict many Westerners here.” I am not sure if being pigeon-holed in various “gaijin ghettoes,” as Clark calls the neighborhoods that those of another ilk (Westerners, Japanese, Zainichi, Chinese or those clinging to the lower-rungs of the socio-economic ladder) reside, can be part of the reason as to why “those people” have issues with landlords, substandard housing and discriminatory housing laws. I don’t know, just a thought!

It seems that much of Clark’s article is directed at Debito. It would have been easier to just call the guy out or rent a dojo since he is only regurgitating information from his previous Japan Times articles. Since Debito decided to ignore him I figured that I would respond to Clark and The Japan Times.

What I find most preposterous is Clark’s statement that: “It is time “we” admitted that at times the Japanese have the right to discriminate against “some” foreigners. If they do not, and Japan ends up like our padlocked, mutually suspicious Western societies, we will all be the losers. Now I am not sure who Clark is referring to when he uses “we” since “those people” in the gaijin ghettos may not clearly understand his rhetoric flowing from his seaside abode. Doesn’t Clark know that not all of “we” opened or went to war with Japan? If the Japanese are mutually suspicious, it could be for “other” reasons! So much for individualism, I guess collective racism is easier to promote.

Is Clark living in the good ol’ days when, for example, in America, South Africa, Australia and other parts of the world where people “like” Clark legally deemed it better to keep the “majority,” or those in power, safe and happy and the “native” or minority folks down? Wake up Mr. Clark, those nations are correcting their wrongs! To be fair, I should add that I am not blasting those countries but only trying to understand Clark’s logic -or lack of logic- when it comes to accepting racism based on language, color, class, ethnicity or gender. What, he did not mention the last four? He did, he only used code words, such as the phrase I used, “back in the good ol’ days.”

I wonder if Clark believes he has a pass to be Japanese? I guess he thinks that he is in the club, on the team or one of them? Definitely not one of us lowly gaijin in Japan that need to segregated from the good folk in society. Is this guy a stateless vagabond that has it so good in the Land of the Rising Fun that his journey in search of self begins with promoting racism while deeming it wrong for others to promote equality? Maybe this is why he felt the need to write an OpGarbage piece that calls to erase the civil rights victories that many in Japan, Japanese and foreign nationals, have fought for? What’s next, Clark dressed in a hakama leading a rally with the guys in their black vans in Ikebukuro calling for the expulsion of Gaijin-san?

On Clark’s forum, one poster commented: “This is the very core of what we call ‘racism’ – judging people in advance based on things they cannot change rather than their personality / skills / behaviours / actions. I would have thought this distinction obvious to one so learned as you – particularly given your language skills and experience.” To keep it simple, I guess living in a bubble can be detrimental to a person’s outlook on life in an international society. Not a homogeneous society but a slowly-growing international (or multicultural, multicolored, multi___) society in Japan.

At any rate, Clark’s article is one of the main reasons why I continue to run my website Black Tokyo. The site is open to anyone interested in Japan but mainly for people like Clark that need to read about the ura, behind-the-scenes or the rest of the story on life in Japan. As a former-diplomat, Clark should comprehend that before one can promote diplomacy between nations, one should understand the nation’s people. Not only the majority but also the minorities and how they impact the nation as a whole. 

Clark is obviously an educated and older male who happens to be enjoying his “special” privilege. Unfortunately, it seems that he clearly lacks the common sense to not only tolerate but promote racism in its various forms. I believe that it could be detrimental to have a person, such as Clark (based on this and a few other articles) as vice-president at an institution of higher-education. It is worst knowing that he sits on various boards and advises Japanese corporations.

Using a quote from Clark’s 08 Dec 09 Japan Times article: “too many opinion and policymakers either too biased, bought or ignorant.” I ask you, Mr. Clark, which are you? As an accredited successful scholar hating or loathing equality (a.s.s.h.o.l.e. in layman’s terms) , you should not be allowed to mold the mind of a young student seeking to better him/herself before entering a world which requires an understanding of international and cross-cultural relations. Speaking Japanese, Chinese or Russian does not replace having core competencies in communicating with others. A person can be equally as smart or dumb in all languages utilized. 

Is there a lack of understanding or fear of laws promoting equality and requiring institutions to be accessible to ALL, especially those that were previously denied certain rights? This preference represents only a fraction of President-elect Obama’s rise to the White House. His educational background, work ethic, determination and white Americans are what complete the equation. I guess it is wrong for me to have certain preferences in America as a disabled-veteran since no one forced me to serve in the US Marines. Maybe Clark should give up protections that come with tenure in order to level the playing field at his university. That way he can allow AIU to apply the methods mentioned in his article. I wonder how that would sit with him?

In closing Mr. Clark, this is not an attack on you the person but on your ideas. If your ideas and the person are the same, well… I only hope the a.s.s.h.o.l.e. acronym did not offend any readers. I replaced the word, “gaijin,” in your article with African-American, negro, n*gger, black, Mexican, Irish, Italian, sangokujin, eta, burakumin, Ainu and other groups that were not welcomed back in the good ol’ days just to make sure that I did not misunderstand what you were spewing. My apologies that I could not think of an appropriate “academic” term in the three languages I speak to reference your ideas in your article. My bad, I will work on it!

Maybe I could have saved some time writing and simply stated that in the Year of the Ox, a person believing that “Antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese” is straight up preaching some bullsh*t! Come on Japan Times, you can do better than this!

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50 comments on “Anti-foreigner discrimination is a right for Japanese?”

  1. Laurent Frantz

    I’m white and blond. Like any foreigners I experienced xenophobia in Japan. I mean the classic ones. People don’t willing to sit beside me in public transports, annoyed/hate stares, etc.. But I never complained about it. Never. Of course that kind of situation are not “nice” and can hurt or struck you, but wait.. This is their country. That’s their right. I personally always tried to understand that kind of behaviors. This is why I always try to give a good image of foreigners. I consider myself as an ambassador of my country, and seeing a foreigner acting bad will irritate me. I know that many foreigners are acting like total assholes and show no consideration and respect towards the japanese, so I will not blame the japanese to distrust me.

    THAT IS the right attitude, calling for “racism” and playing the victimization card is not intelligent.

    I would like to add that the japanese just consider themselves as differents. Their cultural specificity hardly fit with foreign people. This is not “racism”, because mongoloids people like the chinese or koreans are being discriminated too. The japanese are wise people and just don’t believe in a multicultural society. They see mass immigration as a threat. And they are RIGHT.

    So what can you do ? Just try to be respectable and educated. Prove them they’re wrong. Then, if despite your best efforts some people still don’t respect you.. just leave, they’re idiots and nothing can be do.

    Don’t play the victimization card. They owe you nothing. Japan is not the west where victimization works for everything. Stop whining and face the truth : every nation on earth is more or less xenophobic.

  2. zurui zurui

    hi Len-Vesper and welcome to bt. thank you for your reply and for the blogroll.

    clark’s use of circular logic and his perceived understanding of all things japanese demonstrates that he has much more to learn. while he promotes the idea of the japanese distancing themselves from the foreigners in japan, he misses the big picture in understanding that the various immigrants in japan provide insight in how japan can deal with others.

    of course there will be trouble at times between japanese and non-japanese (we are only human) but this in minor in the bigger scheme of things. japan has benefited from its contact with the rest of the world. foreigners in japan, no matter how hard clark tries to demonize them, have provided and encouraged a two-way flow of communication, people (via bondage, immigration, international marriages, etc.) ideas, and other things that have benefited every person in japan.

    japan will have to embrace it increasing heterogeneity whether it likes it or not. of course some are not comfortable with diversity and in MY experience, it is usually the types like clark. if he doesn’t get over it, i am sure that we will get over him!

  3. zurui zurui

    Jordan, thank you for your comment. good point on discernment and discrimination. debito’s blog and japan probe also bring up some good points regarding the right of a business owner to refuse service.

    i believe that a business and its patrons should have the full protection of the law. no shoes or shirt, no service. however, if a law is discriminatory, it will only create problems for all involved. with that said, some of these problems however can lead to a solution. take the civil rights movement in america for example.

    people like clark (and i am only basing this off his current JT article) basically are encouraging the exclusion of certain citizens from enjoying freedoms guaranteed by law. there have been many places where people of all colors and backgrounds have banded together after deciding that they are not going to take it any more. look what that has done for america. still much work to be done but i will take what’s happening now over what occurred back then.

    i guess dude needs a hug or something.

  4. zurui zurui

    bluejay: thank you for your comment. i think the fact that clark has some type of influence in certain circles is what partly set me off. i am curious to know more about the composition of the international student body at his school and the types of courses he taught.

  5. zurui zurui

    i would not worry too much about the discrimination. “just do you!”

    the road to fixing things is sometimes long but eventually the destination will be reached.

  6. zurui zurui

    welcome daniel,

    no problem with the common folk. i get comments on my afro or being able to speak or understand japanese, nothing really out of the ordinary.

    seeing foreign nationals in japan is not that uncommon in the bigger cities.

    thanks for checking out BT!

  7. zurui zurui

    thanks for the reply. what’s dangerous about clark is that a newspaper gives him a platform to spread misinformation, lies, and propaganda. some people may not receive the rest of the story, especially since the average reader takes information from a so-called credible source (major newspaper) and does not conduct a fact check.

    clark’s comments remind me of some of the crap that i read in my grade school textbooks. it took me many years to “unlearn” the lies that passed as history. many a professor wanted to kick me out of class for my views but i feel that if you don’t challenge the lies, people will walk around and continuously repeat the b.s.

    clark is trying to keep HISstory in check.

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