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Black Tokyo Monogatari: Stereotypical Black Women in Japan

Yazima Beauty Shop

With the latest “look at me, I’m in blackface” misunderstanding” or as I like to call it “Black Ships and Blackface, How Perry Opened Japan to the West,” and yet another prominent columnist praising racial segregation under apartheid as a model for Japanese immigration policy in a leading right-wing Japanese newspaper, the Sankei Shimbun, it seems that Tokyo needs to work on damage control considering the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is closing in on Japan’s demographic disaster.

This past week reminded me of commentary presented by a reader in response to a commercial starring three men, a famous DJ and famous comedy duo. Are the men in blackface or is it good make-up? Unlike the Gosperats or Rats & Star, no shoe polish was harmed in the making of this commercial. What I find extremely distasteful is the description of the faux Black women, the implied teenage pregnancy and the husband that left the United States (his family and his business) to return to Japan.

The viewer provided the following comment. Is she the only one feeling this way?

“As a black woman, it makes me uncomfortable and frustrated to see that we are always made fun of and made out to be stereotyped so much. Cause you know there’s a bunch of idiots out there that will think, ‘oh, so all black women are like ____________’. And then when they see you are not they’re all surprised and crap.

It’s like you have to actually ‘educate’ people, because society in general and skits like this (however unintentional) seek to put people in these neat little boxes, however unattractive they may be. It gets burdensome and irritating to deal with the ignorant person who really honestly thinks that all black women are some really rank loud ghetto oversexed, baby-making broads, then when they meet a black woman, who’s not like that (and no, we are not the exceptions) go into culture shock, because it’s not what they saw ‘on the tv.’ or ‘what they heard’. You get over that hurdle and then your co-worker comes up to you and makes some rank comment and you sigh and think (here we frackin’ go again) It may not seem a big deal to non-blacks, but then again, you don’t have to be confronted with this type ignorance in the form of attitudes and comments in your everyday life (work, school, etc.). It can make you want to scream, sometimes, because it just seems soooo hard for a lot of people to grasp that black people are not just some black monolithic blob that you can attribute certain things to all of us.

We are surprise, surprise, shock and gasp INDIVIDUALS. We act different, think different, don’t all live the same way, don’t all like the same things, and no, we all don’t live in the ‘ghetto’, no, you may NOT touch my hair, please PLEASE stop calling me ’sistagirl’. Be yourself and speak the way you normally would, and NO, I don’t know ‘what black people think/feel about ________’, because I’m not all black people, I’m ONE black person so quit asking me that dumb question! (yes,I’ve been asked/confronted with this crap and I’m bloody sick of it) etc. (you may say ignore those people, but you can’t when it’s your teacher, your boss…OMG, the corporate world is FULL of these attitudes…it’s a PURE MESS. I wonder, ‘have you ever bothered to venture outside of your 4-6 blocks???? You CAN’T be that sheltered…)

It also makes me wonder what’s the deal with dressing up like black women so often? What weird thrill derives from this? From the Japanese to the Bubble Sisters in Korea to that idiot who dresses up like ‘Shirley Q Liquor’ (who I believe really wants to be a black woman and hates himself for feeling that way. He spends more time as what he THINKS is a black woman than he does in his own white skin. Al Joelson would be oh so proud) in the States? That REALLY makes me uncomfortable and frankly it puzzles me. I’ve never had the impulse to dress up as another race for some laughs or whatever. What impulse says, ‘OOH! I’M GOING TO DRESS UP LIKE A BLACK WOMAN TODAY AND _______!’ I TRULY don’t get it.

Look, I have a hard enough time in this world dealing with ignorant (and downright stupid) preconceived stereotypes about black women from ignorant people.(let’s not even talk about the stereotypes about black women that permeate U.S. tv. ARRRGHHHH! *pulls hair*) This crap right here doesn’t help. Not one bit. As a matter of fact, it just piles onto the ignorance that’s already out there.

Sorry if it seems like I’m ranting. I just get sick of stupidity and wanted to share my view on it. That’s all.”



  1. Lance Coronel B. Vassar Lance Coronel B. Vassar

    Sorry this is long. maybe someone will read it. I'd like to blame media for this but that is too simplified of an answer. Yes it has everything to do with media however I blame the general societal devaluation of Black women in general and cognitive dissonance and disregard towards Black women. This has been dating back centuries and manifests itself in the general idea that it is allowable to criticize black women about literally everything. This is so engrained in society that even complements to Black women come in the form of underhanded remarks such as "it's nice to see an 'educated" black woman" or " oh how wonderful that you have real hair", or "Wow how is it that you don't have kids? Good for you."and since we are so used to being criticized and ostracized, we even have begun to see these as compliments and have begun to disassociate ourselves from all things deemed "unacceptable" or "ghetto", "ratchet".
    I myself used to revel in being "different" from the misperceptions, I used to gloat on the fact that i was supremely "un-ghetto" but I soon realized that in the same breath i was also alienating and degrading my sisters who were caught in the stereotype and contributing to the chaos and further compartmentalizing Black women into categories. So what? if she's ghetto. Other groups maintain unity because they stick together.. So I decided to give that a try.
    What does that mean.. it means "Don't talk sh*t about my sisters and i won't get in your a$$ about it". I used to almost be apologetic about the negative stereotypes and go into intense discussions with people about race and misperceptions and turn everything into a "etching" moment. Then i decided I was just tired of that and didm;t have time and you know what, people learn what they want to, and sometimes after these long discussions all i had earned was now a person who felt they had a connection with a real black person and then they felt confident enough to express further distaste towards other Black people with me because I was so "different" and understanding and "educated".. Like they had found a good trained one of "us" to bounce their misperceptions off of and get a free lesson from. No sorry you have to pay me or racial sensitivity course. But here's the free handout I give to ignorance… "Nope you;re wrong and possibly stupid if you think ALL black people do anything anyway, and i will not allow you to make any false assessment of my culture or people, so kindly refrain from speaking that way, it's rude… good day to you."
    We (Black women) are supposedly and presumedly "loud", have bad "attitudes", we are "unfeminine" and "crass". but who made all of these things such horrible crimes against humanity anyway? And since when were these things exclusively attributed to Black women only? I have begun to just remove ALL levels of criticism of Black women from my mind and repertoire. If she's "ghetto" and "ratchet" well ok.. There are many such people in this world, it may not be a great thing to be, but it's certainly not the worst thing to be. She's not a mass murderer, or a criminal. She's got a weave.. ok great.. and so what? I've stopped allowing the comparisons to create criticisms and conflict between us. Why does any Black woman have to change to meet some criteria someone else has set? Why can't Black women just do like all other women in the world have the luxury of doing… and be allowed to be imperfect or messed up without interference?
    Sure my approach may never change another person's mind about Black people or Blackness, but I've begun to learn that most people can't manage to get others to try new foods let alone change their perceptions of race and culture so i won't try to change them anymore. There is enough information out there now for people to be informed and change if they want to. Sound defeatist? Well no, in fact it is empowering and liberating. I have taken away the power and validity behind their misperception thus removing any claim to their assessment of me or any other Black women. I AM THE EXPERT ON BEING A BLACK WOMAN not them. So therefore why does it matter if other they don't get it right? it's like a surgeon getting mad that a truck driver can't master using a scalpel.
    I will stand up for my sisters. it's racial superiority complexes and entitlements that make other groups feel that it is ok to say the things that they say to us as Black women and even to ask s the stupid questions some people ask "Oh but maybe they are just curious or they want to know and i should inform them" you say?… heck no.. they can google or read some books if they really want to know.. or take African studies courses at the university.
    I don't have to support behavior I don't agree with (from Black women or anyone for that matter) but I leave that discussion up to me and my sisters amongst ourselves. As far as others are concerned my responses go as follows.. "don't talk about my sisters to me.. you will not like my response, don't compliment me on mundane things like they are grand accomplishments I'm not a trained pet and you are not my trainer, i don't think you know what you are talking about so i suggest you cease from making yourself look ignorant and change the subject.. and that's all i will say to you about that". Then I go my merry way. Even with my non-black friends I have made it a "no criticism zone" and I let them know that their perception and ideation that they have any right to make any suggestion is due to their perceived racial superiority and privilege and to back off. If they are my friends.. they do back off.

  2. It's always difficult to know where to place the blame because, who is guilty? The ratchet hood rats that we see on facebook every day that make it hard for us black folks overseas that have to answer questions for our entire race, or the lazy armchair social psychologists or political scientists who see videos and broadbrush an entire race without ever thinking about it or talking to someone from that race.

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