Saturday, August 17, 2013

What being a minority allows us to see | The Japan Times

Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before — many times. Someone called your child hafu (half) and you take offence. Or your contract is only one-year renewable, whereas your Japanese coworkers have “lifetime employment.” Or maybe someone called you a gaijin as you walked by. I’ve heard these stories dozens of times and while having myself been in some of the same situations, and while I can empathize, I also feel these “victims” are missing the point.

First of all, I’d like to say that discrimination is never acceptable. We all know that. Yet it continues to happen every day in Japan. Perhaps you have been told you are not allowed to enter a public bath because you either you have a tattoo, or because you’re a foreigner (and thus, it is believed, will behave inappropriately). Or maybe it’s that the clerk at the convenience store is visibly nervous that a foreigner has approached the counter, and that she, the clerk, may have to speak English. Or worse, the clerk doesn’t even listen to your flawless Japanese and responds inappropriately because she wasn’t listening to what you said in the first place.

Yes, this is Japan. Now, let’s jump to the rest of the world. Everyone admits that while discrimination (and stereotyping) are wrong, they happen all over the world, even in our own countries. So why is it that the very people who are discriminated against in Japan can’t empathize more deeply with those who are discriminated against in their own countries? Why is it still, as long as they are in their home countries, something that doesn’t concern them?

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