Sunday, August 06, 2006

Speaking Up Against Rabid Racism in Japan

I once opened up a Japanese newspaper to read the top story about the Japanese government possibly letting "foreigners apply for chief posts." I was upset because I knew damn well that they weren't talking about me (an African-Canadian and permanent resident of Japan). They were talking about my buddy, "Lee," who was born and raised in Japan, attended a Japanese school, speaks, reads and writes fluent Japanese, obeys Japanese laws, cheers for Japanese athletes, laughs at Japanese jokes and pays Japanese taxes. My first reaction was to ask the journalist who wrote the article and all Japanese lawmakers: "Exactly what's so 'foreign' about Lee?"

All dictionaries define a foreigner as a "person from a foreign country." Lee is definitely not from a foreign country, but from Japan. Sure, his parents came here from Korea at the ages of 4 and 5, so technically one could argue his ancestry is Korean. But for that matter, all Japanese-Americans, Japanese-Canadians, Japanese-Peruvians, Japanese-Brazilians etc. were originally from Japan? Does that make them all "foreigners" in their respective country of birth? Nationality should be defined by whichever nation one has the strongest ties to, not by "Hitleresque" racial theories.

However, I don't believe that finding the perfect word will solve the problem. Nor is the media directly responsible for the racism and xenophobia of the Japanese government, that persistently maintains a system under which people who fulfill every internationally-accepted qualification for citizenship are denied it. It should be an international outrage that this exists, but it's not. After all, Japan is a "liberal democracy" (not a totalitarian and reclusive nation like the Republic of North Korea that the Japanese media, lawmakers and ordinary citizens ferociously criticize on a daily basis), and it could be worse.

The "hawkish" led by Koizumi, Abe and Ishihara could soon be persecuting ethnic Koreans, Chinese and other minorities.This nonsense is an example of the primitive logic, xenophobia and racism which is well-documented in all primate societies and are probably encoded genetically in all of us. The farther back one looks into human history, the stronger becomes the evidence of the fear of the foreign "barbarians."

My question to racist Japanese lawmakers is this: Are you proud of behaving like a bunch of stubborn primitives? Of course, Japan as a nation has many things to be very proud of. This, to put it mildly, is not one of them.

A nation in which people are lawfully discriminated against by ethnicity or family origin, which infringes a primordial human right (Japanese nationality to all the children born in Japan regardless of their parents' nationality), can never be considered a true member of the international community. The failure of Japanese voters and their representatives to solve this problem is debasing human dignity. The issue begs the question of whether Japan is capable of being a society of coexistence.

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