Jun 23, 2010, 8:27 PM
Post #43 of 55
"How many of you have ever experienced discrimination and or racism?"
As a Caucasian living in Japan, I learned a lot about racism. Over 99.5% of people living there are Japanese, thus they cleverly named it Japan. Kidding aside, there was no getting away from the fact I was a foreigner, unlike other Asians...Koreans, for instance, who physically could pass but who were the recipients of the worst kind of racism when it was discovered that some distant ancestor was Korean.
For me, personally, a few specific events stand out. Was riding my bike one day and discovered a traditional Japanese house, so I circled around a few times, admiring it. A couple minutes later, a policeman corrals me and takes me to the little neighborhood police station, the Koban. Made me show him my ID card (yes, you had to be fingerprinted for your card), company ID, etc. He checked the registration on my bicycle to be sure it was mine and asked a bunch of questions, luckily I spoke some Japanese, so it went smoothly. Didn't realize until later that someone in that house probably saw me circling around and thought it was suspicious. Maybe it was, I can see that. But I doubt they would have called the police if I was a normal-looking 29 year old Japanese man.
It was common to go into a local bar or pub or robatayaki and be greeted with disdain, but once it was so obvious, we just turned around and left. I mean, if attitudes were spit, we would've drowned.
The worst was when I was out in the countryside with my charming girlfriend who happened to be Japanese. A few construction-type workers, about 50 feet away, started yelling stuff at us, stuff my limited vocabulary didn't cover. I asked Mariko to translate and she grabbed my arm and said, "It's nothing, let's go." You can imagine what they might have been saying about me and/or her, and she was protecting my skinny white azz by not telling me.
It really was a fascinating experience, though. Being such a tiny and visible minority in a country where some small percentage of the people treated you like a monkey. An ugly monkey. A larger percentage, no doubt, felt that way but didn't express it so directly.
I felt a bit like John Howard Griffin in the classic book on racism in America, "Black Like Me."
Actually, though, this was not a negative experience.
In fact, I think something similar should be mandatory for all of us.
Funny, isn't it, how being the recipient of some behaviors can open your eyes not so much to the predjudice outside of you, but rather the predjudice inside of you.
So those of you who have moved to Mexico and feel predjudice directed at you, I hope you can embrace it and learn from it. We're all humans. And thus, we're all subject to the same flaws and idiosyncrasies. If you don't identify them in yourself, you can't change them. Well, actually, I don't belive we're capable of changing our predjudices, but perhaps controlling them. That's another story, though, isn't it?