Sunday, August 5, 2007

Japanese Racism

An excellent article from the BBC on Japan. Like any "Gaijin" knows, Japan is in deep denial about it's racism (disguised as nationalism) and the free use of terms to describe foreigners in negative ways (much Like Ang Mo in SEA Asia and Guilo in HK) only highlight this. Again, the double standards show when confronting this issue. A simple post on another blog about a term being racially offensive generates posts and emails tellimg me that i am wrong, that the term is not racist and yet if the role were reversed, a term used to offend an asian in a western country would result in job disciplinary action, formal complaints etc etc. It just goes to show: racists all over the world a crack heads and nutters.

Japan racism 'deep and profound'
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

Japanese commuters, Tokyo
Only about 1% of Japan's population is registered as foreign
An independent investigator for the UN says racism in Japan is deep and profound, and the government does not recognise the depth of the problem.

Doudou Diene, a UN special rapporteur on racism and xenophobia, was speaking at the end of a nine-day tour of the country.

He said Japan should introduce new legislation to combat discrimination.

Mr Diene travelled to several Japanese cities during his visit, meeting minority groups and touring slums.

Japan mulls multicultural dawn

He said that although the government helped to organise his visit, he felt many officials failed to recognise the seriousness of the racism and discrimination minorities suffered.

He was also concerned that politicians used racist or nationalist themes, as he put it, to whip up popular emotions. He singled out the treatment of ethnic Koreans and Chinese and indigenous tribes.

Mr Diene says he plans to recommend that Japan enact a law against discrimination, which he said should be drawn up in consultation with minority groups.

He said he would now wait for the Japanese government to respond to his comments before submitting a report to the United Nations.

Racial Slurs: Ang Moh

I got my first piece of hate mail / posting today. It's taking issue with labeling the term "Ang Moh" for what it is: a racial slur.

Anyway, my response is as below:

I suggest you research the history of racial slurs before you suggest to start telling people of a minority what they should think of a name.

For example, the word "Nigger" originally was only a descriptive name without any negatiave conotations but quickly became to be percieved by the people to whom it was applied too as derogatory.

Likewise the term "Ang Moh" is increasingly seen for what it is: a racial slur.

It doesn't matter how it is INTENDED, it matters how it is recieved and PERCIEVED.

As a cursory glance at both the internet and archives of the singapore staits times shows, many people of caucasian / slavic / baltic background who are described by this word find it offensive.

Indeed, even a number of singaporean bloggers have commented on the need to be careful when and where to use it as they have found through personal experience that it can, and does, cause offence to the people to whom it is used to describe.

Secondly, the origin of the term is it's self racist. It originally means "red-haired foriegn devil", which in the dialect it comes from had specific negative quasi-religious overtones.

This is not in dispute, any number of empirically based sources can cofirm this. It doesn't matter that the 'gui' has been dropped from the end, most caucasians / slavs / baltic people who spend some time in the areas of asia where this term is used quickly learn of it's origin and original meaning. As such, the term has baggage and lots of it.

A similar example is the phrase "Nip". Today this term is used as a racial slur against asians. It originally started as a simplification of NIPPON (name for Japan as a nation, in Japanese) but quickly became a negative name for all east-asians.

Like wise with the phrases "yellow man" (a simple physical description, yet offensive, just like Ang Moh), Nigger, Chink and a host of others have, at one stage or another, been used by a majority on the premise that they are a simple and inoffensive label.

They are not.

Ang Moh is a term that deeply offends an increaing proportion of non-asians in Singapore and Malaysia. The simple fact that even discussions about the words racist overtones crop up in official government controlled press in Singapore speaks volumes about the changing perception of the word.

I politely suggest it is you that need to polish up on your Hokkien language history before you defend a racial slur as something it isn't.