Tangent: How anti-discrimination measures are enforced elsewhere: Racism towards me at a bank in Canada

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Hi Blog.  Got an interesting story to tell.

(UPDATE JULY 4, 2015:  PLEASE READ TO THE BOTTOM FOR A RETELLING OF THE STORY BY ANOTHER EYEWITNESS.)

Recently I had business at a Canadian bank, so I went to a branch of it within Canada.  My transaction required me to show government ID, so I showed my Japanese passport, of course.  That’s all I have.

The teller verified my ID, but then made the comment, “It’s funny that you should have a Japanese passport.  You don’t look Japanese.”

I said, “Let’s not go there.  Lose the racism and complete the transaction.”

Well, after the transaction was complete, I called for his manager.  When the manager appeared, I indicated that his employee had made an untoward comment about my physical appearance and legal status.  “How would you like it,” I said to the teller, “if I said to you, ‘It’s funny you have a Canadian passport.  You don’t look Canadian.’?”  (It it important to add at this juncture that the teller was a Korean-Canadian immigrant — I know because I requested his name from the manager later.*)

The manager ascertained that the teller had said what he had said, and then was told that this behavior was inappropriate under Canadian rules and laws.  He was then sent home for the day, presumably without pay.

The bank manager and I then sat down in his office where he offered his sincere apologies.  And he told me over the course of a relaxed and empathetic discussion that he understood very well where I was coming from.  He himself is Metis, a minority in Canada of mixed First-Nations and settler peoples, but he apparently doesn’t “look Metis” to Canadians.  This becomes an issue whenever he, for example, bargains for a car at an automobile dealership, but has his identity policed by the dealer whenever he indicates that his indigenous status in Canada exempts him from Canadian taxes.  “I produce my First-Nations ID card, of course, but I hate it when people doubt my identity just because I don’t ‘look Indian’ to them, especially when they say so carelessly out loud.  This is unacceptable behavior for them, and it’s unacceptable for my employees too.”

That’s the way it’s done.  None of these crappy “cultural/linguistic misunderstandings” excuses, no shallow apologies and then everyone gets back to work undisturbed, and zero tolerance for assuming that people have to “look” a certain way to be a “real” member of a people or nation/state.  Justice was commensurate, swift, and public.  Well done Canada.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

(*CLARIFICATION JULY 3, 2015:  I also deduced that the teller was a landed immigrant because a) he worked in this local branch of a Canadian bank, and you would probably need landed status in Canada in order to get that kind of job, and b) based on his Korean accent, English wasn’t his first language.  However, I made no issue of these assumptions whatsoever during our exchange.  I only asked for his empathy by putting the shoe on the other foot, saying, “How would you like it if…”.)

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////

UPDATE JULY 4, 2015:  A RETELLING OF THE SITUATION FROM ANOTHER EYEWITNESS:

Hello. I would like your readers to know that I was also there as an eyewitness, and the blog post doesn’t really tell what I think to be the whole story. It’s important that you see that there was more to this case than Debito quickly typed up while on vacation, because some people are really misunderstanding what happened.

Reveal: I am a Canadian who has lived here for more than 40 years. I’ve also lived in Japan and the United States, and, for the record, I am a white woman. I can’t reveal any more than that because Debito has stalkers.

Debito’s recounting of the story is correct until the part where he writes that, “The manager had ascertained that the teller had said what he had said.” What happened was this:

The teller asked for Debito’s ID in order to complete our requested transaction. Debito showed his Japanese passport. The teller verified his ID, looked back and forth at Debito’s face and the passport, and then made the comment, “It’s funny you have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.”

Debito said, “Let’s not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction.”

Note that Debito did NOT raise his voice, nor did he accost anybody. MY reaction was one of shock, disappointment, and embarrassment to be a Canadian. I said to the teller, “I’m sorry, but we have laws against this sort of racial discrimination in Canada. You shouldn’t be saying that.”

The teller then apologized. “You are right, I should not have said that.”

And then we asked to speak with the manager. This was NOT about this issue, but a separate one regarding the original transaction. But the teller then proceeded to tell us that we didn’t NEED to speak to the manager. The transaction was complete.

I then requested, “I WANT to speak to the manager.” He again told us again that we didn’t need to, the transaction was complete.

It was at that time where the manager, whose office was within earshot of the teller’s booth, came to our assistance. I asked the manager about the original transaction issue, and he gave us an answer. But because I was so agitated by the terrible customer service, we THEN brought the other ID issue up with the manager. And I said to the manager, “This kind of comment is against Canadian law.” And the manager AGREED and apologized on behalf of the teller, himself, and the bank.

We then exited the bank, but when we got to the car, I said to Debito, “You know, that was weird. As a member of this bank for more than 35 years, I’d like to go back and get the name of the teller and the manager so I can write the bank about this.”

When we re-entered the bank, the manager greeted us. It was THEN that we were told that because the teller’s behavior was inappropriate under Canadian rules and laws, the manager had sent him home for the day. (Note that we did NOT request that the teller be sent home for the day. We had no idea about what would occur. If we hadn’t gone back, we wouldn’t even know that that had happened, and it wouldn’t be part of this discussion. We also still don’t know anything about pay deduction, official reprimand, etc. After all, we did not request anything like that.)

The manager then invited us to sit down in his office, where he took the time to relay his own story about his identity being policed as a First-Nations person, as Debito wrote. He also told us that he too had been to Japan and had to deal with a lot of ID policing as well.

In fact, the manager ENCOURAGED us to write a letter about this employee to bank headquarters. He gave us the teller’s card and his own.

Now I want to make clear what everyone seems to be getting wrong about Debito: At NO time did he have a temper tantrum, threaten or attack anyone, push anybody around, or even raise his voice. He had a very graceful, calm discussion at all times. This kind of myth that you have about Debito, going in and bullying people do to things, is TOTALLY unfounded. If you’ve never personally been with Debito in a situation like this, then you shouldn’t make comments or assumptions like these.

I left the situation feeling proud a) to be a Canadian, and b) that we have this type of system. Unlike what I’ve experienced many times in situations in Japan, I left this humiliating bank situation FEELING LIKE A HUMAN BEING.

I’ve grown up with various Visible Minorities in Canada — Asians, Africans, First Nations, etc. — where I was not in the majority. I have never experienced this kind of blatant policing of identity in Canada. Never in Canada – not even at the Canadian border – has anyone so blatantly questioned Debito’s passport or policed his identity like what I witnessed at this bank.

What’s even more appalling to me is not what happened at the bank, but the way you all have judged Debito, and seeing the teller, who broke the law, as the VICTIM. The law in Canada is set up to protect people from this situation, and it’s one of the reasons why Canada is an easier place to live. But why are many of you, particularly when you’re living in Japan as second-class residents, seeing the teller who started all this as the victim here?

This is not how our customer service industry behaves. It’s not the teller’s naivete. It’s his own personal stuff that he’s pushing on us. The teller personally took a risk in making that comment. If the roles were reversed, and I made a comment like that, the same punishment would befall me. It should.

Happy Canada Day!
ENDS

UPDATE JULY 14, 2015: I GET MY COMEUPPANCE IN A FASCINATING DEBATE, BLOGGED SEPARATELY HERE.

62 comments on “Tangent: How anti-discrimination measures are enforced elsewhere: Racism towards me at a bank in Canada

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  • Of course the teller is surprised that you have a Japanese passport. If it is rare enough to have one in Japan as a foreigner, now take that completely out of context and of course it’s going to be extra sketchy. It is the tellers job to safeguard from foul play.

    The manager problem didn’t care about you, and I imagine the second you left was relieved that you had. You are big white guy, just because you have a Japanese passport doesn’t make you look Japanese. If the teller didn’t see this as slightly suspicious, is he actually that good at his job?

    — Wow, lots of stuff to untangle here. So you’re saying that my having a Japanese passport as a big white guy is grounds for suspicion of “foul play”, and racially profiling me through microaggression is just part of his job description? Good job you’re not a employed as a bank teller facing a big black guy — especially in Canada.

    Moreover, if you have a Japanese passport, you are no longer a foreigner in Japan. Don’t buy into the conundrum of “foreigner” as a matter of looks.

    Reply
  • Honestly, it sounds like an innocent comment to me. Kind of like saying “I bet that there’s an interesting story here!”

    It seems like the teller basicaly hit the crux of this blog, which is that you did something very unusual by becoming a Japanese citizen, and the repercussions have been interesting.

    Racism seems like it might be a bit too strong a word from what happened. I would call it racism if they denied you service even after verifying your documents, or something like that.

    Reply
  • To be honest, I feel that being sent home like that was a bit harsh, but certainly do think you did the right thing I pointing it out, and an apology was certainly warranted.

    Reply
  • Happens to me too, but in a social setting, unlike in a business/work related transaction which this was, there is no immediate source of redress.

    It is often from other Asians who say I “don’t look Japanese” (I have Japanese ID). Any response from me shorter than paragraph length is met with blank stares or negativity. I don’t want to start a(nother) bar fight so not sure how to respond- any ideas?

    Reply
  • It would be sooo ironic if he wasn’t Korean but lived all his life in the U.S. or Peru, etc. and has a passport from some non-Asian country, and had found a fellow multi-cultural soul to make small talk with, only to get sent home from work AND get profiled as a native Korean.

    Reply
  • Richard Solomon says:

    Thanks for sharing one time when an institution, via its leadership, acted appropriately to this kind of racism. Even if they are unintended, these kinds of comments/attitudes must be dealt with quickly and firmly if they are to be changed. It is heartening to see that at least one manager recognizes this.

    Reply
  • Anonymous says:

    This reminds me that the most effective directives specifically state the positive actions expected and required for resolution:

    “Your staff member just did action X, and since action X is illegal, here is what must be done properlyちゃんと to avoid court裁判:”

    “First, the staff member must admit認める to me, the victim, that he perpetrated an illegal action.”

    “Second, the staff member must apologize誤る to me, the victim, for the emotional suffering he caused.”

    “Third, the staff member must promise約束 to never perpetrate this illegal action to any other human again.”

    “Thus, after the staff member has admitted+apologized+promised, the penalty can be relatively lighter.”

    “The staff member must do all 3 things now, or the staff member will have to do all 3 things in front of a judge.”

    “The court judges enforce laws which rightfully require admitting+apologizing+promising for a lighter penalty.”

    “The level of penalty罰 is mainly decided by the level of remorse反省 expressed to the victim被害者 by the perpetrator加害者 of the law-violation法律違反.”

    “Finally, to avoid me successfully suing YOUR COMPANY for being negligent of your staff member’s illegal action, your company must write an official letter before I leave immediately.”

    “The official letter must state what level of penalty YOUR COMPANY will impose on the staff member for his illegal action, to make sure this staff member and other staff members are properly scared away from committing such an illegal action ever again.”

    “And the official letter must state what level of training YOUR COMPANY will initiate for all employees about this illegal action, training which explains the legislator-enacted-laws and court-enforced-penalties of committing such illegal actions.”

    “So, in summary, to avoid me, the victim, having the courts penalize your staff member and your company for this law violation, the staff member must verbally admit+apologize+promise and a higher ranking staff member must write an official letter of promise about both the penalty the company is imposing on the staff and the future training the company will give to all employees.”

    “If the staff member admits+apologizes+promises with the proper level of remorse反省, and if your company writes an official letter of promise about both the penalty and future training, two simple actions which should take no more than 20 minutes to complete, then I will forgive enough to not begin walking over to my lawyer’s office to have him begin the court-process-initiation document-preparation-and-submission.”

    “Now that I have clearly explained the positive actions expected for resolution: please go now and explain to the highest ranking person on this floor that both of those things are required by me, for the staff member and your company to avoid an expensive court-enforced-penalty.”

    “I hope you understand well enough to explain to the head decider here the verbal component and the written component required. I will wait here for 20 minutes for both of these things to be done properly.”

    “I hope your head decider here chooses to do the right thing: for the sake of me the victim, for the sake of the staff member the perpetrator, for the sake of other customers just like me who wish to not be victimized, and for the sake of your company which wishes to avoid being found guilty of law-violation negligence.”

    “If resolved properly right now, an expensive and embarrassing public court case will not be needed. Let’s resolve this amicably.”

    “The verbal admittance+apology+promise, plus the official letter of penalty+training promise. Go explain to your boss immediately, the 20 minute time limit begins right now.” 🙂

    — Not what I wanted from this exchange. All I wanted was an acknowledgement of a mistake (i.e., an apology) and a reassurance that it won’t happen to anyone else again (i.e., a measure taken by bank management). It was done, immediately and without prevarication (in the British sense) or dither. No need for the rest of the blather above.

    Reply
  • Anonymous says:

    Yes Debito, for a small thing, like the “You don’t look Japanese” rudeness, the above script isn’t appropriate.

    On the other hand, for a BIG thing, like actual race based DENIAL, the above script is appropriate, in my opinion.

    Because instead of merely complaining, it lays out positive actions expected, in concrete numbered terms, for amicable resolution. 🙂

    Reply
  • Anonymous says:

    OK, here’s a much nicer 2 sentence version WITHOUT any blathering legal threats, positively stating the humanistic actions expected most efficiently:

    “Hey, fellow human staff member, for you to do the right thing, you should admit what you did right now, apologize, and promise to never do that again.”

    “Hey, fellow human branch manager, for you to do the right thing, you should write a letter promising to give a little penalty and promising to train better.”

    Reply
  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Dr. Debito,

    I think what is being overlooked by many (especially on the Reddit sub-thread started by Ken Y-N where he calls you a ‘bakachon’- nice racial slur there from a wanna-be netto-uyoku, screen cap available on request) is this;

    If a black guy walked into a Canadian bank with a Canadian passport, it would be racist if the teller said ‘Oh! You’re a Canadian! I thought you were African!’

    If a Chinese woman walked into a bank in London, and pulled out a UK passport and the teller said ‘Oh, you don’t look British’, it would be racist.

    In both of the above examples, your critics wouldn’t even try to defend the bank teller, since in both examples we are talking about societies that are open about being diverse and have anti-racism laws for years.

    Now, shoe on the other foot. You pull out the Japanese passport, and the teller is shocked and feels like he can have a cheap poke at you. Why? Because Japan is ‘one people’, ‘one culture’, ‘one language’ (etc). The Japanese government and media relentlessly pump this message out into the world, and people like the bank teller can’t conceive that racial diversity exists in Japan, precisely because the Japanese government puts out that message and seek to subvert diversity.

    Yes, the bank teller was racist, and yes, that was caused by his knowledge of Japan being limited to the ‘fact’ that Japan has ethnic homogeneity. So if that’s the commonly held opinion about Japan held in the rest of the world, why the hell is the rest of the world giving Japan a free-pass on it’s racism, and not calling Japan out on it? The rest of the world needs to wake up from the myth of Japanese exceptionalism.

    Reply
  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Perhaps a teller made a comment out of his innocence and naïveté. But that’s definitely not something a business professional is supposed to say. No excuse. It may be forgivable if you hear such words from school-age kids who don’t really know about society. (OK, it’s still annoying, but why not give them the benefit of the doubt–by having a chat with their parents so that they will learn the lesson?)

    I know some detractors here are trying to give a reprimand like the posting #1). Make no mistake. This is not about whether teller’s remark falls into the category of racism(or its degree). It is about the appropriateness of words in a given context. It’s same sort of offense parents having school-age children get bothered with school administrator over question asking about child-birth(i.e., how baby was born), degree of disabilities, medications, religious view, etc., on school survey. This kind of offense could happen anywhere. But it’s easy to get fixed with quick wit, short notice, and reassurance.

    Reply
  • FaithnoMore says:

    My two takeaways:

    1. None of these crappy “cultural/linguistic misunderstandings” excuses, no shallow apologies and then everyone gets back to work undisturbed, and zero tolerance for assuming that people have to “look” a certain way to be a “real” member of a people or nation/state. Justice was commensurate, swift, and public.

    This just says it all about the problems in Japan. You couldn’t have put it better yourself. Erm, you did.

    2. All I wanted was an acknowledgement of a mistake (i.e., an apology) and a reassurance that it won’t happen to anyone else again (i.e., a measure taken by bank management). It was done, immediately and without prevarication (in the British sense) or dither. No need for the rest of the blather above.

    Erm, I thought you were such a bully. Well that’s the way you are portrayed?

    Interesting that the teller was a Korean-Canadian immigrant.

    Reply
  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Debito, I don’t mean to pile on, and of course I couldn’t hear the man’s intonation (suspicion or pure curiosity), but I wish you had given him the benefit of the doubt, or at least let the incident go after saying “let’s not go there”.

    Working in Japan for a Japanese financial institution, I’ve heard the same thing when calling banks and other institutions in the US on the phone. “Tokyo? You don’t sound very Japanese!” One particular company of whom we are a major client happens to be located a few train stops from where I was born, so I have a perfect local accent to them, and invariably they’re more fascinated than suspicious. And I go from being another faceless client taking up their time to being someone they remember for a long time.

    I’m glad you got on well with the Metis manager, but I think you could have come away with two wins that day if you hadn’t been so harsh with the teller. Even if he was being overly suspicious or racist, you could have pretended he wasn’t, treated his suspicion as if it were curiosity, and made the same point in a more subtle way.

    — Fair enough. It’s just astonishing how hegemonic the discourse is that equates Japanese nationality with phenotype. It’s what my upcoming book out in November is all about. It isn’t just in Japan — it’s worldwide, and people who would never say “But you don’t look American/Canadian/Australian/etc.” have no hesitancy to say “But you don’t look Japanese,” even in the most official capacities. I believe this should stop, because it is inaccurate. And it will (and does) affect my children.

    Reply
  • So, from all this, what does:

    1) A British person look like
    2) An American person look like
    3) German person look like
    4) Indian person look like
    5) Chinese person look like
    6) Kenyan person look like
    7) and so on…

    Seriously…what does each one “look” like?….and there is the conundrum. Looks are based upon race, who you are is based upon nationality, and they are not immediately interchangeable too. Hence, if you try and blend the two together you shall be faced with such statements as “..oh you don’t look..(insert your own)…”. Therefore saying you don’t look Japanese is that a racial comment or a nationality based comment you are somewhat chagrined about?

    Thus i tend to side with #10JDG’s comment about:

    “…Because Japan is ‘one people’, ‘one culture’, ‘one language’ (etc). The Japanese government and media relentlessly pump this message out into the world, and people like the bank teller can’t conceive that racial diversity exists in Japan, precisely because the Japanese government puts out that message and seek to subvert diversity….”

    So, the narrative OUTSIDE of Japan is very much this, nothing that can be done about this either – for now. Ones nationality is, in general upon first meeting, purely based upon their looks. If you were of Chinese origins, then the statement would have been hard to accept, but being very white Caucasian, I think given the indoctrination by Japan on the rest of the world, your only recourse would have been to say…..(given that the teller was of Korean origin)….oh, you don’t look Canadian…then see if there is the smile of…oh yeah, point taken…or the smirk of…..smart arse. If the former…then you could have had a laugh and chat with the teller. If the later…then yes, worth raising it to the manger to address their discrimination/behaviour.

    It is only the mass movement of people from all corners of the global in search of better jobs, or refugees, etc etc in the past 50 years that renders this very question being offensive to some. Since if this very question were to be asked some 50 years ago, you might replies such as:

    1) Wearing a bowler hat and a copy of The Times under their arm?
    2) Eating large beefburger whilst being overweight
    3) Holding a large mug of beer with big sausage in the other hand drinking
    4) Wobbly head from side to side with a funny accent and smelling of garam masala
    5) Buck teeth with squinty eyes through coke bottle end glasses
    6) Very black skin wearing overtly bright colours and speaking with a strange deep accent…

    And all these stereotypes have been raised endlessly by Jeremy Clarkson of TopGear (ex) fame…..et al. Yet this is seen as humour…..

    Since what you are asking, taken to its logical conclusion, is that one must never assume a persons race or nationality by the way they look dress or even sound and never look surprised or confused by the reply once given, ever, and never question it either. That takes away human inquisitiveness to something that is “different” from expectations. It also sparks fun and interesting debates – just as i get when i tell people I live in Japan – I travel extensively with my work and get these comments all the time. They are surprised and being inquisitive, owing to the aforementioned indoctrination of what being Japanese is, to the world.

    Which then takes us to trust. Going to a bank requesting money and the choice of ID required, owing to banking policy no doubt, is your passport. The teller should accept the passport as genuine, since the logic is either it is your(s) or it is a fake. Thus such a comment may be seen as warranted as the bank’s MO (given the above), but, only after understanding the tellers intent by such a statement (security or otherwise) and what kind of ‘smile/reply’ they exhibit once pointed out the corollary of their statement back to them.

    Conclusion, such a statement could indeed be considered as racism/discrimination inside Japan. But outside of Japan…ahh….you’ve lived in Japan too long. The rest of the world has moved on and “we” only notice this once outside of the closeted existence that is Japan. It is all in the intent…is it mild curiosity at the difference in expectations, a white American accented speaking person having a Japanese passport, or something more sinister. One never knows until such statements are clarified. Jumping to conclusions is precisely what you are accusing the teller of doing.

    Reply
  • Well, this sounds familiar.
    I was in Florence with my wife back in 2012. I took the HIS tour with my spouse and I was with the Japanese group.
    Well, at the hotel in the morning, groups took turns eating breakfast. So, it was the Japanese turn so I went in.
    I was stopped by the hotel worker who thought I was in the group from Brazil or somewhere else, and either a) woke up late and missed breakfast or b) was hungry and wanted to eat breakfast before my group.
    I just said my wife was Japanese and I was with this group. He understood, and that was that.
    Mildly annoying, but I can understand that since I am white, that someone could assume that I was from Brazil or Europe.

    Reply
  • As I am also a naturalized Japanese citizen, I wonder what I would have done in such a situation…perhaps my reaction would have been different depending on the tone of voice of the worker and the intent of the question. No one has ever actually questioned my Japanese ID, although a few rare times, my membership cards registered in my Japanese name have raised questions when I presented them for service a different businesses (although most Japanese workers are too polite to directly say that I don’t look Japanese). The conversation was usually somewhere along the lines of,

    Worker: “May I see your member’s card please?”

    Me: Yes.

    Worker (looking puzzled): “This is a Japanese name, isn’t it?”

    Me (with a straight face to test the worker): Yes.

    Worker (looking puzzled): “Is this your member’s card?”

    Me: (with a straight face to test the worker): Yes.

    Worker (looking embarrassed): “Oh…ok…thank you.”

    The only other strange case I have had was applying to buy a cell phone…

    AU Worker: “May I see your zairyu card please?”

    Me (presenting my Japanese driver’s license): Here you are.

    AU Worker (looking confused): “Is your honseki in Japan?”

    Me: (with a straight face to test the worker): Yes.

    Worker (looking embarrassed): “Oh…ok…thank you.”

    In any case, I don’t think I would have called the manager, but I can understand Debito’s position. My favorite part was “none of these crappy ‘cultural/linguistic misunderstandings’ excuses…” If only more people in Japan and other countries could understand this point…

    Reply
  • I wonder if you are capable of understanding how terrible this was. You conflate actual and serious societal issues with fabricated egotistical moments, in the process delegitimizing real and ever-present grievances. Here you took a natural human interstice in a non-offensive daily exchange, and where there was opportunity for real discussion, instead victimized another person while portraying yourself as the victim. To add irony to insult, in blogging about the issue you dehumanized both the teller and the manager into a collection of identity politics–policing their racial and national right to access and subjectivity. The name Debito has become synonymous is so many ways with co-option, though you have made a career of projecting that accusation onto others. But how nice that you delight in costing that man pay. Perhaps this post will trend, and we can all feel outraged together.

    — Nope, not what happened.

    Reply
  • I applaud the effort to engage in the dialogue, but please keep in mind that confronting, attacking, swiftly punishing … when the person has made an unintentional error tends to breed contempt more often than understanding. I have lived in Japan over 20 years and been careful to avoid attacking Japanese for their cultural perceptions. Rather, I ask for discussion – and have avoided the angry foreigner syndrome. Anti-racism (see Briskin, L, York Univ.) is about open dialogue, not punishing – which shuts down dialog.

    I think you know the type Debito. So, I cannot judge, I was not there.

    Which was your motive?

    — I know the type. But that’s not what happened.

    Reply
  • The following post may seem unrelated to Japan at first, but please understand that it falls under the spectrum of “Asian or Asian-American racism against non-Asians at banks in North America” and therefore I think it is still on-topic and relevant.

    Your experience reminds me of my experience back in 2007 at the Annandale, Virginia branch of Woori America Bank (a Korean bank operating branches in the U.S.A.). I wanted to open an account there so that hopefully, I could transfer money back and forth between Korea (where I was living) and America (where I sometimes went over winter break) more easily, hopefully with fewer delays and fees. Well, as soon as I tried to make an account, they got suspicious. They said something outright racist, to the effect of “We need to know why you are opening this bank account, because you aren’t Korean.” I replied “Excuse me? This is AMERICA. We are not in Korea. It is against the law for you to racially profile me, and I can open an account here as I wish.” or something like that. They were not particularly apologetic, either (the whole bank is run by Koreans or Korean-Americans, so there was no non-Asian there to stick up for me), and kept pressing me, so I told them that I was studying in Korea. It did not even seem to occur to them that what they were doing, racially profiling me for not being Korean or Korean-American, was extremely racist and also against the law. Further visits to their bank did not go much better. They spoke Korean to all the Korean customers, but when I spoke Korean to them (and I am a graduate of Yonsei University YSKLI in Korea and lived in Seoul for five years, so my Korean is not bad), they would always get an annoyed look on their faces and reply to me in English. Finally, I was so annoyed with them (and also their generally bad service, even excluding the microaggressions–often the website would just lock me out), I closed my account there. I really wish they had asked me my reason for closing my account, so I could have written a note in Hangeul about it, but they did not.

    I have also been followed around a Korean- (or Korean-American-) operated store in America, before. I have also seen many Korean- or Korean-American-run businesses that mysteriously have either no non-Korean employees, or employ just a couple of Hispanics to stock the shelves. I used to work at one such business–I was the only non-Korean employee except for one Ethiopian employee who worked the night shift. My boss once said “We need to find some new employees. I’ll have to put an ad in the Korean paper.”

    I have often been told (usually by Caucasian apologists trying to shush me) that “If you don’t like it, leave.” Well, if I leave, then guess where I’ll go? Back to my hometown, Fairfax, Virginia, where I grew up–home of the world’s 4th largest Koreatown, with an extremely rapidly growing Korean- and Korean-American population, where I will continue to experience microaggressions and even outright blatant discrimination, just on a smaller scale.

    Reply
  • Not random says:

    I am not a japanese citizen, but i have to say i was annoyed when presenting a japanese drivers license was insufficient to buy a new phone from softbank….they needed the zairyu card apparently. I have been with softbank for years…

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  • Baudrillard says:

    Unprofessional, naive/uncertainty avoiding Korean American judges customer (not a fashion show contestant) on race/appearance based on his (widely held in the region) stereotypes of another Asian country. Really, he should not have gone there- its not just “making conversation”. Its a sub conscious, auto micro aggression.

    The DOUBLE STANDARDS at work here are 1. Asians can emigrate to Canada and the USA but its just not done for westerners or Africans to take Korean/Japanese Chinese nationality “back in their home country. (Perhaps ironically, this is why the teller left Korea, because of the xenophobic, claustrophobic society at the time, in search of a wider world, but I speculate).

    2.Hofstede and others would maintain that although he was in a way, “open minded” enough to emigrate, he still, culturally, basically retains a Korean educated mindset, unless, he rejected Korean society completely, but it seems that this hypothetical rejection did not include non racial stereotyping.

    Basically Debito challenged his UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE. (but he should learn the multicultural rules of his adopted country, Canada, which this experience has in no uncertain way, taught).

    “At 85 South Korea is one of the most uncertainty avoiding countries in the world. Countries exhibiting high Uncertainty Avoidance maintain rigid codes of belief and behaviour and are intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas. In these cultures there is an emotional need for rules (even if the rules never seem to work) ” Hofstede center.

    Old habits die hard.

    3. I think its worth mentioning the stereotype Asians and Asians who have naturalized in another country still hold about Japan-they have completely bought into the peddled brand image of a homogenous, monolithic,odd/fun/wacky/quirky country ( yet in denial of its wartime past- which is a source of confusion for them at odds with the otherwise fun, J-Disneyland impression they take as a reality).

    For happy shoppers/Asian tourists of Japan, a Caucasian Japanese, or even a Caucasian who speaks Japanese, is, paraphrasing German-Canadian (haha) postmodernist Douglas Copland’s words “Spoiling their fantasy about westerners/Japan”. (Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture).

    4. Sexism. A woman can by marriage take a husband’s nationality. Presumably said Korean American teller would “presume” if a Caucasian woman presented a Japanese passport that she had married a Japanese.

    Its all very presumptive. Was said teller “Hima no hito” with time on his hands to ponder other personal details? Are customers a source of entertainment in his otherwise dull job conducting transactions?

    “Lets not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction” is the correct, most succinct and effective response.

    – It is short, cutting a confrontation in the bud.
    – “Let’s”- its cooperative, not an imperative.
    – “lose the racism”- the lesson to be taken away, in a nutshell.
    – “complete the transaction”- back to business/customer service aspect. Not interested.

    Personally I would have left it there, at least if I was in a hurry. But then again, there is no guarantee that the lesson would have stuck. As above, old habits die hard, and he needed a lesson in how things are done in Canada- a country at direct, polar opposites to Korea on all 6 of Hofstede’s cultural indicators.

    5. Ever noticed how some Japanese visitors to the USA and Canada think they are “free” to break all cultural taboos, to swear and cuss and think westerners will not take offense? Like the complete stranger J guy said to me “how the F***K are you, man?”

    No, there is a set of cultural rules that need to be learnt.

    Debito actually did this guy a favor- if he keeps talking like that it is only a matter of time before he gets in further trouble in Canada, maybe even a fist in the face at a bar for saying the wrong thing.

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  • Baudrillard says:

    Slight correction to Korean-Canadian cultural indicators- “masculinity” is the only similar one: A low score (Feminine) on the dimension means that the dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life. A Feminine society is one where quality of life is the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable. The fundamental issue here is what motivates people, wanting to be the best (Masculine) or liking what you do (Feminine).

    South Korea scores 39 on this dimension and is thus considered a Feminine society. In Feminine countries the focus is on “working in order to live”, managers strive for consensus, people value equality, solidarity and quality in their working lives. Conflicts are resolved by compromise and negotiation. Incentives such as free time and flexibility are favoured. Focus is on well-being, status is not shown. An effective manager is a supportive one, and decision making is achieved through involvement.”

    Canada scores 52.

    Of course, another DOUBLE STANDARD here is that this may not apply to outsiders. A bit like how in Japan, FACE SAVING is paramount, but what about you, the NJ (customer”s) face?

    Ironically, or perhaps aptly, Debito did indeed follow the KOREAN FEMININE behavioral pattern “Conflicts are resolved by compromise and negotiation.” With the manager at the bank. But like I said, rules may not apply to outsiders.

    So if we as bank customers are 1. not tired/pissed enough to educate 2. knowledgeable about culture the conversation could have gone like :

    Teller: You dont look Japanese.
    Me: Are you from Korea? So I guess you want to AVOID UNCERTAINTY BACK HOME. Well, here in Canada WE (lol) do things differently.

    (Optional nasty cultural SH*T TEST: “So, e.g. for a Canadian, DOKDO or Takeshima,Tsushima or Daemado, it doesnt really matter- WE Canadians are comfortable to leave things “uncertain”. E.g. Nunavut is both Inuit, and Canadian?) See if he/she reacts as a Canadian, or a Korean.

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  • If Japaneseness is one purely legal concept that stems from citizenship (rather than two – one legal and one cultural-racial) then the same must be true for Koreanness. Therefore to refer to the bank teller as being Korean-Canadian must also be racist as to do so you have made an assumption about the tellers citizenship based upon his accent and name rather than on any documentary evidence of citizenship. Conceivably he might have renounced his Korean citizenship (assuming they he had it in the first place) in which case he would be Canadian not Korean-Canadian. Similarly if my children are forced to renounce their Japanese citizenship upon attaining the age of 20 (as I understand the law currently requires- should they want to keep their other citizenship), do they cease to be Japanese?
    I understand your concerns as my children will face the same issues as yours, but it is a too simplistic approach to deny that there are two conceptially different concepts of Japaneseness – one ethnic/racial/cultural, the other legal.

    — Point well taken. In my defense, however, remember that both the teller and I made assumptions about one another based upon available evidence, including physical appearance. That is of course what everyone does on a daily basis. It’s inevitable. But there’s a fundamental difference between what he did and what I did. Whatever assumptions we made about each other, I did not verbalize that he (or his status) was different and therefore strange to me. He did verbalize that, therefore he made a value judgment, furthermore inappropriate in a customer-client situation. I did not. Your good point about my apparently having it both ways notwithstanding, his presumed “Korean-Canadianness” was never an issue at any time during this event, so I suggest we not make an issue of it now.

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  • Kirk Masden says:

    After seeing this post, I happened to listen to an interview with Mat Johnson, an author who looks more-or-less white but identifies as black (the heritage of his mother, who raised him). Listening to the very interesting interview, it struck me that Mr. Johnson has also been dealing with the issue Debito described, responding to people who judge your appearance to be incongruent with your identification. Mr. Johnson describes some of his responses and how exhausting it can be to have to deal with the issue on a daily basis.

    http://www.npr.org/2015/07/04/419457088/fresh-air-weekend-loving-day-cables-faux-newsmen-dope-director

    Reply
  • UPDATE JULY 4, 2015:  A RETELLING OF THE SITUATION FROM ANOTHER EYEWITNESS:

    Hello. I would like your readers to know that I was also there as an eyewitness, and the blog post doesn’t really tell what I think to be the whole story. It’s important that you see that there was more to this case than Debito quickly typed up while on vacation, because some people are really misunderstanding what happened.

    Reveal: I am a Canadian who has lived here for more than 40 years. I’ve also lived in Japan and the United States, and, for the record, I am a white woman. I can’t reveal any more than that because Debito has stalkers.

    Debito’s recounting of the story is correct until the part where he writes that, “The manager had ascertained that the teller had said what he had said.” What happened was this:

    The teller asked for Debito’s ID in order to complete our requested transaction. Debito showed his Japanese passport. The teller verified his ID, looked back and forth at Debito’s face and the passport, and then made the comment, “It’s funny you have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese.”

    Debito said, “Let’s not go there. Lose the racism and complete the transaction.”

    Note that Debito did NOT raise his voice, nor did he accost anybody. MY reaction was one of shock, disappointment, and embarrassment to be a Canadian. I said to the teller, “I’m sorry, but we have laws against this sort of racial discrimination in Canada. You shouldn’t be saying that.”

    The teller then apologized. “You are right, I should not have said that.”

    And then we asked to speak with the manager. This was NOT about this issue, but a separate one regarding the original transaction. But the teller then proceeded to tell us that we didn’t NEED to speak to the manager. The transaction was complete.

    I then requested, “I WANT to speak to the manager.” He again told us again that we didn’t need to, the transaction was complete.

    It was at that time where the manager, whose office was within earshot of the teller’s booth, came to our assistance. I asked the manager about the original transaction issue, and he gave us an answer. But because I was so agitated by the terrible customer service, we THEN brought the other ID issue up with the manager. And I said to the manager, “This kind of comment is against Canadian law.” And the manager AGREED and apologized on behalf of the teller, himself, and the bank.

    We then exited the bank, but when we got to the car, I said to Debito, “You know, that was weird. As a member of this bank for more than 35 years, I’d like to go back and get the name of the teller and the manager so I can write the bank about this.”

    When we re-entered the bank, the manager greeted us. It was THEN that we were told that because the teller’s behavior was inappropriate under Canadian rules and laws, the manager had sent him home for the day. (Note that we did NOT request that the teller be sent home for the day. We had no idea about what would occur. If we hadn’t gone back, we wouldn’t even know that that had happened, and it wouldn’t be part of this discussion. We also still don’t know anything about pay deduction, official reprimand, etc. After all, we did not request anything like that.)

    The manager then invited us to sit down in his office, where he took the time to relay his own story about his identity being policed as a First-Nations person, as Debito wrote. He also told us that he too had been to Japan and had to deal with a lot of ID policing as well.

    In fact, the manager ENCOURAGED us to write a letter about this employee to bank headquarters. He gave us the teller’s card and his own.

    Now I want to make clear what everyone seems to be getting wrong about Debito: At NO time did he have a temper tantrum, threaten or attack anyone, push anybody around, or even raise his voice. He had a very graceful, calm discussion at all times. This kind of myth that you have about Debito, going in and bullying people do to things, is TOTALLY unfounded. If you’ve never personally been with Debito in a situation like this, then you shouldn’t make comments or assumptions like these.

    I left the situation feeling proud a) to be a Canadian, and b) that we have this type of system. Unlike what I’ve experienced many times in situations in Japan, I left this humiliating bank situation FEELING LIKE A HUMAN BEING.

    I’ve grown up with various Visible Minorities in Canada — Asians, Africans, First Nations, etc. — where I was not in the majority. I have never experienced this kind of blatant policing of identity in Canada. Never in Canada – not even at the Canadian border – has anyone so blatantly questioned Debito’s passport or policed his identity like what I witnessed at this bank.

    What’s even more appalling to me is not what happened at the bank, but the way you all have judged Debito, and seeing the teller, who broke the law, as the VICTIM. The law in Canada is set up to protect people from this situation, and it’s one of the reasons why Canada is an easier place to live. But why are many of you, particularly when you’re living in Japan as second-class residents, seeing the teller who started all this as the victim here?

    This is not how our customer service industry behaves. It’s not the teller’s naivete. It’s his own personal stuff that he’s pushing on us. The teller personally took a risk in making that comment. If the roles were reversed, and I made a comment like that, the same punishment would befall me. It should.

    Happy Canada Day!
    ENDS

    Reply
  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Jim, #17

    >You conflate actual and serious societal issues with fabricated egotistical moments, in the process delegitimizing real and ever-present grievances. Here you took a natural human interstice in a non-offensive daily exchange, and where there was opportunity for real discussion, instead victimized another person while portraying yourself as the victim.

    LOL. Did you even get what he said in response??? I really don’t understand why some people make groundless insinuation like this by fallaciously attributing one’s reaction with temper tantrum. That is just pathetic. Clearly, you don’t seem to get it at all. Especially your last sentence makes me feel skeptical about your possession of moral compass.

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  • I really appreciate the witness stepping forward to add more details, knowing the sequence of events is important. It helps explain the way Debito handled things quite well, but I hope in the future that he isn’t so concise in the next posting as to leave out those details. Without understanding the way the situation proceeded, it gives a strong and false impression about the way he handled it and what led from one event to the other.

    Great job handling the situation at the bank, but next time, would be good to know the sequence of events so as to better know how it all ties together.

    — Of course. Sorry.

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  • Anonymous says:

    To all those who say, “It was just a comment, no big deal” what do you say to this case:

    The teller looked at the ID, made the comment, “It’s funny that you should have a Japanese passport. You don’t look Japanese…”

    And THEN the teller said, “I’m going to need to see one ADDITIONAL piece of I.D. (and if you don’t provide one ADDITIONAL piece of I.D. then I’m going to refuse this transaction with the reason being suspicion that this I.D. isn’t authentic or isn’t yours, sorry about that, but we have to be extra careful, with all of the bank fraud that has occurred recently, you know how it is, terrorism, 9-11, money laundering, we have to be extra careful, so since a Caucasian claiming to be Japanese seems rare, not usual, not normal, and thus slightly suspicious, I’m going to have to require one ADDITIONAL piece of I.D. to complete this transaction. Oh what, you don’t have an ADDITIONAL piece of I.D.? Then I can’t complete this transaction. Sorry about that. Have a nice day. Next customer, you may step forward now, I can help you. How are you doing today…”

    See, that’s when we get into the problem (as is OFTEN done here in Japan) of requiring “people who don’t appear to have the right amount of ‘purity of yayoi+jomon DNA’ which we call ‘real Japanese’, for example caucasians, blacks, arabs, etc.” to show EXTRA proof of being law-abiding AND DENYING SERVICE to those ‘fake Japanese’ who don’t carry (or those who on principle refuse to show) what is not legally required.

    If only one piece of valid government-issued I.D. is all that is required (be it Kokuho Card, Juki Card, Drivers License, or Passport) forcing “people who don’t appear to carry ‘pure Japanese’ DNA” to show ADDITIONAL I.D. and concurrently committing SERVICE DENIAL to the caucasians, blacks, arabs, etc. who don’t agree to this racially-based extra illegal demand: then suddenly this situation is not just a conversational comment this is law-violating racial-discrimination which causes financial damage and emotional damage to the victim.

    And thus, in THIS case (the case where the staff member suddenly demands EXTRA proof, and refuses to provide a service unless that EXTRA proof is shown) what is the correct way to handle this law-violating individual?

    This is the root of the debate swirling around Debito, and around any human who refuses to be forced to be bend over any more than the law requires: humans who refuse to be treated differently than all the other humans.

    Firstly, Debito’s critics attempt to claim that obviously racially-based-discrimination (for example signs which say “Japanese People Only”) ISN’T racially-based-discrimination.

    Then, after fruitlessly trying to convince readers that “Japanese People Only” ISN’T racially-based-discrimination, then they try to convince readers that there is A GOOD REASON for this racially-based-discrimination. They start talking about how blacks often commit crimes, or foreigners often commit crimes, and thus the racially-based-discriminating sign posting should NOT be punished, since the perpetrator of this law-violating action was once in the past a victim of some black punk or some Russian punks.

    So, after wasting time with all this bullshit about “That racially-based-discrimination is NOT racially-based-discrimination” these critics finally move to their final position of:

    “OK, OK, that racially-based-discrimination IS racially-based-discrimination BUT there is a good reason for it and so let’s NOT prosecute the perpetrator, since the perpetrator was once a victim of some bad foreigner in the past, let’s nevermind the emotional damage this staff-member/public-worker/police-officer caused to hundreds of humans over the years, let’s give each and every racially-based-discrimination perpetrator a free pass each time, even though they were plainly caught violating the legislated laws, free passes for all perpetrators of racially-based-discrimination, with absolutely no court case and thus no financial penalty at all.”

    So it becomes quite silly. These critics eventually end up admitting that the action of denying service to certain races IS illegal, and that demanding EXTRA proof of law-abiding-ness from certain races IS illegal, and so all they are left with the critique is “I don’t like the fact that you actually expect the law-violators to be penalized as proscribed by the legislators!”

    See, really, it is NOT Debito nor Jim nor Baudrillard nor I who is being absurd when we simply demand the laws against discrimination to be enforced.

    (Supreme laws like the United Nations CERD, which sits above the Japanese Constitution, which sits above the elected Japanese Legislator Laws, which sit above the unelected Japanese Homushou Seireis, which sit above the unelected Japanese Homushou Guidelines. Since the UN CERD and Japanese Consitution state that discrimination is a law-violation, the Seireis and Guidelines must agree or else the Seireis and Guidelines become themselves against the supreme laws.)

    It is these critics who are being absurd, by claiming that the laws against racially-based-discrimination NEED NOT be obeyed, and by claiming that those who have been caught committed racially-based-discrimination NEED NOT be penalized as proscribed by those laws.

    They critics illogically state their feelings such as, “I don’t like the words you used, when you pointed out to that staff-member/public-worker/police-officer the fact that they are violating the law. I don’t like your style of handling law-violators. I think you should be nice to such law-violators. I think you should NOT threaten to have their law-violation presented to a court judge for penalization. I think you foreigners (and even people who simply APPEAR to be foreign) should just bend over and SHOW SOME EXTRA PROOF OF LAW-ABIDING-NESS, whenever requested, because hey, you do have some NON-YAYOIJOMON-DNA, so you probably DO commit more crimes per capita, right? Right? That’s my secret racist image, which I could probably back up with statistics, but that isn’t politically correct, so I’ll simply use anecdotes about bad russian sailors any badly behaving foreigners in general. So, let’s allow law-violating staff-members/public-workers/police-officers to go unpenalized simply because I don’t like Debito’s style, and simply because I actually think racially-based-discrimination is logical and understandable and forgivable and thus should NOT be penalized by the courts.”

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  • Baudrillard says:

    I want to know more about the teller as ” It’s not the teller’s naivete. It’s his own personal stuff that he’s pushing on us. The teller personally took a risk in making that comment.”

    But why did he?

    IF he himself is a recent immigrant to Canada, then I move that he hasnt shaken off the cultural baggage of his country of origin, which is mostly at odds with Canadian values.

    If he was born in Canada, then its just shocking,, but if he had 2 Korean parents, not so surprising.

    But I also move that a stereotype of Japan that is held by Asians of all backgrounds, is that Japan has no minorities- which is a sad example of reactionary denialist J Govt propaganda actually winning.

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  • Half of me says it was overdone, the other half says that this person of Korean descent was making an “Asian” issue about it. Either way, if the Dr.s passport checked out to be legit, then there isnt any legal issue to be made about it. To some far east Asians, certian people arent really “Americans” (from the US) and sterotype like this. Either way, as things move towards more and more globalization, things like this will likely appear and will have to be squashed. If I had, say a passport from an African country, and the teller said, hey, you dont look African, should I be offended? Maybe I married an African person and took on that nationality. In any case, its not a matter for the teller to comment on.

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  • FaithnoMore says:

    Also, I’d like to make the point, a screaming obvious one, but just in case.

    It’s a case of the wood for the trees. It gets so easy in Japan, or I guess anywhere, to ignore, brush over, swallow these microagressions. It’s just everywhere. The empty seat next to you on the train, the store where they don’t ask you for your loyalty card, the convenience store where they tough the button for you without asking, the restaurant where they automatically give you the Engrish menu, the exaggerated kindness for nothing, the baby Japanese or the Engrish, the ignoring of you and only addressing the Japanese in your group or couple, the mime show for the gaijin to explain the most obvious thing, the complete inability to recognize clear and correct Japanese and answer back in Engrish, the reply in Engrish to a perfectly fluent Japanese speaker, the laugh at hearing you speak Japanese (or the shock horror), the jumping out of the way in shock upon seeing you in the street… and then when you do communicate, the automatic othering; the “where are you from,” the “you speak Japanese very well…”

    The Rosa Park thing comes to mind. In Japan the segregation is very much in the mind too, as I am constantly reminded by the empty seat(s) next to me on an otherwise packed train.

    An intellectual way of putting it might be, every time you get shit, rub their noses in it.

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  • Sometimes you have a point with your complaints, here you’re just being a bitter ass. Humans talk to each other. A white guy with a Japanese passport is irregular. It’s obnoxious to expect people to treat that as normal.

    — It’s even more obnoxious to vocalize it as abnormal.

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  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @32,

    You’re right. It’s quite unusual for many locals to see a white person possessing a Japanese passport since it’s like finding one out of thousands of hundreds(or even thousands) residing in Japan. But, again, the teller could have put it in a differently way to avoid an unnecessary racial flap by asking “Sir, were you born and raised in Japan or did you become naturalized later when you moved to Japan, if you wouldn’t mind asking.”

    How one sees visible minority–including white–holding a Japanese passport is one thing. To say it verbally in a way to annoy him or her is quite another. Just because you look physically or phenotypically different does not give you justification for making racially ‘obnoxious’ comment on one’s personal information. Nothing is more obnoxious and abnormal than allow people to disregard such an undesirable treatment under the pretext of ‘unusual circumstance.’

    Reply
  • I wonder. I know a black American who goes to Australia sometimes to visit his son who is in medical school.
    He said he always has an issue at passport control or customs if it is an Asian person, often female.
    Maybe these second generation immigrants (people born in Australia) feel that have to be tough on people,
    but it just seems like racial profiling.

    Reply
  • Edward J. Cunningham says:

    A wrote: “It seems like the teller basically hit the crux of this blog, which is that you did something very unusual by becoming a Japanese citizen, and the repercussions have been interesting.”

    I don’t think the crux of Debito’s blog is his decision to become a Japanese citizen, but rather the struggle of non-ethnic Japanese (both Japanese citizens and non-citizen residents) against discrimination in Japan.

    Reply
  • From Debito’s response to the first response in the comments section:

    “Wow, lots of stuff to untangle here. So you’re saying that my having a Japanese passport as a big white guy is grounds for suspicion of “foul play”, and racially profiling me through microaggression is just part of his job description? Good job you’re not a employed as a bank teller facing a big black guy — especially in Canada.”

    Regardless if you were upset about the comment, it does not excuse you to racism either. Your statement insinuates that if it were not you, but instead a ‘big black guy’ that the teller may be in some sort of physical danger.

    — Whoosh is the sound of my point going over your head. I am taking the person’s argument and turning it on its head. It’s not my argument or belief. It’s the commenter’s, framed in a way that exposes how dumb it sounds.

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  • The comment was not necessary period. I had a girlfriend in high school (Late 80’s) that was Hispanic but looked very white….she had to hear all the time “but you look white”. she took offense to it of course because the comment was never welcomed and there was no reason to bring it up. Funny how folks are only giving you, Debito, hell because you are white….but if you were black, I am sure folks would stick up for you…pulling the race card (AKA Black Privilege).

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  • Yeah I thought this over and can see how some will pick at it and dismiss it as trivial complaining or looking for trouble, but thats being intellectually lazy. Back in my ignorant days, I would ask people who didnt look like me where they were from, and they would get offended and tell me quite frankly they were from the same place I was from. Now I get it. If I naturalized and become a Japanese, (never will happen), I can only imagine the remarks and stuff like this that I would attract.

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  • Baudrillard says:

    @ Miki, its haha, just a “cultural misunderstanding”. I like the comments the best being “We, french people, have the (correct, imo) reputation for having sometimes bad customer service. Our waiters and taxi drivers can be rude compared to other contries. That’s right. That’ a shame, and a fact.

    We are also very bad when it comes to speak with foreigners. Their english is often as bad as ours, but with our french accent and theirs, it’s sometimes difficult to understand each other. This could be an explanation for the relunciancy of the waitress to talk to asian customers.”

    Shoe on other foot.

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  • The only time anybody checking my id in any kind of official capacity has commented specifically on my “not looking Japanese” was while entering Britain via Eurostar (at Brussels end). I know they like to throw curveballs to see how you react, but it seemed an innocent enough surprised observation so I shrugged it off with a “yeah, I get that sometimes…” and didn’t give it another thought. The more common reaction in Britain though (given my appearance, obviously British accent, and my place of birth being written in the passport) is to ask if I’d had any other nationalities. When I confirm that I renounced my former British citizenship, they invariably smile and congratulate me for getting out while I could. Even got a high five from a whole row of immigration officers at Heathrow on one occasion.

    Japan side, nothing like this has ever come up at immigration, banks, post offices, polling stations, airports, municipal offices, anywhere really.

    — Those high-fives are a big surprise. I can’t conceive of that ever happening in the US. No doubt I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve even been called a “traitor” by a US State Department official for giving mine up.

    Reply
  • Anonymous says:

    Yep Debito, just as I suspected, #41 is a friend of 井上 エイド { INOUE Eido } (né Adrian D. HAVILL)

    Here, Eido quotes his friend 神酒 九龍 { MIKI Kaoru } (né Colin RESTALL) saying the exact opposite of above:

    “The overwhelming majority of the approximately 400,000 ex-foreigners who now attain Japanese citizenship each year are Chinese and Koreans—but increasingly one can also meet people like Miki Kaoru (formerly Colin Restall, born in the United Kingdom). “Generally people don’t expect someone who looks like me to be a citizen,” says Miki, 33, who makes his living translating software into English. He was naturalized this spring (2006).”

    So in Japan in 2006, people “Generally don’t expect someone who looks like me to be a citizen,”

    But to try to prove Debito wrong in 2015 the same guy claims “Japan side, nothing like this has ever come up at immigration, banks, post offices, polling stations, airports, municipal offices, anywhere really.”

    Which is it Kaoru?

    Let’s look at what you went and publicly posted on your website today:

    http://www.restall.org/2015/07/views-from-abyss-8-microaggressions.html

    “”Microaggressions”. “Microagressions” my arse.”

    “”Microaggressions” are a product of a particularly flaky branch of social theory.”

    “”Microaggressions” are a good example of where blaming the victim is an entirely appropriate response.”

    “”Microaggression’ manifests when people have failed to claim candid and honest ownership of their identities.”

    “Anybody with a functioning set of eyes should make the entirely valid observation that a Caucasian Japanese-Citizen like me doesn’t look Japanese.”

    And how about back in April 2006, when Colin became Kaoru, what was he busy publicly posting back then?

    http://www.restall.org/2006_04_01_archive.html

    “Debito Arudou is well known for wielding his citizenship like a blunt weapon.”

    “I think it is going to take a while though for me to get used to using a different name, and leaving the house without carrying my alien registration card – a legal requirement for foreign residents on pain of arrest. With luck I may be able to get my driving licence reissued with my old name in parenthesis as a kind of pseudonym. It would be so handy to have photo ID for both names in case I need to pick up a parcel from the Post Office after hours – something which happens often.”

    Nice try Kaoru, pretending in 2015 that “nobody in Japan is ever surprised by” a Japanese-Citizen who lacks the sufficient amount of apparent Yayoi DNA.

    Absolute bullshit.

    Reply
  • One immigration officer took a selfie with me and the copy of Newsweek I was on the cover of (I always have one in my carry on to save hassle, just in case the validity of my passport is ever questioned).

    Opinions on the UK’s future are heavily divided, and a hefty chunk of the population already feel it’s a sinking ship. I think border control and law enforcement probably see the worst of it.

    Reply
  • Anonymous says:

    So, Kaoru, are you really going to stand by your claim above that:

    “Japan side, nobody has ever shown surprise at a white person like me being a Japanese-Citizen”

    “I have NEVER experienced what Debito recently experienced in Canada, here in Japan. Never.”

    “Not at immigration, banks, post offices, polling stations, airports, municipal offices, nowhere in Japan, really.”

    Your entire public site has been archived for posterity, so now is the time to add some honest qualifications.

    It is obvious to me that Eido and his group of apologists (who claim racism in Japan doesn’t exist / can be rationalized) have made you think that the best thing to do is to come here on Debito’s site and post lies about “Since 2006, ZERO Japanese people have ever expressed surprise at my being a Japanese-Citizen. NEVER.”

    Fess’ up, you lied in comment #41 above. Time to correct yourself honestly.

    You got carried away by the apologist movement. Qualify your statement above.

    Japanese people HAVE expressed surprise at a caucasian being a Japanese-Citizen.

    Tell the truth.

    Reply
  • Anonymous says:

    ”私のようなルックスの人間は、なかなか日本人と思ってもらえない」と神酒は話る”
    – MIKI Kaoru, September 13th, 2006
    http://www.debito.org/newsweekjapan091306.html

    “Japan side, nothing like this (surprise about a caucasian Japanese-citizen) has ever come up at immigration, banks, post offices, polling stations, airports, municipal offices, anywhere really.”
    – MIKI Kaoru, July 9th, 2015
    http://www.debito.org/?p=13381&cpage=1#comment-995454

    MIKI Kaoru is a boldfaced liar, with publicly published proof of his self-conflicting claims about racism in Japan.

    Reply
  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Kaoru/Colin #43

    Re; ‘One immigration officer took a selfie with me and the copy of Newsweek I was on the cover of (I always have one in my carry on to save hassle, just in case the validity of my passport is ever questioned).’

    Whilst I have no doubt that you honestly would carry around a copy of any publication that pictured you, I find it beyond credibility that you expect us to believe that a Japanese Immigration official would, in the unlikely event of doubting the authenticity of your Japanese passport (gee, wouldn’t that be kind of, well, you know, ‘racist’ of him?), acquiesce when presented with a ‘foreign’, English language magazine that he/she has likely never had any awareness of in his/her entire life!

    Does anyone here seriously believe such delusional fantasy?

    Immigration Official; (Umm, this gaijin’s got a Japanese passport? That can’t be for real!) Excuse me sir, do you have any other form of identification that corroborates your claim to Japanese citizenship?
    Kaoru/Colin; Err, let me see…..I’ve got this English language magazine with my face on it! Will that do?
    Immigration Official; Oh! You’re Kaoru Miki, formerly Colin Restall! Why, you’re very well known in Japan! How silly of me! And of course, that’s you on the cover of that international current affairs magazine News Week! We love reading that on our coffee breaks, because, y’know, ‘We Japanese’ are so globalized and outward looking in our worldview. Can I have a selfie with you? The guys back in the strip search room will be so jealous.

    Reply
  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Anonymous,

    I don’t know what kind of story you have with Kaoru/Colin in the past. You’re trying to grill a person caught on your radar to make your case. I’m not gonna say that is problem as long as you have ample evidence to prove that he is trespassing for trolling. But, remember this site is Debito’s property. NOT yours.

    I really don’t feel comfortable seeing this space–again(1)– used for direct ad hominem attack (i.e, “a boldfaced liar,”) at the person who is yet to be proven wrong at this point. Also, I find your linking of his/her comment: “Japan side, nothing like this (surprise about a caucasian Japanese-citizen) has ever come up at immigration, banks, post offices, polling stations, airports, municipal offices, anywhere really” with your alleging hypocrisy problematic, since it is contrasting behavior in his former country(UK) with his adopted country(Japan) about his/her naturalization. It means Kaoru/Colin saw the attitude more appreciative in UK rather than in Japan. I’m not sure how this leads to contradiction in the whole.

    Some readers on the blog are still learning who Kaoru/Colin is and h/she has the benefit of the doubt for the published record of proof in his citizenship. Just because he has some connection with your nemesis does not necessarily convince you/us that he deserves blunt harsh grilling Japanese police officers might want to use for interrogation. He is free to present his perspectives or argue for/against whatever he believes is right–as long as he is acting in good faith, capable of maintaining ethics, and not insulting NJ and Japanese facing the challenge on human rights issues.

    Reply
  • Anonymous says:

    It is the action of lying about Japan that is being properly criticized.

    What is properly being criticized is the action of using Debito’s forum to claim that “Japan side, nothing like this (surprise about a caucasian Japanese-citizen) has ever come up at immigration, banks, post offices, polling stations, airports, municipal offices, anywhere really.”

    First off, the claim above is patently false, in Japan assuming that caucasians are NOT Japanese citizens is the norm, as anyone conscious and honest knows.

    Secondly, this guy is on the record already in Newsweek Japan, as saying the exact opposite of his above bold-faced-lie-to-all-of-Debito’s-readers-around-the-world, when discussing his experience as living in Japan as a caucasian Japanese-citizen: ”私のようなルックスの人間は、なかなか日本人と思ってもらえない」と神酒は話る”

    Thirdly, although Jim kind of mistakenly assumed that Kaoru’s immigration story was about immigration officers in Japan and that he thus waved around the Japanese Japan version of Newsweek to Japanese immigration officers, Kaoru would want you to know that according to his posts on his blog and his posts on Eido’s blog, he has repeatedly waved around the English Asia version to UK immigration officers.

    But really which language version of Newsweek he waves around is not the point here.

    The point is that Kaoru lied when he claimed here, in an amazingly laughable example of publicly getting caught lying about something in which he is already proudly on on the record admitting the exact opposite, meaning this drive-by post was an inexcusable agenda-driven bold-faced self-contradictory lie: “Japan side, nothing like this (surprise about a caucasian Japanese-citizen) has EVER come up at immigration, banks, post offices, polling stations, airports, municipal offices, anywhere REALLY.”

    LRK writes in defense of this action, “It (Kaoru’s quote above, #41) is contrasting behavior in his former country(UK) with his adopted country(Japan) about his/her naturalization.”

    No joke LRK, but what you are surprisingly failing to see is that Kaoru didn’t just simply claim that UK immigration officers have expressed relatively MORE surprise than Japanese immigration officers (that claim would be fine, I wouldn’t make a big deal about that claim, that would be a POSSIBLE claim) it is the bold-faced-lie that we are discussing here: the impossible claim that, “Japan side, nothing like this (surprise about a caucasian Japanese-citizen) has EVER come up at immigration, banks, post offices, polling stations, airports, municipal offices, anywhere REALLY.”

    Yes, pasting Kaoru’s claim again is essential to show that it is not the PERSON that matters, nor the FRIENDS of the person that matters, nor the stories about UK immigration in a “outside of Japan racism is much worse, Japan has LESS racism, so stop complaining about racism in Japan” manner that matters, none of that matters.

    What matters is that Kaoru claimed “Japan side, surprise about a caucasian Japanese-citizen has NEVER come up at immigration, banks, post offices, polling stations, airports, municipal offices, anywhere REALLY.”

    Think about Kaoru’s claim for a moment: he has been showing his proof of being an ultra-rare Caucasian Japanese-Citizen to “immigration, banks, post offices, polling stations, airports, municipal offices” everywhere in Japan for over 9 years now, and not one Japanese person has ever expressed surprise.

    Where can he go from here?

    I sure would laugh if he tried to post, “Well, uh, that Newsweek story, in which I am obviously complained to the world about how people in Japan being surprised at a caucasian Japanese-citizen has occurs in my experience much more than it should, well, guess what everybody, surprise surprise, I left that vague enough to back-pedal out of that, thank goodness, here’s my new qualification: in both the Japanese version of Newsweek and in the English-language version of Newsweek, what I REALLY was talking about my occasional journeys back OUTSIDE Japan, haha, yeah, that’s the ticket, so when I said ”私のようなルックスの人間は、なかなか日本人と思ってもらえない」 “They still don’t (give me the) thinking that a human with my looks to be Japanese” I wasn’t referring to Japanese people doing that racist act described, no no no, why did you assume that, I was referring to UK people doing that racist act described. See? We’re all cleared up there. My Newsweek complaint was about UK people’s racist action, not Japanese people’s racist action.

    And I sure would laugh if he also then tries to post, “And for my next magic act, I will now attempt to qualify my claim in #41 above: when I wrote, “Japan side, nothing like this has ever come up at immigration, banks, post offices, polling stations, airports, municipal offices, anywhere really.” you assumed that the word “this” in the sentence above was referring to “surprise at a caucasian Japanese-citizen”, but here is what I really meant to write, here comes the magic qualifier here, here it is, my new definition of what “this” is referring to: “Japan side, nothing like this, this meaning the exact phrase “You don’t look Japanese”, haha, has ever come up at immigration, banks, post offices, polling stations, airports, municipal offices, anywhere really.” See, I wasn’t saying that surprise has never been expressed in Japan. Nah, nah, that would be silly, why did you assume that? I was saying that in Japan the expression of surprise using-the-exact-phrase-“You-don’t-look-Japanese” has never occurred. That’s all I was saying. Now that I have been called out on my claim, I have added that qualification, and thus I never lied. I will NOW admit that people in Japan HAVE expressed surprise at a caucasian Japanese-citizen. So, I admit what you all know to be true about the current general behavioral trend in Japan, that folks are surprised when I tell them I’m Japanese. But I won’t admit that my “this has never happened here in Japan” claim in #41 above was a lie. It wasn’t a lie, so I’m not a liar. Hurumph, you have disparaged my character, Anonymous. Just as the often defense lawyer for apologists has inferred. You must have something against me personally, because my action in making that claim on Debito’s site was true and pure. As you can see, my words are unassailable. Good day sir.”

    I sure would laugh if he tried to use the above two techniques in the above two paragraphs, to make us forget about his self-conflicting claims:

    http://www.debito.org/?p=13381#comment-995454
    http://www.debito.org/?p=13381#comment-997643

    And perhaps he can make us forget about the fact that he publicly posted the following ULTRA-apologistic for racism post, which I will paraphrase here, and although he is now trying to hide what he wrote by erasing what he wrote, as I mentioned earlier it has been properly documented at the Web Archive:

    “We should blame any acts of microagression towards blacks in America and non-Yamatos in Japan and any percentage-minorities living in the land of percentage-majorities, on the victim who felt the emotional pain of the racist act of microagression! Blame the victim of the racist act. Because the person who is the victim of the act didn’t OWN their identity properly. I own my identity properly, so it is literally impossible for me to be a victim of micro-aggressive comments about my race. Microagression my ass.”

    https://web.archive.org/web/20150711150352/http://www.restall.org/2015/07/views-from-abyss-8-microaggressions.html

    Check the quote at the Web Archive and tell me my paraphrasing isn’t spot-on, Kaoru. You done messed up, by posting that lie within your apologism in comment #41. Now your bold-faced lie about the lack of surprise in Japan about caucasian Japanese-citizens has led to all of your statements being scrutinized thoroughly. I’m not even going to bother discussing some of the other things you have publicly posted:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20150711150647/http://www.restall.org/2015/07/thoughts-of-day.html

    Good luck digging yourself out of the hole you have dug yourself into. Maybe next time think twice before trying to convince Debito readers that people in Japan have NEVER expressed surprise about a caucasian Japanese-citizen.

    This whole site was started by exactly such surprise here in Japan. Not just surprise, but outright exclusion.

    As the Japanese establishment owner said to Debito, and I am paraphrasing properly here again, “No, minority race in Japan, you can NOT be Japanese, and your half-minority-race daughter who is a Japanese citizen BORN in Japan is ALSO not Japanese either, your other half-minority-race daughter who looks sufficiently close to being able to pass as the majority-race may enter, but you and your daughter look like the wrong race to us Japanese, so get your Japanese passports out of my face, you are still not Japanese, this place is for Japanese people only, go home and cry because we are not going to let you into this establishment. Japanese means the majority race, and the majority race here has a sufficiently high amount of Yayoi DNA appearance. Got it? No caucasians allowed, no blacks allowed, no arabs allowed, no mongrel-breed “halfs” or “quarters” allowed. No non-yayois allowed.”

    And oh yeah, a little paraphrasing from my own experiences of decades living in Japan, “When people who look like you come to pick up your legislated government benefits which all residents of Japan have the legislated right to receive, we are going to apply this exact same racist act of discriminating based on race, we will demand that each applicant who appears to us to lack the sufficient amount of Yayoi-DNA appearance will be pressured to #1 suddenly prove nationality (but those with the right amount of Yayoi appearance will not) and #2 if this sudden illegal race-based force-pressure successfully gets you to admit your nationality, then anyone lacking in Japanese nationality will be subsequently force-pressured to submit un-legislated EXTRA proof of not being what we assume you are: a higher chance of being a crime violator due to your race. You look different, so we treat you different. It doesn’t matter what the United Nations CERD Treaty we signed said, it doesn’t matter what the Japanese Constitution we enacted says, it doesn’t matter what the Japanese Legislators Legislated, it doesn’t matter that the rest of the world has enforced penalties for such race based discrimination, this is Japan in 2015 and we are still “an island nation whose doors were so recently opened to the world” and thus we don’t have to follow the human decency societal laws which the rest of humanity have agreed upon. We are not a country of law. We will continue to commit race-based-surprise and race-based-discrimination and race-based-exclusion and we even have useful idiots and paid shills online attempting to convince the rest of humanity that: #1 the Japanese Racial Majority does NOT commit racist acts at all, #2 the Japanese Racial Majority does NOT commit more racist acts than they should, and #3 the Japanese Racial Majority even when they do get caught committing racist acts, the racist acts are magically NOT racist acts because: racial minorities in Japan commit more crimes per capita so racial minorities in Japan DESERVE to be subject to the emotional pain of being victims of race-based acts of discrimination. So in summary, minorities in Japan who demand that the Japanese government enact legislation which enforces penalties against discrimination based on race SHOULD JUST SHUT UP, because acts of racism in Japan don’t occur and/or should occur.”

    Reply
  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @Anonymous, #48

    Clearly, you are missing the point. His quote: “Japan side, nothing like this (surprise about a caucasian Japanese-citizen) has EVER come up at immigration, banks, post offices, polling stations, airports, municipal offices, anywhere REALLY” is all about ‘positive reaction’ he received for his naturalization in his biological country/Euro zone.(i.e., high fives, congratulations, excitement, etc.) He received none of those in Japan (at least in his early years) when he encountered a similar moment that required him to show his IDs. It’s more on the level of attitudinal difference he felt between the two countries–rather than whether Japanese would be surprised to see naturalized Caucasians or not, in general.

    Still suspicious? Maybe. Or maybe not. He’s a poster boy on the media coverage. That stands him out something special, and could make some people jealous. But, based on the given input, I don’t see any clear indication of hypocrisy in his comments so far. Not in a way you are suggesting. I find your resort to speculative arguments based on your assumptions and hurling abusive language(e.g., ‘bold-face-liar’) at person who is yet to be proven ‘wrong’ for ‘foul play’ utterly disturbing. Such diatribe is unnecessary. That’s not something readers of this blog want to see. I don’t.

    If you want to keep grilling him to prove your point, that’s your choice. But NOT in a way shown above(#48). Don’t use this site for slandering people you don’t like for pandering to your pent-up frustration. That only causes distraction and gives a false impression on this entire blog.

    Reply
  • Nothing emphasises strength of conviction like posting anonymously on the internet.

    Still, there’s no need to dig through personal musings dating back nearly a decade, as I doubt even I have the stomach for that. I’ll state it outright for you right now.

    Statement A:
    I do not look Japanese. I do not mean “typically” Japanese—I’m allowed to say that (blows raspberry). I mean that nobody in their right mind would assume for a second that I must be Japanese, based on any aspect of my appearance. People are indeed “generally” surprised to find the fact out, on the rare occasion it’s brought up, and they generally accept it without issue it is brought up.

    Statement B:
    In reference specifically to my consistently bizarre experiences at UK immigration, and Debito’s experience at the Canadian bank, at no time in Japan have I ever been subjected to any substantially comparable treatment.

    I’ll let you figure it out.

    You did actually dig out one interesting point though. An initial concern I had back in 2006 was that picking up packages from overseas addressed to my old name may prove difficult in the absence of a valid ID in that name (you have to surrender your alien registration card, and old cancelled passports don’t have your address on them). Apparently for non-registered deliveries, then only the address has to match up, though whether this is a formal or informal policy I have no idea.

    That’s me done here, so I’ll let Debito get back to wielding his citizenship like a club with a rusty nail through it.

    — I prefer my metaphorical nails not get rusty.

    Reply

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