SNA Visible Minorities 21: “A Retrospective on 25 Years of Activism”, April 19, 2021

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SNA — I’ve been involved in activism in Japan for many years. Indeed so many that my online archive of work, Debito.org, just turned 25 years old last week. With that in mind, I’d like to devote this column to a retrospective of the past quarter century: What, if anything, has Debito.org contributed to help make conditions for Non-Japanese residents and Visible Minorities better?

Debito.org first went live on April 15, 1996, during the earlier days of the World Wide Web, as a means to respond to online bulletin board critics. When topics came up over and again, I’d just archive a previous essay on Debito.org and send a link. After a couple hundred essays were organized into general information sites, Debito.org became a platform for issues involving foreign residents of Japan.

The first major issue I took up was “Academic Apartheid” in Japan’s universities. This is where all Japanese full-time faculty were granted contract-free tenure from day one of employment, while all foreign academics, despite many being better qualified than their Japanese counterparts, got perpetual ninkisei contracts (some of them term-limited) without the opportunity for tenure.

I discovered a “smoking gun” one day in my university mailbox: A paper directive from the Ministry of Education encouraging national and public universities to fire their older foreign professors by not renewing their contracts. I scanned it, archived it, and sent a link to prominent advocates like Ivan P. Hall (author of Cartels of the Mind) for further exposure. It turns out that a government demanding their universities axe all their foreigners over forty is state-sponsored discrimination, and it blew up into an international issue that even then-US Ambassador Walter Mondale took up.

All of that information is still up on Debito.org today, and it turns out that a permanent archive that is searchable, citable, with context and without paywall, is a valuable resource, especially as many unscrupulous people would rather have a history of their actions and policies disappear into the ether. Once archived on Debito.org, it didn’t. Soon other issues on Debito.org garnered national and international attention, even generating public policy movements…

Rest is at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/04/19/visible-minorities-retrospective-on-25-years-of-activism/

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