DEBITO.ORG
Arudou Debito/Dave Aldwinckle's Home Page

New ebooks by ARUDOU Debito

  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • Get Japan Times today Tues Sept 2–sequel to my JUST BE CAUSE Column on “Gaijin as racist word”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on September 2nd, 2008

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    Hi Blog.  Today (Tuesday, Wednesday in the provinces) sees my seventh Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column.  I’ll devote another 700 words on some of the points raised in an avalanche of letters (according to the Japan Times, mostly critical) to explain more about my contentious “gaijin” and “n*gg*r” linkage.  The debate so far at

    http://www.debito.org/?p=1875

    and 

    http://www.debito.org/?p=1858  

    (see Comments sections)

    Debito in Hamamatsu

    5 Responses to “Get Japan Times today Tues Sept 2–sequel to my JUST BE CAUSE Column on “Gaijin as racist word””

    1. Neath Oum Says:

      Response to both your recent articles and various other statements made on this blog.

      Is being called “gaijin” something one can say is “factually” incorrect?

      Regarding the term “gaijin,” I would have to say there are some very large and unsupported assumptions and logical flaws you make regarding the word “gaijin”.

      In your scenario where you use yourself as an example, you state that it is “factually” incorrect to call you a “gaijin” because you:

      1) Graduated from top tier schools
      2) Lived in Japan for more than two decades
      3) Are fluent in Japanese
      4) Have Japanese citizenship

      I would have to call into question your criteria as to what makes a person, in “fact”, a Japanese individual.

      I pose this question to you. What makes a person a Japanese individual and not a “gaijin”? Citizenship? Learning about Japan? I say no. I say that being Japanese requires being born and raised in Japan and internalizing Japanese values. Unless one is a Japanese individual (as opposed to a Japanese citizen/national), one is a “gaijin”.

      Using your criteria, I would say that you are still a “gaijin”, just as I am. Whether one has studied Japan, speaks the Japanese language well, lived in Japan or possesses Japanese citizenship does not in fact make one Japanese. Logically your argument fails, as the most one can say from those criteria is that one is a foreigner who is well educated, speaks another language fluently, lives in another country for extended periods of time and changed his citizenship (which is a difficult process, but still only the changing of a country name on a piece of paper). Meeting these criteria does not make one a Japanese individual. Others who possess the same criteria can equally argue that they are not Japanese and are at most foreigners educated about Japan.

      Whether someone is a Japanese citizen/national and a Japanese individual are two different things. Being a citizen who is knowledgeable about Japan and actually being Japanese are not one and the same.

      If I don’t like seeing the word or being called “gaijin”, well then it is up to me to avert my eyes and cover my ears. People who use the word gaijin are effectively exercising their right to free speech. Should someone be forced to watch what he or she says because someone else might be offended? Should an individual’s personal liberties be limited because you do not like what that individual says? Are you being forced to hear or see the word “gaijin”? Like you yourself stated, it is your blog and you will run it how you like. Are other people not allowed to express themslves as they see fit as well, whether it be spoken or written?

      I was not born in Japan and not raised with Japanese values or norms.  At most I am only of partial Japanese descent and my thoughts are not formed in Japanese. So I am a “gaijin”. In my case, it is immaterial since I take no offense at the word. I will also not jump to the conclusion that someone else’s use of “gaijin” was negative and expect others to change their speaking habits because of my own sensibilities.

      Your argument that the word “gaijin” is similar to the word “n–ger” is also unwarranted. The history behind the word “n—ger” is one of African Americans being brutally subjugated and stripped of their liberties. The same also applies to other terms such as “J-p”. The Japanese Americans were also stripped of their personal liberties during WWII. Is that the experience of “gaijin” in Japan? Have you been stripped of your personal liberties and subjugated? Such a comparison disregards the divergent histories of the terms. Your comparison of the two terms makes sweeping generalizations which is the very type of treatment of individuals you are trying to deter (judging individuals by the group rather than their own character).

      I myself have been in a relationship with a Japanese woman. She referred to me as “gaijin” and there was not one ounce of negative meaning or intent whenever I was referred to as such. When being called a “gaijin”, is it always negative and similar or equivalent to being called a racist epithet such as “n–ger”?

      No.

      Whether “gaijin” is a negative term is dependant on the circumstances surrounding its use and the speaker’s intent. A majority of my experience in being called a “gaijin” has been positive. Do I mind being called a “gaijin”? Sometimes yes and sometimes no, depending on how it is used. As stated above, I will not automatically assume anyone meant something offensive or expect anyone to alter their speaking habits just because there is the possibility that the term was used negatively.

      Personally, I would be offended were I Japanese. By comparing the word “gaijin” to “n–ger”, you effectively compared every Japanese person who uses the word “gaijin” to those who use the word “n–ger” in a racist manner. I know that my significant other was not racist when referring to me as a “gaijin”. Neither are my Japanese friends (a majority of whom graduated from Waseda University, where I also studied for one year) who also call me “gaijin”. I do not and will not expect them to change their speaking habits just because I might be offended.

      I fail to see why you, a caucasian man (do you take offense at being labeled “caucasian” as well?), feel the need to be considered a Japanese individual to be included and takes such offense at being called a “gaijin”. I still personally feel like a contributing member of the Japanese community despite not being Japanese and being called a “gaijin”. My former Japanese host family considered me a part of their family and I felt part of their family despite being called me a “gaijin”. At no times did I feel like the literal translation of the word an “outside person”.

      What is the goal? To me, the goal is equal treatment and inclusion. If this is your goal as well, then a more accurate argument, at least for your circumstances, would be:

      I am a “gaijin”, but I am also a Japanese citizen. Therefore am I entitled to equal treatment and should not be discriminated against despite being a “gaijin.”

      Your argument should not be:

      “I am Japanese (or American-Japanese), not a “gaijin” and am therefore entitled to equal treatment.”

      The argument that calling you a “gaijin” is “factually” incorrect fails, because simply coming up with different criteria as to what makes a person Japanese changes what you consider factual to being subjectively selected criteria and personal preference. To me you are a Japanese citizen, but not a Japanese individual.

      I pose two questions to you Mr. Debito Arudou. If I were to walk up to you and say that you are a “gaijin” no matter how long you may have lived here or studied Japan and her people, would you be offended? I certainly hope not, because to me calling you a “gaijin” is the same as saying you were not born and not raised in Japan. You were in fact not born and raised in Japan and thus are not Japanese and are therefore a “gaijin” just as I am. If you do not like hearing that, then cover your ears, delete this post or any other actions you feel necessary to protect your own well being. Just do not limit my right to speak or my other personal liberties.

      As to my second question; if I called you a “gaijin”, is that similar or the equivalent of me calling an African American a “n–ger”? No. There is a large difference in the use of the two terms depending on who made the statement and the context surrounding the statement and the history of its use.

      Before making such comparisons and claims on who is Japanese and what is discriminatory, I would suggest you reevaluate the criteria you use and make sure that you are clear on what the problem is and what the ends sought actually are. Are you sure asking for people to stop using the word “gaijin” is fighting for your rights? To me it seems more like you are impinging on the rights of others.

      Neath Oum, Tokyo

    2. elena Says:

      To Neath Oum,

      THe question is “why the people who have satisfied 2,3,4 numbers in your little list in the beginning of your post in ALMOST ANY OTHER COUNTRY are somehow accepted as let’s say “equal beings” by the population of this country, while this does not happen in Japan”?

    3. A man in Japan Says:

      Hello Debito,

      I just read your piece in The Japan Times about people like us who are living here in Japan being called gaijin all the time. Every thing you said in the article is exactly what I have said to my wife, and we have argued about this quite a few times now. I said to her that by using the word “gaijin” they continue to hold up this barrier of trying to separate themselves from other people in the world. I bought this newspaper by chance because I needed it to prove what day it is for a photograph, and I just happened to see it!

      Im feeling alot better now about the problem I was having earlier. Im just not as bothered now, and I have just got used to “forgetting” these things that happen and move on a bit quicker now. I actually might start buying The Japan Times now to see some more of your work and other things that I often see in the news but can’t understand what it’s about. Keep up the great work man!

      Also, a note to….Neath Oum. I take it you know about how Japanese people get treated in the western part of the world? All we have to do is call them something which they might not like, and they would have us in court for being racist! But over here there are NO laws to stop us getting discriminated against. Now, if you cant see the hypocrisy in that, then I don’t know why you are going around telling people they are wrong when all debito is doing is making people who are visiting Japan more aware of this problem.

    4. It's Me Says:

      I wish Neath had kept it zipped just as much as I wish there were more people to point out how repulsive some of his thoughts are, but now we’re here..

      >> “Unless one is a Japanese individual (as opposed to a Japanese citizen/national), one is a “gaijin”.

      An obvious fallacy. Unless one is a Japanese individual, one is not a Japanese individual. That’s all that can be said. Your statement is similar to ‘unless one is a Christian, one is doomed’. You can’t make inferences like that.

      >> “At most I am only of partial Japanese descent”

      Creepy blood-is-destiny type references are exactly that.

      >> “I say that being Japanese requires being born and raised in Japan.”

      So how about zainichi who don’t want to naturalize and would reject you labelling them as Japanese? How about overseas returnees, who you have excluded?

      >> “I am a “gaijin”, but I am also a Japanese citizen. Therefore am I entitled to equal treatment and should not be discriminated against despite being a “gaijin.”

      Which are you more likely to hear?

      ‘I am a mainland-born Chinese, but I am also a Canadian citizen. Therefore, I am entitled to equal treatment and should not be discriminated against despite being a mainland-born Chinese’.

      ‘I am Canadian. Therefore, I am entitled to equal treatment’.

      As people have pointed out, try this kind of thing on first generation immigrants in your country, and watch them sue your ass off.

      >> “I fail to see why you, a caucasian man (do you take offense at being labeled “caucasian” as well?), feel the need to be considered a Japanese individual to be included and takes such offense at being called a “gaijin”.

      Maybe you should have your sight tested, then. Again, try calling Japanese immigrants ‘Japs’ and see what happens to you.

      >> “Before making such comparisons and claims on who is Japanese and what is discriminatory, I would suggest you reevaluate the criteria you use and make sure that you are clear on what the problem is and what the ends sought actually are.”

      You too.
      Since you are not Japanese, by your own admission, who are you to deny that status to anyone else?

      Who said Chinese-Canadians were Canadians? The Canadian government, when it gave them citizenship. Then, they passed laws to try and ameliorate the problems that followed. Yes, today there are lots of people in Canada who see Asians as ‘eternal foreigners’. But that’s their problem, and if they step too far out of line, there will be trouble.

      Who said Debito was Japanese? The Minister of Justice when he was naturalized. ‘Nuff said. As a Japanese, Debito does not have to qualify that status, and he certainly does not deserve your uninformed and unqualified pontifications.

    5. Ira Bea Says:

      To Neath Oum

      Very well put, rational and logical argument carried to a sound conclusion without personal abuse or emotional attacks.

      You have expressed very succinctly what many thinking gaijins feel about their treatment when living in Japan.

      I wish that I could express my thoughts as well as you.

    Leave a Reply