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Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

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  • Saturday Tangent: How the US deals with Arizona racial profiling: Federal lawsuits and Jon Stewart humor

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on July 10th, 2010

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    Hi Blog. We’ve recently been discussing racial profiling on this blog, comparing what’s happening in Arizona with new immigration laws vs what goes on as SOP in Japanese police law enforcement and gaijin harassment.

    What’s interesting for me is how the US deals with it: They actually discuss it. First watch this Jon Stewart Daily Show excerpt (courtesy of Dave Spector) on the subject and then we’ll woolgather:

    The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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    So let’s recount the important differences apparent in this video:

    1) In the US, they have not only a presidential administration making clear statements against racial profiling, but also a judiciary filing federal suit against errant state policy that would condone that. Imagine either of those happening in Japan.

    2) In the US, the voices of minorities are actually being heard — and listened to — somewhere. Imagine THAT happening in Japan!

    3) In the US, police training materials and the actual text of law enforcement are coming under scrutiny! Imagine… oh you get the idea.

    4) In the US, they have things such as satire and sarcasm to enable people to take this apart with the very powerful tool of humor, and an investigative media that can hold people accountable for what they say and do! (God bless the Daily Show!)

    These are some things that societies with healthier civil societies have at their disposal for analysis and debate.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    7 Responses to “Saturday Tangent: How the US deals with Arizona racial profiling: Federal lawsuits and Jon Stewart humor”

    1. jim Says:

      japans system is even worse then arizonas since supposedly the police dont even have to have a reason to stop you. just suspect you!

    2. okazakiom Says:

      Jim has a point. With this issue front and center in the States, I figure quite some negative press could be generated with the parallels here.

      Strike while the iron is hot, Debito!

      — That’s just it. The iron ain’t hot over here. For reasons described in this blog entry.

    3. Scott Says:

      I agree with everything you said, but one out of every three individuals in the U.S. is a minority — roughly one hundred million out of three hundred million people. That’s why it’s a bigger deal in the U.S. than in Japan. When minorities are little more than one percent of the population, you can’t expect mainstream media in any country to engage in analysis and debate until the situation reaches a crisis point, as it is in America. The U.S. wasn’t discussing these issues forty years ago, but immigration had not reached the peak that it has now. Debate is only enacted when people’s prejudices are questioned on a grand scale, and that will not happen in Japan until the fabric of mainstream society encounters foreigners on a regular basis, which will not be for quite some time.

      That may not be fair, or right, or even acceptable — but it is what it is. The media flocks to stories that affect the most amount of people in order to garner the highest possible ratings. Period. Rightly or wrongly, racial profiling in Japan does not affect more than one percent of the population in any noticeable way — and thus it will not be the source of major discussion and media interest until minorities make up a larger percentage of the Japanese population.

      — If you think this is an unprecedented “crisis point” and “peak”, you haven’t read your American history and considered the domestic reactions to other waves of immigration. Other points taken.

    4. DS Says:

      How the US is dealing with illegal immigration is of course far removed from the situation in Japan. The obvious reason is that illegal immigration is a far greater problem in the US. There are something like 12-20 million in the country already, and a porous border. Japan, being an island, has a far easier time controlling their borders. Unfortunately, the US federal government has been ignoring the problem for literally 20 years. I can’t blame the states for trying to protect their own citizens when the feds refuse to do so.

      — You’re missing the point of this blog entry.

    5. jack Says:

      According to a recent article from the NYT ( ), pro- and anti-immigration sentiments in America break down very neatly by age. They connect large dissatisfaction among the 45+ crowd with the 4.7%-foreign-born-resident rate they experienced while growing up, compared to today’s 12.5%, which is more broadly typical of American history. In fact, the rate 40 years ago, far from merely “not reaching the peak that it has now”, was actually at a historical low.

      I wonder if we manage to increase NJ numbers over here if we’ll have to deal with similar sentiments. It would certainly not be the first time non-ethnic-Japanese have had to wait for the reactionary old guard to retire and die off. Of course, I’m sure some would say we’re already experiencing similar reactions – look at the snafu that still continues over the now seemingly dead-in-the-water proposal of local voting privileges for PR holders.

      Unfortunately, until we do get more over here, I fear that Scott has a point about its limited interest to the public at large, but I wonder where the tipping point is. What’s it going to take to wake up Japan to the realities of racism? What needs to change to make people interested? It’s not solely driven by self-interest – there are plenty of people abroad who care about these issues despite being all the relevant demographic majorities.

      — The tipping point, as I see it, is when Japanese begin to care about what happens to their NJ neighbors. That is, when they see (or are publicly allowed to see) NJ as actual neighbors, not guests. That is happening in patches at the local level, but the people who have their hands on the national-level levers of power (the policy elites) are certainly not interested. Probably there will have to be tragedy happening to a NJ before grassroots sentiment swells. It can happen. But not for the foreseeable future.

    6. Steve Says:

      Agreeing with Jack’s post above, most Americans don’t realize it, but until about 100 years ago there were virtually no restrictions on immigration to the United States. A substantial proportion of the U.S. population has always been immigrant. It was a basic fact which led to strong growth, diversity, and strength. One hundred years ago, the only way a person could be an “illegal immigrant” would have been if they entered the country while bearing a contagious disease. (For a while, Chinese were also banned.)

      But at some point, a narrow minded public decided that they should be the last immigrants and decided to slam the door which had been held wide open for so long. “I’ve got mine so lets not share the pie any longer.” Having closed the door on open immigration, the United States has lost a big part of its greatness. But even so, the economic realities necessitated large pools of immigrant labor, and people continued to come.

      By fighting against illegal immigration, Arizona has decimated its own industries. They have not only lost workers, they have lost consumers. As a consequence unemployment has become a greater problem for Arizona, not because immigrants are taking jobs away from “Americans”, but rather because the size of the Arizona economy has shrunken drastically. Of course, some fools will say they cannot find jobs because illegal immigrants are taking all the good ones and push for more harsh restrictions on immigration. It isn’t working; reasonable people and most economists understand why. So all that is left to rationalize anything is an underlying racism.

    7. ken44 Says:

      —By fighting against illegal immigration, Arizona has decimated its own industries.—

      When the housing bubble collapsed the housing industry went into the toilet and since the housing industry was the largest industry the state economy crashed. The backlash against illegals is because the economy is shot and although there has been some talk about illegal leaving AZ and how this will hurt the state they will not be missed. Not with unemployment at 9% (unofficially it`s probably much higher…)

      The Phx metro area should pick up in another 5-7 years and when happy days are here again I’m sure the illegals will return.

      — I’ll approve this but we’re getting off track.

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