Finger Lakes Times: Former Genevan, now a Japanese citizen and author, details his experiences in book on racism in Japan


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Hi Blog. My old hometown newspaper in Geneva, NY, interviewed me for a local article. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Former Genevan, now a Japanese citizen and author, details his experiences with racism in the Land of the Rising Sun
By NEETU CHANDAK Jul 28, 2016

“It’s very subtle, like slow-burning acid, but once you realize it, you become pigeon-holed.”

This is how Debito Arudou, formerly Dave Aldwinckle of Geneva, describes the subtle racism in Japan in his highly acclaimed book, “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination.” It was published late last year.

In 1999, Arudou and his children were denied access to a public bathhouse in Japan. Bathhouses there are family affairs; under the law, all Japanese citizens have the right to enter such places.

Arudou and an international group consisting of Americans, Japanese, Chinese and Germans went to the bathhouse to investigate. It turned out that people who did not look Japanese, even if they were citizens, were being denied access.

“I speak, read and write in Japanese. I’m also a naturalized citizen of Japan,” Arudou explained. “What more do I need to do to be considered as a Japanese?”

Arudou admits he had his work cut out for him: to expose his experiences, to shed light on how discrimination hurts, and to pursue what can be done to stop it.

“Every society has racism, and we need to end it because racism places a trail for others to hurt people based on appearances,” he said.

Is it possible to eradicate racism? Arudou believes so.

He said understanding how racism works can help lawmakers create policies that can tackle the issue. Arudou’s theory is that racism is a three-step process: differentiation, othering and subordination.

Differentiation is recognizing the differences of others based on skin color, socioeconomic status and other factors. This is done as a natural process to group people.

Othering is believing that a certain group of people are “not like us,” the us-vs.-them mentality.

Subordination is the process of building walls for those who are not like a certain group to block opportunities.

Simply understanding the process of racism and discrimination is not the end-all, be-all solution, Arudou cautioned. Actively taking steps to alleviate the situation is the right start.

“Stop judging others,” he said. “Instead of basing our perceptions on looks, we need to individualize it. Get to know the person.”

Many research institutions have made Arudou’s book a part of their libraries, including Cornell University.

Arudou said he “definitely” has some future book-writing ideas in mind — but for now, they’re a secret.

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2 comments on “Finger Lakes Times: Former Genevan, now a Japanese citizen and author, details his experiences in book on racism in Japan

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    So far, “Embedded Racism” is available on 69 North American university libraries, including my school. When I checked out the book with online library source, it was already leased out by someone.

    According to WorldCat, it’s available in 90 of the world’s major libraries worldwide.

  • it should also be mandatory for this book to be in every public university in japan. this book was money well spent even if it was my university that paid for it.

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