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Hi Blog. Japanese TV has once again put their foot in it for racist stereotyping. We’ve already covered here on Debito.org:
- Japanese advertisements (Mandom) juxtaposing chimpanzees with Jamaicans of African descent to sell product,
- Japanese advertising for cup noodles (Nissin) that “whitewash” a Japanese athlete of Haitian and American descent,
- Japanese advertising for detergent (P&G Japan) that depicts cleanliness as White people with big noses.
- Japanese advertising for bread makers (Toshiba) using a Japanese with a blond wig, a big nose, and accented Japanese.
- ANA advertising new air routes (to Asia) with a “foreignized” (White) Japanese character (again, with big nose and blond wig).
- Nagasaki travel agency using “foreignized” (White) Japanese characters (again, with big nose and blond wig).
- McDonald’s Japan advertising burgers with a racialized White Western character “Mr. James speaking katakana Japanese“.
- “Black Melon Pan” bread products with a racialized “Afro” character.
- Fuji TV cop shows targeting NJ as criminals for sport.
- Racialized stereotyped characters in Japanese video games.
- Sakura TV depicting international marriage as a means for “selfish White men” to entrap women from “uncivilized countries” as “babysitters”.
- Depicting a Japanese-Nigerian baseball player as an “animal” with “wild instincts” on the “savannah” in Japanese sports news.
- NHK’s report on airport facial recognition devices repeatedly portraying a “prototypical criminal” as foreign-looking.
- Asahi TV broadcasting police anti-crime drills where the thief is portrayed as foreign.
- Some more racist Japanese media (not just TV) here and here.
- And of course, NHK promoting the trope that “foreigners” can’t speak real Japanese (which occasioned a written apology from NHK).
- And outside Debito.org, Tokyo Weekender notes: “In 2018, Japanese comedian Masatoshi Hamada appeared on a New Year’s Eve show in a Beverly Hills Cop skit with his face blacked up. In 2015, a picture of members of the group Rats & Star and idol group Momoiro Clover Z wearing blackface backstage during the filming of Fuji TV’s famous “Music Fair” show triggered outrage.”
Now we see NHK (“the BBC of Japan“) commenting on Black Lives Matter in perhaps the most insensitive way possible. Submitter JK comments, then I comment:
JK: Hi Debito. Looks like NHK is actually getting heat for their understanding (or lack thereof) of the world now:
Japan, US academics demand NHK explain editorial choices behind offensive BLM anime
June 13, 2020 (Mainichi Japan) Japanese version follows.
PHOTO CAPTION: An NHK animated explainer on Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S. which was widely condemned as racist and subsequently removed by the broadcaster, is seen in this screen capture. (Mainichi)
TOKYO — Academics in Japan and the United States submitted a letter to NHK on June 12 demanding the Japanese public broadcaster clarify why it broadcast an anime explainer of Black Lives Matter protests that was subsequently condemned as racist, and that it also outline its views on the matter and possible preventive measures.
【Related】Japan’s NHK apologizes for clip on US BLM protests after racism accusations
【Related】Black Lives Matter goes mainstream after Floyd’s death
【Related】Tennis star Naomi Osaka all-in on Black Lives Matter movement: Reuters
In their five-page letter to the NHK, the experts in U.S. studies describe the video as “including content that cannot be overlooked.” Among its 13 signatories are professor Fumiko Sakashita of Ritsumeikan University in Tokyo and professor Yasumasa Fujinaga of Japan Women’s University, also in the capital. The letter is addressed to the NHK president, as well as the heads of the international news division and the News Department. The writers say they will recruit supporters in both the U.S. and Japan.
The around 1-minute-20-second animated video that the letter discusses was originally shown on NHK news program “Kore de Wakatta! Sekai no Ima” (Now I Understand! The World Now) and shared on the broadcaster’s official Twitter account on June 7. It was intended as an explanation for the demonstrations that began in the U.S. after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer kneeling on his neck. It features a muscular, vested black man shouting about economic inequality in the U.S., and makes no reference to the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
The letter to NHK described the depiction of the man as stereotypical, saying, “He is given an excessively muscular appearance, and speaks in an emphatically coarse and violent way.” It added that in the U.S., “This stereotype has a history of being used to legitimize lynching of black people and the loss of their lives from police brutality.”
It also criticized the program itself for suggesting that one cause of violence by police toward black people is “a fear of black people,” and for offering a “completely insufficient” explanation of issues around “the historic background of police brutality, from slavery to the modern prison industrial complex.”
It then mentioned that by the time the NHK show was aired on June 7, rioting and looting had already waned, and that the mostly peaceful protests were also being joined by many white people. Referring to this, the writers said the content of both the program and the animated explainer were “not an accurate reflection of the current state of protests.”
The letter also says the program didn’t give enough consideration to anger toward systemic racism as one of the causes of the protests. It also puts forward questions as to why the content wasn’t checked internally and corrected.
On June 9, NHK apologized for the video, saying, “There was not enough consideration made at broadcast, and we apologize to those who have been offended by it.” The program was removed from its online streaming services, and the tweet sharing the video also deleted.
Regarding its response, the letter says NHK has not clearly elucidated what was problematic about the program, and criticized the broadcaster strongly for “trivializing the matter as a case of viewer interpretation.” It went on to ask that NHK clarify both its understanding on the issue and the events that led to the problematic content being broadcast and tweeted.
(Japanese original by Sumire Kunieda, Integrated Digital News Center)
黒人差別の解説動画「看過できない内容」 NHKに米国研究の学者らが検証求め る要望書
(rest behind paywall).
“We at NHK would like to sincerely apologize for a computer animation clip posted on our Twitter account. The clip was part of a segment in the program “Kore-de-wakatta Sekai-no-ima” broadcast on Sunday, June 7th. The 26-minute segment reported that the protests in the US were triggered by the death of George Floyd after he was pinned to the ground by a white police officer. It also reported the background on how many people are angered by the case, handling of the matter by the Trump administration and criticism against it, as well as division in American society. The one-minute-21-second clip aimed to show the hardships, such as economic disparity, that many African Americans in the US suffer. However, we have decided to take the clip offline after receiving criticism from viewers that it did not correctly express the realities of the problem. We regret lacking proper consideration in carrying the clip, and apologize to everyone who was offended.”
DEBITO COMMENTS: Apology not accepted. As I said, this is well within history and character for Japanese media, and the fact that it appeared on NHK (on a children’s program, no less) makes it all the more mainstream. It’s not even Embedded Racism.
I will note that the people that produced this anime are the same ones (in terms of inflammatory style, caricature, and even voice talent) that produced the racialized imagery used in landmark TV show “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo Nihonjin” some decades ago (which we also appeared in during the Otaru Onsens Case). Witness this segment from February 28, 2001.
So in my view, for all NHK’s claims that it “lacked proper consideration”, I call BS. They knew full well what these subcontracted segments are like. That’s what that subcontractor has done for years. They just expected that this would be for “domestic consumption only” and the Gaijin wouldn’t see it (because after all, “foreigners” don’t watch Japanese TV because Japanese is too hard a language for them to understand). That’s also BS. NHK (not to mention most of Japan’s other media) still hasn’t learned their lesson after all these decades. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
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