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Hi Blog. I’m pleased to announce that Debito.org is celebrating its 25th birthday today!
Yes, as far back as April 15, 1996, Debito.org first went live as an archive of my essays written for a long-dead open listserv called the “Dead Fukuzawa Society”, founded by acolytes of the late Chalmers Johnson who believed, like Fukuzawa Yuukichi, of the “Fukoku Kyouhei” (Rich Country, Strong Military) slogan, that Japan had a lot to learn from overseas practices to make one’s country stronger (as did Chalmers Johnson, who believed that the US needed to learn from Japan’s Industrial Policy and mercantilist practices). Much debate ensued at DFS, and when I realized that my some of my responses to critics were retreading ground I’d written before, I archived them on Debito.org and just sent links. Some of my most interesting (and fresh) early essaywriting is still up on Debito.org (the website, not this blog section, which will incidentally also be celebrating its 15th birthday on June 17th), including “Issues of Education for Young Families“, “Debunking Myths about Japan,” “Cultural Quirks and Esoterica“, “Dai-san Sector and corruption in my little town“, “Driving in Japan“, “Japan Cycletreks“, and even funny essays (yes, humor from Debito!).
Things have changed for better and for worse, and I’d like to think Debito.org had a hand in promoting the “for better”. We’ve broken major international news stories, including the Otaru Onsens Case, Trade Barriers and the Dr. Tanii Suicide, the embedded racism of the 1995 Kobe Earthquake, Ninkisei Academic Apartheid in Japan’s Universities, Japan’s Racial Discrimination covered by the United Nations, Ministry of Justice foreigner “Snitch Sites“, discrimination at Japan World Cup 2002, racist “foreign DNA” crime research at the National Police Agency, “Tama-chan” sealion and the Juuminhyou, and more listed at our “Activists’ Page“. Debito.org’s archives have also been a launching pad for books, hundreds of newspaper articles and columns, and cited research papers. Thanks in part to Debito.org (as opposed to all the other information in the academic canon dismissing Japan’s racial discrimination as “ethnic discrimination”, “foreigner discrimination”, and “cultural misunderstandings”), Japan is no longer claiming with a straight face that racism doesn’t exist. Some are even coming to the conclusion that we need actual laws against racial discrimination (now more than 25 years after signing UN international treaty promising to eliminate it).
In fact, look at this Asahi Shinbun article, dated April 11, 2021, courtesy of KM:
Quick, rough translation by Debito (amendments welcome from Debito.org Readers):
THE LACK OF A COMPREHENSIVE LAW FORBIDDING DISCRIMINATION
Asahi Shinbun, April 11, 2021
The UN, recognizing that ignoring human rights leads to the barbarity of war, issued proclamations guaranteeing human rights and the elimination of discrimination in its UN Charter (1945) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Other agreements, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969) Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and Children (1981) also demands that signatories pass laws forbidding discrimination.
Japan has also looked back on its wartime past, and established in the Japanese Constitution that basic human rights are inviolable rights, and all Japanese people (kokumin) are equal before the law and should not suffer discrimination. However, despite specific definitions about discrimination outlined in various UN treaties, Japan still has not made a law with comprehensive definitions against discrimination.
Instead, Japan has put into effect full-scale laws against discrimination against the forceful assimilation of minorities and worked towards the improvement for conditions of Burakumin enclaves. It has also worked towards the education and enlightenment of the public in order to resolve psychological abuse.
Under the Abe Administration, instead of addressing all forms of discrimination, it took a case-by-case approach with the Law to Eliminate Discrimination against the Handicapped (2013), and laws against hate speech and Burakumin discrimination in 2016.
However, the three laws above do not include penalties for carrying out discrimination, stopping at the idealistic “this cannot be done” and “it will not be permitted”. This is due to exceptions being made under guarantees of freedom of speech in the Constitution, given a background of reservations expressed by constitutional experts about “arbitrary restrictions by government regarding speech and expression in places like public demonstrations.”
Editorial Department, Kitano Shouichi
COMMENT: I would argue that this dialog in a major newspaper, acknowledging the need for a “comprehensive law” against discrimination with penalties, would not have been possible in the 1990s before Debito.org. We constantly pointed out that racial discrimination was happening to Visible Minorities in Japan, and a landmark court case (the above mentioned Otaru Onsens Lawsuit) firmed up judicial precedent that racial discrimination (jinshu sabetsu), as rendered, would appear in court documents as an incontrovertible fact of the case. Granted, no mention was made of Non-Japanese and Visible Minorities in Kitano’s essay. But the word “comprehensive” (houkatsuteki) would arguably include that.
That’s where the work of Debito.org lies for the next 25 years — getting a law against racial discrimination, with penalties, on the books. I hope you will join us in keeping the record alive and updated as we keep pushing for a Japanese society more tolerant and accepting of diversity. Japan’s inevitable multiethnic future depends on it.
Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
PS. Debito.org Readers, would you put something in the Comments Section about how Debito.org has been of use to you? Thanks!
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