My SNA col 48: “Visible Minorities: Citizenship and Authoritarian Racism”, on how conservative movements worldwide are using racist “real citizens” tropes to reserve power for themselves and create minoritarian governments (Aug 22, 2023)


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Visible Minorities: Citizenship and Authoritarian Racism
Shingetsu News Agency, August 21, 2023 by DEBITO ARUDOU in COLUMN

Subtitle: Authoritarians are once again trying to racialize citizenship. In Asia, that’s quite normal. The problem is that conservative movements worldwide are similarly trying to shore up their dwindling popularity by undemocratically disenfranchising the very immigrants they had once invited over.

SNA (Tokyo) — News Item: On August 1, 2023, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, former prime minister of Malaysia, tweeted his thoughts on multiracial immigration: “It is normal for migrants wishing to become citizens of any country to identify themselves linguistically and culturally with the definitive people of their adopted country. They would break off and reject their links with their countries of origin. Certainly, the children and grandchildren of the new citizens would have forgotten their previous languages and culture.”

This tweet from a world opinion leader isn’t just wrong-headed, it’s dangerous.

Not only is it trying to disenfranchise entire peoples through racialized attitudes towards citizenship, it’s actually threatening democracy itself.

Can’t see it? You’re not alone. The lack of public outcry is part of the problem. I put this down to a world largely untrained in civics. Racialized attitudes towards immigration and citizenship are normal in Asia, and conservatives worldwide are trying to popularize them in their own societies too. Citizenship is the gateway to political enfranchisement in society, and messing with it means reviving old racist policies all over again.

Let me explain from the perspective of a political scientist.

First, it’s surprisingly difficult to get people to see Dr. Mahathir’s tweet for what it is: racist hate speech.

It would be nice if people could see the long-term implications of this proposal without a long, elaborate explanation. But many people dismiss political science as a science at all, one that develops a skill set and a trained eye. Instead, they throw up their hands and see any political opinion as fair dinkum, or too complicated to deal with due to freedom of speech. That blinds them to the fact that Dr. Mahathir is floating a policy trial balloon to willfully exclude people.

Consider the practical application of this proposal: newcomer residents (and their Visible Minority children) must prove their loyalty to a country by giving up the multicultural and multiethnic sides of themselves.

This isn’t just a dick move by some politician taking political pot shots by saying, “You come here, you speak our language.” When Dr. Mahathir demands people become “full Malay” (with arbitrary goalposts determined, naturally, by Malays), that’s a pretty convenient way to keep all the power in the family.

Then we get to the historical revisionism…

Rest of the article at

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2 comments on “My SNA col 48: “Visible Minorities: Citizenship and Authoritarian Racism”, on how conservative movements worldwide are using racist “real citizens” tropes to reserve power for themselves and create minoritarian governments (Aug 22, 2023)

  • Related tangent, ostensibly about Woodford and Ghosn but good point and quote “A perfectly admissible intellectual case could be made that what follows are not examples of “racism in corporate Japan,” but rather stark differences between Japanese and international business cultures. However, since the contemporary Japanese national identity itself conflates “race” with cultural practices and characteristics to such an extreme degree, this may be a distinction without any practical difference.”

    In other words, Japan is racist by their own definition and admission. I.e. “Race” = Cultural differences”

    They have brought any comeback upon themselves. Karma chickens coming home to roost just like how the UK won’t extradite to Japan due to human rights concerns. Yep, G7 Japan is equated with China etc.

    So that makes Mr Shut Up at the UN doubly laughable, as according to him Japan is “One of the most advanced country in this (human rights) field” (maybe he meant HR).

    Ah, this never gets old. Japan as Joke. It certainly still leads the entertainment field in comedic, humorous absurdity. Guess that explains all the jokey J pop and TV. Guess its not to be taken seriously.

  • The real citizen trope also dovetails with Ishihara and his ilk othering anyone who doesn’t agree with them, or who isn’t a Nanjing denier etc, as “Non Japanese” – “angrily stating Coleman was ‘Just a foreigner, it does not matter’. Then, on continued questioning by investigative journalist Hajime Yokota, he stated ‘Minamiyama is a Devil’s Mountain that eats children.’ Then he went on to explain how unmanaged forests ‘eat children’ and implied that Yokota, a Japanese national, was betraying his nation by saying ‘What nationality are you anyway?’ This was recorded on film[57] and turned into a video that was sent around the world as the Save Minamiyama Movement (Minamiyama, Ning 2011)”

    Note that Ishihara Co author a book with that ex Malaysian PM, entitled “No”.

    So one is also required to buy into or at least acquiesce to a lot of reactionary myths to even be considered a “good gaijin” as opposed to “yappari gaijin da ne” as witnessed by Clark and Keene’s J-apologism.


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