In light of recent discussions concerning the latest McDonald`s Japan mascot, as well as an upcoming movie about a multicultural marriage, it is time I finally sit down and share my thoughts about racism and equality in Japan. I have avoided writing on this subject matter for a long time due to the attitude taken by many on the web towards anyone who brings up racial equality in Japan. It seems that when the above mentioned subject matter is brought up it is met with a boat load of loathing. It seems that racial equality in Japan is a subject which is delegated to jaded foreigners with a beef against the Japanese. Although simply venting a beef may be true in some cases, I believe that there is something deeper going on.
For the most part, it appears that bias towards non-Japanese is a well ingrained part of Japanese culture. I can see this more clearly than others due to my own unique cultural background. I grew up around a fair amount of racial bias. A vain of racism still runs though the culture in Southern American states. Although, racism is not nearly as overt as it has been in years past; it is something southern people struggle to come to terms with to this day. Yet unlike the Japanese, southern people at least try to overcome our short comings concerning racial understanding.
The latest up roar concerning McDonald`s Japan newest mascot `Mr. James` shows me that, for the large part, Japanese people are more than willing to accept racial stereotypes. I think it makes them feel comfortable as a society. The overt racial bias is a way for them to cope with being a unique homogeneous society. It seems to strike them in their own minds that, `We are all the same and everyone else is so different because we are somehow special and therefore on a higher level.` While the above mentioned thinking may seem to be unique to Japan, it is in fact common among other societies as well.
I refer again to my own experiences growing up in the American South. For the majority of the American South`s history it was homogeneous. The people of the south developed their own unique culture and dialect. They also have experienced geological isolation; in a similar way as the Japanese. It was commonly believed in the south, in much less degree today as compared to the past, that anyone not from the south was somehow too different to understand them. As you can see, cultures which are mostly homogeneous in nature and geologically isolated are more prone to develop strong racial bias. While these factors offer an explanation to the overt racial bias in Japan; it does not offer a solution to the problem.
The American South was so-called `opened up` by means of a social and political movement from all elements of it`s culture. The two main winds of change were the civil rights and New South movements. It took a lot of time and effort, yet today the American South stands as a testament to progress in the area of racial equality. While there are still problems, the south has largely been reformed.
Focusing back on Japan, it is clear that such social and political change has yet to get kick started. It seems as if Japan has never had a true civil rights movement. While there have been movements which led to women being able to live a mostly independent lifestyle, certain social groups gaining the ability to be upwardly mobile, and sexual liberation; Japan still lacks any anti-discrimination laws. It seems that gaijin(outside country person) have been kept in a iron clad box throughout Japan`s long and grand history.
Will Japan ever make a serious effort to become a more rascally equal society? It would take not only a major up raising of minorities but also mass support from Japanese people themselves. A dual effort by both factions of society will be ever bring about serious changes in race attitudes in Japan. Until then, Japan will always have `Mr. James` types characters and films expressing just now `odd` a gaijin husband is.