Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The (Extrajudicial) Assassin

That's a good nickname for a guy who supposedly has a good jumpshot. His Republican gym buddies use the moniker grudgingly, his Democrat pals proudly. Hmmm. But let's not forget he loves the gays -- or rather realized they're not so bad after decades of soul searching and/or fundraising -- except maybe when he's murdering them in their sleep. Paragon of fucking virtue, this guy.

friendly racism is still racism and the madonna is just as othered as the whore

Excellent article on Japanese racism by Arudou Debito here

The term used in Japan to refer to dominant culture members is nihonjin (日本人), or Japanese person. This is a racial term. If two "white" Americans move to Japan, become fluent, and have kids, neither they nor their kids will be considered Japanese. This is not disputed. Ask any nihonjin. These "white" kids will regularly be spoken to in English, often even after demonstrating Japanese language competence. Alternatively, their language skills will be complemented with the unstated microagressive message "pretty good...for a white person." The kids of my own loins, for real, are considered "half" (I'm northern European-looking, wife is Japanese in recent lineage), in spite of being born and acculturated in Japan. 

Group habits and tendencies, such as caring about blood type, using chopsticks and commenting on how cute everything is, acquired due to unique Japanese circumstances, such as Japan's recent feudal history and rapid industrialization, its particular brand of top-down Prussian-style education, its physical environment, etc. are granted essential status, considered to be products of Japanese genes, whether or not the racial component is explicitly stated. Japanese media is filled with statements of the form "nihonjins are like X, gaijins (外人 -- foreigners, outsiders, barbarians) are like Y." Yesterday, I learned from the TV that nihonjins are fond of the chord progression "Am G F C." It goes without saying that gaijins who like that progression are not Japanese to that extent, they're simply gaijins who like something nihonjins like.    

If those of us considered gaijin call ourselves non-Japanese (NJ), as Debito has suggested as a substitute for gaijin, we're accepting the racist terminology of the dominant culture and saying "we're not genetically Japanese and we accept that this is a relevant paradigm." But let me tell you, there is no such thing as "genetically Japanese." There is no goddamn Japanese race. (See here or a somewhat simpler version here.) And as long as we use the term "nihonjin" without qualification we're accepting its racial message. You cannot separate race from nihonjin. "Non-Japanese" means "not members of the Japanese race."

The genetic differences between the wife and I amount to phenotypes and fuckall. The actual difference between us, as a "Japanese" and an "American," is that she grew up in Japan and I grew up in the U.S. Instead of dividing the long-term residents of Japan into Japanese and non-Japanese, then, I'd suggest calling them Acculturated In Japan (AIJ) and Acculturated in (wherever). (There's an argument to be made that even this concedes too much, that where and how we were acculturated is also irrelevant, since any judgments based thereon will be matters of pigeon-holing.)

Now to call myself Acculturated Outside of Japan (AOJ) makes some sense in the fake, social construct world of Japanese culture but accepts the Japanese view that there are two types of people in the world, Japanese and everyone else. On this view, I have more in common with a person acculturated in and living in Peru than with my neighbors, even though I share a wide set of daily experiences with the latter, such as going to Lawson's, eating okonomiyaki, communicating in Japanese, etc., while I share far less culturally with the former.

But I share with any Peruvian living in Japan for some time the experience of being considered an outsider in Japan. An apt label for us "gaijin" might be: "considered impure by race for having been acculturated in a place other than the Japanese archipelago, whose inhabitants, having been acculturated rather uniformly to wrongly consider themselves as belonging to a race, maintain their dominant culture status in part by way of this myth and therefore are inclined to perpetuate it until otherwise deterred." This needs an acronym. So within the false narrative the Peruvian and I are a unity, and because this is a dominant culture narrative, the unity is a reality. We really are outsiders because we are considered as such.