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Stereotypes about African-Americans in Japan

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I have read the blog of an African-American woman who are staying in Japan as a Fulbright student. Sista in Sendai is her blog. Her writings are very interesting. In her posts, "Stereotypes and Speaking Out" and "Stereotypes and Speaking Out II" she talks about the image of African-American held by Japanese people, which made me rethink our prejudice against African-Americans prevalent on Japanese TV and in ordinary people's consciousness.

I presume one of the shocking things to African-Americans who visit Japan would be that Japanese attitudes to African-Americans are clearly different from those to Caucasian-Americans. I remember that when I was a high school student I saw my friends around me imitate a monkey and laugh a Japanese athlete with African-American ancestry. Of course this is 30 years ago, and now there are lots of Japanese young guys who genuinely respect African-American hip hop stars, hence, this might be a once-upon-a-time story. But I suspect that there still remains a heavy consciousness of discrimination among ordinary Japanese. And I really hate this kind of discriminatory mind among Japanese people.

The administrator of Sista in Sendai shows us some stereotypes about African-Americans held by Japanese. Reading her posts I remember my own stereotype about African-Americans. When I visited Wesleyan University, Connecticutt, I was very surprised to see a young African-American male college student who was very poor at playing basketball. At that time, I realized for the first time that I falsely believed that every African-American boy plays basketball very well just as professional basketball players do.

In Sista in Sendai she talks about Bob Sapp and Bobby Ologun. Her comment is interesting. I think many Japanese might have been doing similar things in the US or other countries as professinal wrestlers and movie actors&actresses. But of course I understand the seriousness of this kind of issue concerning race and ethnicity. (Do you know the issue of Chibikuro Sanbo in Japan?)

Photo: My office, Osaka Prefecture University

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Comments

hy masahiro, stereo types I think are always dangerous, what startes in fun ends in seriuos troubles. but I think indirectly you said sth. else too, That afro americans are still not well integerated in the US society, that´s maybe a reason why we still have a wrong image of them. I was once for three weeks in USA, and met a black guy, with whom I became friend, I think that helped me a lot to get rid of the all blacks are gangsters or poor image. but you are right in our modern times we do not need prejudices, hope your well, have you contacted the blog writer, she may be delighted, ok, have fun, arash

when I was in Japan, I found a notable difference in attitude toward me as many Japanese expected me to be tall, blond and blue eyed. As I was short, dark haired and Japanese speaking, people were convinced I was from some south american country...so there's layers within stereotyping...at the end of the day, misunderstanding and prejudice stems from ignorance. The higher up the food chain this ignorance appears in a society, the longer it will take to make some positive change I suppose.

Thanks urban monk. There might be layers among stereotyped peoples. But is it really "layers"? This is an interesting question, isn't it? I suppse this might consist of a complicated mesh of layers. It's hard to say in a word.

Indeed, I am delighted to find that someone actually takes the time to read my written thoughts.

As for stereotypes, living in Japan at times I feel as if it's a constant battle to combat such stereotypes and bad images. Sadly, the problem extends around the world. I actually consider Japan to be an extremely mild country compared to others.

(Sigh)... Again, thanks for stopping by!

--Takara

Hi, takara. Thanks for visiting here. Your blog posts are really fascinating. It might be important to know when, where, and how Japanese people acquire their images of African Americans. I hope you will keep writing your thoughts on you blog!

Im writing to ask about how are African Americans recieved in Japan? I know that being friendly is one thing, but what would happen if a relationship where to surpass that? Would it then be considered a dishonor? I wonder about these things being African American myself.

Hi, OtakuRed. Hmmm, I am not really sure about that because I don't have any African American friends around me. However, it would be true that Japanese people usually are not accustomed to communicating with African Americans. It would be hard for them to imagine "ordinary" African Americans other than musicians, athletes, dancers, and movie stars.

Thank you for adressing that. I'm aware that a majority of the views of African Americans are generalized by their protrayals on American television. I just wish that better protrayals were presented. If a American American person were to visit Asia would that person be widely recieved?

i have faced alott of racism in my life so far , while it is true that people may look to me as a trouble maker who plays basket ball really i feel i am obligated to show them with my actions that they are wrong i love the world becasue it is filled with so many customs and different people i love it enought to know that stereotypes will always be here and no matter what we do and say as african americans people will always think those things about us , it's like that for everyone whats matter's most is how you react to those things in your day by day life !

Blacks are hated in Japan. I am Black I have been to Japan. It is a very safe place, they won't kill you (which is why after all this, I still want to live there). However, you will not be able to find a spuse, friends, and everyone will hate you. All races are welcomed with open arms (and legs) in Japan except for Blacks. FACT.

I was listing to a video clip on youtube regarding an African-American association in Japan. I thought Japan was open with opportunity. I am a black woman and lived in Korea. They are a little bit more friendly toward Blacks. Especially if you can speak their language.

Hey all. I am reading this blog and interestingly enough, I'm currently in Japan. Okinawa to be exact. As an African American woman learning Japanese and about the Japanese culture, I can tell you right now that unfortunately, Blacks are seen as an oddity. I walk around and every person in every car is staring at me. I went to a fast food restaurant just outside of Kadena AFB and a woman sitting at the table behind me refused to leave until I'd left. To be honest, the reactions that I recieve here are pretty darn close to the ones I recieve in the States. It's just that in Japan, they have no problem letting you know what they think. Despite that, I still would love to live here.

I'm african american and I've got a question to anybody who can answer,

Is the racism in japan as of today worse than the racism back then in the US?

Ive just gotten to Japan and have a video diary of my experiences on youtube if anyone would like to watch.

Diary Title:
Dear Life Living and working in Japan

Reading this article makes me have mixed feelings on the subject because I live in the countryside where black people are even less than rare so I have the unique opportunity to counteract some of the stereotypes they may have so I encourage more people to come to Japan and see for themselves.

Hello, Lafidesdu. Thanks for your posting. I have watched some of your youtubes, and found them interesting, especially your piece about cuteness in Japan was really stimulating.

Hello, first time posting here...
Thanks for the incite and viewpoint in your blog. I'm an african - american male that's been fascinated with Japan and its culture since a youth. Personally, I believe that the depiction of african - americans through whatever means of exposure, is the cause of such misconceptions. In order to overcome the misconception, you must filter through the image fed to the public. Unfortunately, we are still in a social melting pot geared towards conformity, instead of individuality (though this is ever changing and personally, I think the winds are changing towards the latter)... many people view african americans as that image. I struggle daily, attempting to demonstrate an honest image of a 'human being'. Nothing more or less. Once you realize that the daily trials and tribulations, needs and wants, loves and fears of all ethnicity are universal... you'll come to see past the stereotypes, and abolish them. As an african american, I wouldn't be able to ask for an unbias opinion of my character if the character I portray runs parallel to such. With that said, those changes must first be made within, before they can occur outside of.

I'm 15 years old, and I'm in love with Japanese Culture. It fasinates me. In the near future, I'd like to visit Japan, but it really scares me that I might not be accepted because of my race. I have always looked at Japanese people as accepting, but now I'm not too sure of what to expect. I know that anywhere you go, there will be racism and sterotyping, but my fear is that I might be completely treated as another species. What do you all think?

Teasha
I feel the same way as u right now after reading all these people's comments on the matter. Im also 15 years old and an african american male. I like Japan's culture and scenery from pictures on google, and I want to go to Japan one day and will. But reading all these comments made me want to got to Japan even more to prove these crazy people what a real african american male is. I think the Japanese are crazy but I love them for it. If Jesus can be spit on for loving then ill be spit on and discriminated too when i go to Japan. Im not Jesus or anything of the sort but i am a follower :).

As an African American living in Japan for 8 years now, I can tell you it's not as bad as it seems. come hear with an open mind an a willingness to fit in and all things are possible. Concerning the previous posters comments about the women; give me a break i've never had trouble getting a girl friend in any of the 21 countries that I have visited. Since I have been in Japan I have been employed by a major mutinational corporation, received 3 credit cards, a home loan, and now a business loan to start my company. please don't listen to only the negative life is what you make of it; easy or difficult period!

I'm new to this page so hi everyone.Um I'm a japanese minor and I love the japanese culture. After reading most of the comments on this page as an african american female all of your comments have just made me want to get on the next plane to japan. I believe that everyone hold certain stereotypes in reference to another race. Most of my family are not very open minded and think I'm weird for liking the japanaese culture. I'm a very light skinned african american so I've never experienced any racial hate or what not but my siblings are all dark and it hurts me to my heart to think what they go through. I may not look it but I know that I'm african american and I'm very proud to be. I'm a very open minded person and I'm not quick to call a person a racists some people are more ignorant than racist because they aren't exposed to the people who you think they're being racist towards. All I could really say is that it's not about what people call you and how thaey treat you (even though I know it hurts) it's all about how you react and what you answer to. It makes me so happy when I think of how some japanese people views on african americans will be changed when they meet me..........I'm smiling now as I write this. I just think that you should never be afraid to go anywhere in the world if it means changing your life or anyone else's life. I think that if you're a good person and you give yourself the chance to show this to others than you will be accepted no matter what your race XD

Rom, thank you for your comment, it really reinspired me! I'm 18, African American female, and a university freshman. This summer I may have the opportunity to study abroad in Japan for an entire year. I have been captivated by Asian (especially Japanese)culture since I was 14 and have always wanted to visit an asian country. Now that I have the chance, it occured to me that they may not be as enthusiastic about me as I am about them! The previous posts were fairly pessimistic, and without realizing it, I started to become reluctant to go to Japan- until I read your post. Now I'm definitely going, and I'll remember to keep myself open to new things and people. I really hope I have a good experience abroad!

I am 16 am black
am I am going to Japan
I read many good stuff about it,
is it better if you are a light skinned black person???and worse if your darker??? i know it's like that in many places

This will sound weird, but if you've ever watched anime or hentai... hardly any Africans / Blacks. The only one I remember was from Robotech, where one of the ship operations officers was a black lady. And she ended up dating (marrying?) a white guy who was a fighter pilot.

I'm not sure how well that correlates to Japanese views regarding Africans, but it just seems Africans are a hidden demographic they don't like to show much of. Not saying it's racist. There are not that many African-descent people in Japan, so obviously they would focus on the major cultures in their country. But I just found it interesting.

Courting a Japanese is usually thrilling but the truth is you need to have an understanding of the way of life before anything else.

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