A true to life drama of a Jamaican male, living and working in Japan since March 2008.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

My Experiences of Racism in Japan / More Earthquakes

Days 1404 - 1410
Sunday, January 22 - Saturday, January 28, 2012 

Another relatively boring week.

Day 1404 ( My Experiences of Racism in Japan )
Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stayed in all day and studied today.


So as far as I know, racism is everywhere. It's just stronger in  more places than others. And it is especially strong in the richer countries. If you have never experienced it, then it means that you probably never decided to step out of your comfort zone into a world where your race is not the dominant one. Or never been around people where you are the only representation of your race present. We can admit that racism has been around since bible days and possible before that.

Lets face the facts, all of us have even a small amount of racist attitude in us. Whether it is unconscious or conscious. And the less we are exposed to people of other races, the stronger our innate racist attitudes are. For example, if a black guy, lives in a predominantly black neighbourhood and is constantly surrounded by black friends. Then, whenever/if ever he sees a white or Asian person, chances are he will stare at them and almost instantly start to think up all kind of stuff. The same goes for whites and Asians as well if they see someone from another race they are probably going to do same. Stereotypes will always be around and it is impossible to get rid of them.

In countries like Jamaica and Brazil where there exists quite a bit of mixed races, there are few signs of racism. Present but very small. However, class prejudice is very strong. And as far as I know, everyone is quite tolerant of each other. In Jamaica, we hardly discuss about race and even though the country is probably more than 80% black people, there are many Chinese, Syrians, whites, Indians and other mixed races very much present. And we have names for pretty much everyone, which can be argued as racism actually. For example:

Indians are referred to as Coolie (which is a racist term for poor Asians actually http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coolie). But if you ask an average Jamaican if its racist they would probably say no and probably have no idea that it is or know the meaning behind the word.

Chinese and any Asian that even remotely resembles a Chinese is called Chiney, Ms./Mr. Chin and are thought of as mean in money sense. So if someone from say Japan, South Korea, Mongolia, The Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand or any country on the Asian content comes to Jamaica, they will be called Ms/Mr Chin. 100% no exception. Even if they sit with a Jamaican and explain that they are not from China, its best to save your breath because it won't help. I have told quite a few persons, quite a few times that I am not in China, I am in Japan. But alas, this won't make a difference. My Japanese friends who visit Jamaica always complain about being called Ms/Mr. Chin.

Anyway, if you have never ever experienced racism in any form or sort then feel lucky. Its not a good feeling. All the racist stuff that I have experienced here in Japan is stuck in my head. The experiences seem to pop back up in my head every now and again. Surprisingly one might think that I would experience racism from mostly Japanese people because of the simple fact that I live among them. This couldn't be furthest from the truth. Surprisingly or not so surprisingly I experience the most racism from white Americans. Some subtle, some not so subtle. I am going to  attempt to list out all the experiences that I would deem as racist from both the white Americans I mentioned earlier and from Japanese.

You be the judge and please tell me what you think.

Back in Country side Niimi, Okayama, Japan.

I must admit that one situation I probably caused on myself. One night I was walking with a white American girl from Minnesota and a half-white / half-Japanese girl and I made the mistake and said "I'm lucky I didn't wear black or else the drivers would only see my teeth and eyes". I noticed they couldn't stop laughing but what I did here was opened up about 7 cans' of worms it seem.

Situation 1 - (Enter Ms. Half and Ms. California)

I went to a restaurant and saw the same half girl and the same white American from Minesotta. Shortly after, another white girl from California came along. I don't remember what happened but miss half felt the need to use back the same "don't wear black in the night or else the cars will hit you" joke. To which Ms. Minesotta and California erupted in laughter, almost unstoppable. Then Ms. California proceeded to say "Aren't you angry? Aren't you going to buss a cap in her ass" ... I was a bit confused about what she was speaking about. As we say no such things in Jamaica. Then it hit me that this is basically how the black guys from California speak. Referring to shooting someone.

Situation 2 - (Enter Ms. Half again)

There was going to be a Halloween party. I was there with most of the foreigners again and I said "I wonder what kind of costume I should wear?" Then Ms. Half said, "Why don't you wear a white face?". Much to the amusement of everyone except me of course. I still don't get it actually.

Situation 3 - (Enter Ms. California again)

I had a birthday party back in 2008 and I invited all foreigners. We had a pretty good time actually. Two of my Jamaican friends came along as well. After we all ate at a restaurant, we did karaoke. Then one of the white Americans decided to sing a song and the confederation flag was being displayed on the screen. Ms. Cali proceeded to say "Hey Dave you see that flag". Bringing my attention to the flag. Which by the way has nothing to do with Jamaica as far as I know. Why did she feel the need to bring my attention to this flag???

Situation 4 - (Enter quite a few white Americans)

A few of us were speaking when all of a sudden some of the persons decided on a strange topic. "Whose family and friends don't like black people". A girl from New York said somethings about how some of her friends dislike black people, followed by Ms. Cali saying the same thing, followed by a guy from Indiana (actually he was cool generally), but he contributed to the topic mentioning how racist some of his friends/relatives / family members were. He then said I am allowed to say all the bad things I want to say about white people and call them cracker if I wanted to. Why in the world would I do this? As far as I know, we in Jamaica don't call white people crackers.

Situation 5 - ( Enter Mr. B from Oregon I believe )

This situation to date had the strongest negative impact on me in Japan. After reading it, you will probably be wondering if I am stupid or something. And it was like this. Five of us were playing a game known as Catan, back when I just got here in 2008. 2 white guys from the US (Mr. Indiana and Mr. B), 1 half white/half Filipino guy also from Arizona in the US, a Japanese/Canadian (whose apartment we were playing at) and myself. Mr. B who is obviously skilled in the game, was giving advice to everyone. Sometimes they would take his advice, sometimes they wouldn't. Most times they did actually. But when they didn't, it was no big deal.

At one point he decided to advise me to do something. I didn't take his advice. Then this dude got pissed and went off ranting. "You are stupid", "are all the people in your country this stupid" , "I am telling you what to do and you decide to do foolishness", "You are really just a stupid guy, maybe like the people in your country". To which all the other guys held down their heads and totally ignored it. The Japanese/Canadian shook his head in disbelief. Maybe even if you asked them now, they probably won't remember. But I will never forget it. I never had someone speak to me like this in my entire life. So I was in shock and had no clue how to reply to him. Not one word came out of my mouth. I simply totally ignored his ranting. But it has been stuck in my head ever since. Those were probably not the exact words he said but it is pretty close to that. Most people in this situation would argue back with the guy or worst case hit him. I simply ignored him. I had no clue what to say.

Situation 6 - (Enter Mr. B again)

I was walking with Mr. B and 2 other guys from England who just came to Japan. So the topic about Gaijin (Japanese for foreigner/outsider) came up. The English guys were wondering if Gaijin was such a bad word. Mr. B said he doesn't want to be called a Gaijin because Gaijin is the same as calling a black person a Nigger. The 2 English guys went silent. I told him that I disagreed with that notion. I know he said this just because I was there and he no doubt wanted to see my response.

Situation 7 - ( Enter Mr. B yet again) (Can you tell something is up with this guy???)

I was told by at least 2 persons that this guy is going around spreading negative propaganda about me. I heard he told a principal that I am a chaser of girls (which maybe true). But is seen in a negative light in Japan, especially in a small town. He told another girl who just came to Japan the same thing. And probably has been spreading negative stuff about me all over the small town. Why?

Situation 8 - ( Enter Mr. E from California)

I went to a local bar and Mr. E was sitting down talking to a mutual Japanese friend. Mr. E proceeded to say "Hey Dave, I recognized it was you because I recognize black people very easily". Jeez wow.. um ... I can recognize white people too ?

Situation 9 - (A random Japanese guy)

I went on a train and I sat in an empty seat that was in front of a Japanese guy. Only to see this guy get up from the seat and sat on the opposite side of the train while giving me a killer stare.

Those were the situations I can remember in Niimi, Okayama.

In Yokohama

Situation 1 - ( Enter Ms. North Carolina and Mr. Michigan )

At our company training session, initially there were about 7 black persons in the training. Then when it came down to primary/elementary level training, I was the only black person. There were some Asians in the training group but of course the vast majority were white American. "Oh no, This is a bad place for a lone black foreigner to be", I thought to myself. Any way, a topic came up about  being a foreigner in Japan. A girl from North Carolina proceeded to say "Foreigner in Japan simply means that you are white" or something to that effect. Everyone present  gasped and she then added something to the effect of "yeah you are all white too". Addressing the Asians that were present. I kept silent. I simply do not know how to address these race things. Later on Mr. Michigan asked me twice, eagerly waiting for an answer with a smirk on his face, "So what do you have to say about Ms. North Carolina's comment Dave " I ignored him twice and went along my way. Why is he so interested in what I have to say?

Situation 2 - (Enter Mr. Michigan again)

I decided to go eat pizza with a Canadian guy, a girl from Singapore, and 3 white American males (including Mr. Michigan). Silly me I don't learn right??. I arrived late and they were almost done eating. To which Mr. Michigan proceeded "You can have some of the left overs Dave". I told him that I would buy my own it's no problem.

Then the whole being white in Japan argument came up. So Mr. Michigan said to Ms. Singapore, "You are white too", to which she said, "I actually wish I was". I knew it was only a matter of time before he made some smart comment about me. He then said "Even you are white Dave". I said "No I'm not!!" To which he said "So why didn't you say that to Ms. North Carolina in the training session?" To which I admitted that I tend to avoid the whole racial argument especially when I am in the minority. Because it is less than likely that my opinion will have any weight.

Situation 3 - ( Random Japanese old Lady)

I sat in the train beside an old lady. And after she shifted over a bit from me, she got up from beside me and moved over to the other side of the train, giving me a killer stare similar to the guy back in Niimi.


These are all the situations I can recall. I am in no way trying to bash white Americans but this has been my experience in Japan. I went to Virginia and stayed among quite a few white Americans and got no strange treatment from them. I'm wondering if it's because they were Christians. Could might as well be.

I welcome your comments on my situations...



Day 1405 ( Nintendo Making Big Losses )
Monday, January 23, 2012

Had bible study via skype with some friends back in Niimi, Okayama.

Nintendo losses could triple as 3DS sales sink

Nintendo Co. has more than tripled its full-year loss forecast as the success of Apple Inc.'s popular devices has eroded demand for the company's 3DS handheld player.

The net loss in the year ending in March could come to ¥65 billion, compared with an earlier forecast of a ¥20 billion loss, the world's largest maker of video game machines said in a statement Friday. The forecast was far worse than the average loss of ¥29 billion projected by 18 analysts tracked by Bloomberg.
President Satoru Iwata, who cut 3DS prices by as much as 40 percent last year, said he expects full-year sales of 14 million units for the device that shows images in 3-D, down from an earlier forecast of 16 million. The creator of "Super Mario Bros." games is predicting its first annual loss in at least three decades because of the surging yen and a consumer preference for gaming on the iPhone and iPad that helped Apple more than double profit in the quarter.
"The company faces a structural problem . . . people are opting for their smartphones and tablet PCs to kill their time," said Mitsushige Akino, who oversees about $600 million at Ichiyoshi Investment Management Co. in Tokyo. "I can't see Nintendo's next strategy. There will probably be a discussion about how much worse it can get."




Day 1406 ( Student Cancel / New Student )
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My evening student suddenly cancelled today, saying that he wasn't mentally ready for a class. But a teacher from one of my schools want to learn English, so I gave her a practice lesson today. We should have agreed on a time but we didn't. So we ended up doing self introduction for about 2 hours 30 mins. She loves to talk (mostly Japanese) and she loves to take pictures, of which she has quite a few. She does deep sea diving as an extra-curricular activity. And today for her first meeting, she wanted to show me ALL her photos.



Day 1407 (My Worst Class)
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I teach at 3 schools in Yokohama. In a very general sense, I have a good relationship with all the teachers at all the schools. But I do have a particular preference for the school that I went to today. The name is Kanazawa elementary school. I prefer this school for the following reasons:

1) The vice principal is really nice and she speaks some amount of English and tend to give everybody small gifts every now and again. Plus she likes to travel so we have some things in common.

2) Sometimes (like today) I have only 4 classes and I can simply leave after I have lunch. My main school started doing this just recently but more often than not, I have 6 classes that make me tired at the end of the day.

3) I have 85% control over planning my lessons. At my main school I have like only 10% control. At my other school I have 100% control but what that mean is that the teachers don't say a word to me.

Anyway the irony of the situation is that my worst class is at my best school. There is this one grade five class where about 7 children tend to not pay any attention and disturb the class constantly. And it seem as if the teacher is sometimes around the back of the class laughing and playing with them as well. Today that teacher was absent and the English coordinator who is a much stricter teacher sat in for her. It was probably the best lesson I had with this class in almost a year.



Day 1408 ( Missed a Day at Work )
Thursday, January 26, 2012

Today would have been another one of those company meetings that we should attend after a tired day of work. I really didn't want to go to that meeting today so I called in sick and missed both work and the meeting. The good thing with this branch that I work for is that I get 11 paid days for the year. Essentially one per month. In the country side it was a whopping 5 paid days per year.

Every time I take a day from work I feel bad after I wake up because staying home is sort of boring. All I did today was play games, sit around and pretty soon the day was just wasted with me going to bed the usual between 1:00 and 1:30 am in the morning.



Day 1409
Friday, January 27, 2012

After work I simply sat at home playing games and sitting on the internet as I usually do.



Day 1410
Saturday, January 28, 2012

A very close friend of mine visited me in the morning. We felt 2 relatively big earthquakes in the space of like 5 minutes. One had a 4.8 magnitude, the other a 5.1.  The epicenter was in adjoining prefecture and on land.



zRö TöLéRàNçE said...

Dave - what influenced you to write about Racism this week? Seems like something burn your skin man.

Racism is always a bad topic - especially when your the minority being attacked in a group setting. I'm sad that you didn't thump Mr. B but it's a good thing. He would probably reiterate the violent nature of blacks.

It's funny what knowledge arms you with. Knowing that Europeans (white) are the biggest theives of all time....anyway...better me stop cause it won't help.

Ignoring works for you...even though it must hurt.

dwayne2d3d said...

hey Dave, this is Dwayne
here's my view on the racist thing.
Racism is universal as you said. I read an interesting book about racism and how it manifest itself.

Eg. in America is black/white in Canada it's french/english in Ireland it's catholic/protestant and so on and so on. Even in a place where people are all the same color or ethnicity it then goes to fat/skinny or shade of skin from light/dark.

As to what you experience, it's a mix bag. Some of your experience seem to be the people you were with thought you might be more comfortable with their comment, others were just socially insensitive, others were mean spirited, and still some were outright racist.

just take it in strides, i dealt with my fare share, but i hold no malice cause i think blacks can be just as racist. Deal with it as best as you can. For genuine friends educate them, for the mean ones distant and disassociate yourself with them.....

Racism will never go away, because once it does we will find another issue to use to divide us. When people can pear themselves in groups it help them have things in common and unify them in a weird twisted way.

davay colly said...

Thanks for your comments Richard and Dwayne.

@Richard you know already I have absolutely little or no violent tendency. I will defend myself though if attacked.

@Dwayne I agree with you. As I did say, "we are all racist" some way or another. Its just that experiencing it is tough.

Aniqa16 said...

I have experienced racism here in Japan too, Dave. I don't let it bother me. As long as they are not physical, I'm good. I've never had people come right out with such extreme comments about my colour but then again I don't socialize as much you do.
Just continue to hold your head up and hold your tongue and pray fo' them in your heart; they don't know better.
"Devil always find work fi idle hands".
"Empty barrels make the most noise".
You're a Jamaican and people aren't gonna like that (unless you're Usain Bolt, of course). When people see good things (people) they always try to fight it (them) down same.
Sort out u ting yah mi bredda; God go wid u! Ganbatte!!

davay colly said...

@Aniqa thanks for the shout and yeah ganbarimasu yo

zRö TöLéRàNçE said...

A 50-something year old white woman arrived at her seat and saw that the passenger next to her was a black man.

Visibly furious, she called the air hostess.

"What's the problem, ma?" the hostess asked her

"Can't you see?" the lady said - "I was given a seat next to a black man. I can't seat here next to him. You have to change my seat"

- "Please, calm down, ma" - said the hostess
"Unfortunately, all the seats are occupied, but I'm still going to check if we have any."

The hostess left and returned some minutes later.

"Madam, as I told you, there isn't any empty seat in this class- economy class.
But I spoke to the captain and he confirmed that there isn't any empty seats in the economy class. We only have seats in the first class."

And before the woman said anything, the hostess continued

"Look, it is unusual for our company to allow a passenger from the economy class change to the first class.
However, given the circumstances, the commandant thinks that it would be a scandal to make a passenger travel sat next to an unpleasant person."

And turning to the black man, the hostess said:

"Which means, Sir, if you would be so nice to pack your handbag, we have reserved you a seat in the first class..."

And all the passengers nearby, who were shocked to see the scene started applauding, some standing on their feet."

Meredith said...

Actually there is a LOT of racism in Brazil and it is pretty darn evident. I believe that it is different than racism in the US in that it is more closely related to social class.

davay colly said...

@Richard surprisingly when I was coming from the Philippines, a white guy from England decided to tell me about that exact joke/situation.

Thanks for stopping by Meredith. I knew there was some sort of social form of racism in Brazil. It is somewhat similar to that of Jamaica I believe.

Meredith said...

My husband is a dark skinned Brazilian and I think that he experienced less racism in the US then he did in Brazil (he grew up poor). I don't know about his experiences in Brasilia, but we live a middle class lifestyle and live in a good neighborhood so it's probably less than when he was a kid.

I'm sorry to read about the racism you have faced in Japan. I'm not surprised (unfortunately) based on what I've heard about being a person of color in Asia. A colleague of mine has talked about his experiences being Pakistani in China and now Indonesia. He has been told that the school (he's a teacher) didn't want to hire him because he's not white, even though he is an American born teacher.

Stewy said...

I have a question specifically regarding to your experience with the Japanese people. Do you think its truly racism you are experiencing or is it xenophobia?

I know it can be interpreted either way and you will probably never know unless you interview the person. But in your experience (especially in Niimi) does it seem like most of the people were scared of you at first and then warmed up to you. Or do people just look at you and straight up hate you for your skin colour.

Bjorn J Burrows said...

This is very interesting. I have not yet experienced anything like this before in my travels or experience. However, cheers to you because I dont think I would have been so cordial.

davay colly said...

Yeah BJ its the shock more than anything else actually. I'm thinking that things like this doesn't exist but when it hit me, I was so shocked that it happened, that I had no response.

I simply can't find myself doing the tit for tat thing if someone does these things.

Dann said...

Hey Dave; Danneille here...In relation to your events I just want to encourage you that experience teaches. Do not be discouraged, you will be made a better person just because of these situations especially since your response is not one of out-right violence...but of sheer Christlikeness...(yea I know you said there was a bit of shock). But you still remained calm after repeated occurences from the same person...that must be the Christ in you. Off the top of my head( without thinking) I 'd honestly probly say something like this..."Just keep ignoring that annoying "guy"(really not saying "guy" in my mind) who seems to just want to hear his own voice because it's simply not worth it."...But you see it's easier to stay from the outside and comment...Being in the situation is soooo much more different. I don't really recall ever experiencing out-right racism but I believe like you, if something like that were to happen to me, I'd react the very same way. I just don't know if I'd be willing to be in the same space with "repeat offenders" again and again...But guess what again you have demonstrated something Christ would do. In life, we cannot help how people will respond to us and worse how they behave. But I would say, you should "smile at the storm" my brother. Treat them (persons who appear to be the propogaters of racism) with love...cause they need it....(it may be hard) but it'll just pain them to know that you maintain respect despite their antics...and they'll probly learn from you eventually....There's nothing greater than love I guess...and hopefully they'll realise sooner than later that 1. We are all human...aka mortal.2. We will all die....3. It won't matter if you were black white yellow or red to the Almighty...because IT DOES NOT MATTER....so since it doesn't matter to God, we( Christians) ought not to major in the minor.

Blessings Dave

Anonymous said...

Hello Mr. Colly,
I think Dann is on the right trail. Being that he's following a code of conduct, a "path". Keep following the righteous path and encourage others by setting an example. Peace.
Great blog by the way, I'm interested in expats working/studying abroad (not just Japan) and I found this blog by chance but I'm really glad I did.