Monday, February 12

The Nippon Negro

Watching TV, think it was some topical news program and they cut to a piece about some people fighting in a courtroom in America, one man was in cuffs with a orange jumpsuit on and the other men seemed to be relatives of a victim, maybe, they were beating and hollering at him and had to be dragged out of court by the guards and other people.

All of the offending parties were black and all of the people restraining them were white.

When I noticed this I realised that this was the first time I had seen a black person on Japanese television. I don’t have a TV at home but I catch it every once in a while and whilst I’ve seen white people, Asian people of all descriptions, Italians in Fiat adverts. I’ve never seen a black person.

handcuffs, hateful angry faces, prison uniforms

But, my first look at black people on TV and they’re fighting each other violently in a courtroom of all places. The scene could not have held any more negative symbolism, handcuffs, hateful angry faces, prison uniforms and bewildered and scared onlookers.

Now I would like to believe that there are positive representations of black people in Japan, but from the evidence I’ve seen the only positive black figure who can be seen in Japanese popular culture is Bob Marley and the problem there is that his messages of one love and living with Jah in your heart are lost in the Karaeoke bars. It seems that the most appealing thing about Bob Marley is the fact that he smoked Marijuana and sung reggae, not what he said or what he believed.

Other black people in Japanese pop culture include self-proclaimed gangster rappers like 50 Cent and 2 Pac. Again, not a word of their songs are understood, which is a blessing in 50’s case, but their attitude and lifestyle is admired.

And this is the image of the black person in Japan. There are no black characters in Japanese cartoons, comics, and melodramas. Conversely no one blinks twice at a redheaded hero in a manga or anime.

weed, guns, violence and poverty

So, what of my role as a black British ambassador? How do I communicate without the necessary tools to do so, such as vocabulary, that being black isn’t all about 40’s, weed and guns, violence and poverty? There are people in the western world who have an opinion to the contrary, fully aware that the media manipulates but unable to commit to the fact. If people exposed to the truth of the matter can’t shake the stereotype and see black culture as a multitude of differences, then how can Japanese children who are so very sheltered?

These are questions that leave me without answers, and pondering them too long leads me to become vexed and frustrated at my inability to speak louder than the voice of the media. I can’t be heard over the hollering in the court and my image (in suit, hardworking, generous with my time and approachable will never be as ingrained as the stereotype I’m associated with.

Below, a video about young black womens self image in America, the dole test is very interesting.





A Black TV personality interviewed in 2001, read the whole interview.

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