As the black community in the U.S. and around the world continues to protest and fight against systemic racism and oppression, Japanese citizens might be scratching their heads as to why. Despite the increasing population of foreign nationals in the country, its people still doesn’t have much experience with racism, and may have trouble understanding where these protests are coming from.
But when singer Hikaru Utada weighed in on the issue, she helped to spark a much-needed conversation among Japanese netizens about the significance of these protests and the presence of racism around the world. She tweeted her thoughts on June 4, in which she said she hopes these activities will become a “historic breakthrough.”
“Racism might not click immediately for Japanese people born and raised in Japan, but what’s happening in America right now might be a historic breakthrough that will be recorded in the world history books of the future…I hope it is.”
She also added a second follow-up tweet to explain the nature of racism in the United States.
“The racism against black people that occurs in the United States is not a simple matter of thinking of people as different races and holding discriminatory thoughts about them. It is a problem that has deep roots in the government and society. I hope people who don’t know much about black history and the current state of affairs, or who only know a little about them, will take this as an opportunity to learn more.”
The original tweet garnered almost 215,000 likes and more than 36,000 comments and retweets, and sparked an interesting debate among Japanese netizens, who normally don’t get much opportunity to discuss racism and discrimination. Though some had contrasting opinions to share, many said they were enlightened by the situation, and expressed agreement with Utada’s sentiments.
“Those still doubting that racism is a problem better remember how the coronavirus sparked discrimination against Asian people until just recently.”
“It certainly will be! I hope we can make this a world that doesn’t see color.”
“Racism doesn’t ‘click’ for me, but I didn’t know that it had such deep roots.”
“Racial discrimination is very sad.”
“I’m praying that the world can become a wonderful harmony, like the song ‘Ebony and Ivory.’”
“Racial discrimination is slowly becoming a problem in Japan, too, but I honestly didn’t think that it was such a serious problem in the U.S. today…I want society to change for the better and realize that we are all the same humans.”
“That really is true. I first learned about how deep the roots of racism are when I lived overseas for a short time.”
Some talked about the idea that “there is no racism in Japan”, which many Japanese believe, despite many reported incidences of discrimination among non-Japanese Asians as well as the black community and other foreign residents.
“I’m a Japanese person who was born and raised in Japan, but I have never believed that racism doesn’t exist in this country, even when I was in elementary school.”
“I’m Japanese and I was born and raised in Japan. I think it’s sad that Japan has unearthed a lot of racial discrimination recently and has become a country where it does ‘click.’”
“Ms Hikaru, the same kind of state-level oppression is occurring in Japan, too.”
“My husband is black. In Japan, if he puts his hand in his pockets because he’s cold, he gets stopped by police and they demand to know what he’s holding.”
Interestingly, a surprising number of netizens touted strange conspiracy theories and expressed opinions that align with the American far-right:
“I’m someone who can’t endorse Antifa. I won’t retweet or like this tweet. I’m sorry.”
“Ah, you’re talking about how it’s been shown to the world that the far-left terrorist group Antifa has been using racism as its shield to help it pervade the world? That will surely be carved into the first page.”
“You mean the war created by China, which is hiding behind the idea of racism.”
Many also criticized Utada for not mentioning the Chinese government’s imprisonment and oppression of Uighur and Tibetan people, or for ignoring that June 4 was the anniversary of the Tienanmen Square incident. They brought attention to other significant racial issues that also need to be protested, though perhaps they inadvertently diminished the significance of the Black Lives Matter movement by trying to take some of its light away.
Regardless, Utada’s tweets sparked difficult conversations that need to be had, and revealed that America isn’t the only place where racism and racial discrimination exists and has long been a serious problem. One can only hope that these conversations lead to action, wherever you are in the world.
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