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Interpreter under fire after calling African runners 'chimpanzees'

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Why aren't we allowed to know her name? It was a blog, for crying out loud. If a foreigner says anything offensive about the Japanese, their names are splashed all over the place.

29 ( +40 / -11 )

My issue with her is that she was clear being malicious. It wasn’t simply being unaware. Living in Japan, the word cute can have a wide range of meanings and it is not all positive. It’s can also be used as a euphemism for an insult.

But what shows her malice was when she also referred to them as primitive. As a black man, I take more offense to that than the chimpanzee comment. I doubt the runners were behaving in a rude and obscene manner to warrant such a response.

28 ( +36 / -8 )

If a foreigner says anything offensive about the Japanese, their names are splashed all over the place.

Yeah but there is a difference, because the Japanese are ALWAYS misunderstood.

25 ( +27 / -2 )

Calling someone a ''primitive men'' and a ''chimpanzee'', and then saying ''I had no intention to discriminate''.

As usual, not even a grain of remorse.

23 ( +27 / -4 )

Paid volunteer?

19 ( +21 / -2 )

She felt like she was communicating with primitive men...

Wow, so your lack of ability to acclimate with another culture (and a group of athletes) made you assume they were monkeys? Epic fail

17 ( +23 / -6 )

She's an interpreter - hence,an 'educated' woman (for what that's worth) who certainly has good enough knowledge of the world to know that saying this is racist. Yest she did it anyway. I hope she is fired from the position, so's to give her time to have that "hard look"

"I had no intention to discriminate against them and meant no offense.

rolls eyes The racist's eternal excuse. Her 'intention' is irrelevant. It is the impact that matters.

16 ( +24 / -8 )

It shouldn't really surprise anybody. They still do blackface in Japan, without any sensitivity or awareness of how it affects others, even after being publicly reprimanded, time and time again that it is not acceptable, each and every time it happens.

The attitude appears to be that if the words or actions were not malicious in intent, then it is not actual racism. Obviously, they are wrong. But, they just don't seem to grasp the simple concept that "benign" racism is still racism.

In Japan, stereotyping people by their job, nationality, appearance, gender, even region within Japan is standard behavior. You have tattoos? You must be a criminal. You're American? You must be outgoing. Black? Must be a good athlete. Tokyo University graduate? Must be sooooo smart. The list goes on.

For most Japanese people who might say or do something racist, I imagine they simply think they're pointing out obvious things, and not being racist at all.

14 ( +17 / -3 )

@JJ - I agree with your comment and I believe the fact she was not referring to their actions being primitive but to them (as people) as primitive is very bad.

I am not a black man but I completely understand your point and I probably would have focused more on the "chimpanzee" comment (as stated in the headline) if not for your comment. After reading what you wrote I re-read the article and found it more disgusting.

There is no way to rationalize what the lady said and I think the Deputy Mayor of Beppu should have responded with stronger words.

13 ( +18 / -5 )

The organizers quoted her as saying during fact-finding questioning, "I had no intention to discriminate against them and meant no offense. I'm taking a hard look at my careless use of such words."

This is the problem here in a nutshell. If it's not her, it's the politicians who make crude comments, or the guy at the conbini bitching out the poor teenager working there for whatever.

"I had no intention...."

Same as saying, "I HAVE no brain"

11 ( +21 / -10 )

"communicating with primitive men.",,, "cute chimpanzees" ..."I had no intention to discriminate against them and meant no offense. I'm taking a hard look at my careless use of such words."

Medals awarded to this Volunteer:

Gold for Racism, Gold for Lying, Gold for the Insincere Apology.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

What a total moron.

10 ( +15 / -5 )

It’s ok to call anyone in Japan anything offensive and the apologize after the fact.

There are so many cases of it in Japan

9 ( +18 / -9 )

Top 3 Men

1 Hicham Laqouahi MOR

02:08:35

2 Abdela Godana ETH

02:09:04

3 Yihunilign Adane ETH

02:09:11

Admiring speed rather than dwelling on impolite comparisons would be a good start.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

Professional interpreters do not comment on their jobs outside of their work, it is considered a breach of protocol and their contract. Volunteers, even though paid, should be held to similar standards.

"It's very regrettable that there were inappropriate use of words...'

How many times do we hear this?

Usually the first words out of someone's mouth are what they really understand and mean, and apologies are really meaningless, the damage has been done.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

The organizers quoted her as saying during fact-finding questioning, "I had no intention to discriminate against them and meant no offense. I'm taking a hard look at my careless use of such words."

IOW, a "gaffe." Not in any way reflecting your own primitive views of an entire race.

7 ( +20 / -13 )

"I had no intention to discriminate against them and meant no offense. I'm taking a hard look at my careless use of such words."

BS. If I had called this interpreter a monkey in--or outside--my line of work, she'd be calling for me to be fired.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

So was that a joke in relation to her not being able to understand their accents?

That kind of slur may be acceptable in Japanese society but not to anyone anywhere else.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

If she had such a difficult time understanding them, then I guess you suck at your job at interpreter.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Bigger issue is when old people don't realize it's a problem

Just this week, in describing myself and some childhood friends, I used the term "little monkeys", because we were running and climbing on everything in the environment, like little monkeys. Nobody was offended.

If ya include yourself in it and it's with friends, that's a different story - how can anyone there be offended

(It's like describing my family - can say anything since I'm part of it. But can't do that on somebody else's family, lol)

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The interpreter is a woman in her fifties. She is a paid interpreter. She should be fired immediately. She wrote it in her blog. It is outrageous and her mentality is questionable more than her English. I wrote my previous comments positively about Africans.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

@Strangerland

The attitude appears to be that if the words or actions were not malicious in intent, then it is not actual racism. Obviously, they are wrong. But, they just don't seem to grasp the simple concept that "benign" racism is still racism.

:)

Interpreter: "I had no intention to discriminate against them and meant no offense.

Maria: rolls eyes The racist's eternal excuse. Her 'intention' is irrelevant. It is the impact that matters.

:)

https://japantoday.com/category/features/opinions/ap-explains-racist-history-of-blackface-began-in-the-1830s

5 ( +7 / -2 )

@Amir Marzouk

"...not knowing her name is to help protect her from potential attacks or hate enthusiasts. "

So, people who publish their racist comments should enjoy the protection of anonymity? Sorry, that's not how the world works.

As for "hate enthusiasts," SHE is the "hate enthusiast" in this case . So your argument makes no sense at all.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

bass4funkToday  01:11 pm JST

What a lowlife, I’m sure if someone made a disparaging remark about him or his race he would wouldn’t take it lightly. The guy needs to get out more and see the world and all it’s beauty of cultures this world has to offer, maybe he can gain a better perspective on life, people and their culture.

The person is a woman, not a man.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Racist idiot!

4 ( +19 / -15 )

Oita is a countryside area, a bit backwards, and probably not with many people who can interpret. Beppu gets loads of foreign tourists, but there is still a slightly backwards feel to the place. That's part of its charm at times. Other times, not so much.

Sadly, she is also unable to interpret. Aside from the translation, it's an interpreter's job to understand how words are understood in a cultural context. This was just beyond stupid, and she really shouldn't be trusted with interpreting or coordinating with other cultures.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

Doesn't bode well for the forthcoming Rugby World Cup and Olympics.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I wonder if she is one of the 200,000 volunteers for the 2020 Olympics.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Schopenhauer

Anthropology tells us all human races originated in the African continent and spread to the other parts of the globe.

Just to clarify what anthropologists have said, humankind originated somewhere in what we now call Africa. At various times some of those humans migrated (humans still do) and acquired different physical characteristics, visible and not.

What I don’t understand is the woman’s need to make public the specific reference she did. Was she expecting lots of head nodding? Why would someone wish to exhibit such an attitude?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Just this week, in describing myself and some childhood friends, I used the term "little monkeys",

Did you call them primitive though?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

In Japan, stereotyping people by their job, nationality, appearance, gender, even region within Japan is standard behavior. You have tattoos? You must be a criminal. You're American? You must be outgoing. Black? Must be a good athlete. Tokyo University graduate? Must be sooooo smart. The list goes on.

This is a very primitive way of thinking.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I get the distinct feeling that the runners all spoke perfectly understandable English, and her difficulty in understanding them was caused by a... certain visual aspect

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hope the organizers learn from this and actually have professional interpreters and to screen/train all staff and volunteers about how to behave and act.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Sometimes, I despair of humanity.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

JeffLee Feb. 17  12:43 pm JST

@Amir Marzouk

"...not knowing her name is to help protect her from potential attacks or hate enthusiasts. "

So, people who publish their racist comments should enjoy the protection of anonymity? Sorry, that's not how the world works.

We do not need to know her name.

By not knowing her name, we can object to what she did -- rather than to her personally.

Let's hate the sin, but not the sinner.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

An interpreter who finds it difficult to communicate with the people she was supposed to be working with, who then thinks they are primitive, and compared them to chimpanzees is beyond regretable, it is disgusting! 

If I say that Japan is a country of indifferent robots who blindly obey their primitive leaders then, say: "Sorry, it was not my intention to cause anyone trouble blah blah blah" when called out.... can I assume all's forgotten and ok? Afterall, this  method seems to work for everytime, right?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

this is of course totally unacceptable ane the woman should apologize in writing to the athletes concerned.

what is more worrying is that not a single Japanese athlete has condemned this. Neither did Mss Osaka and her comments would make a big difference here. That she has not heard it? Unlikely. Furthermore the organisors should make amends by supporting an African youth club. They did the right thing to react in public but more action from them is needed.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Disgusting. Beyond that, I have no words. Speechless.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

@Bugle Boy of Company B

What happened to 'mankind'?

Still in the dictionary last time I looked. Am I now required to use “mankind”? I think you and I both would answer “NO”.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

No, of course not. I just asked a question.

No problemo, BBoCB.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Tends to highlight an underlying cultural lack of awareness, perhaps born of insularity at the national cultural level that needs to be addressed. Still no excuse.

What shocked me equally was the number of down votes for those expressing criticism of her actions and behaviour, but I suppose that demonstrates my point in the paragraph above?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

In Japan, stereotyping people by their job, nationality, appearance, gender, even region within Japan is standard behavior.

Well, in fairness, to some extent it's done in all societies. Stereotyping people is to some extent human nature.

You have tattoos? You must be a criminal.

That's because for such a long time in Japan, criminals were truly the only people who ever got tattoos. Is it a stereotype? Perhaps, but this one is to a large extent based on truth.

You're American? You must be outgoing.

True, I don't understand that one either. I'm not American but went to university there, and yes, there are shy Americans. Quite a few in fact.

Black? Must be a good athlete.

That is also an unacceptable stereotype. But it does not only exist in Japan. Not at all.

Tokyo University graduate? Must be sooooo smart.

This is not just in Japan either. In America you would be assumed very smart if you went to Harvard or Yale, or in Europe if you went to Oxford.

At least that "stereotype" is actually based on something beyond just physical appearance or race or whatever.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

well, she did add "cute", so she probably thought it is ok.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

“Why can’t we all just get along?” Unfortunately we never have and never will. But hey, do the Right Thing®️. Do it all the time.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Disgusting racist.

By the way, a "paid volunteer" is an employee and those that hired this disgusting woman should make sure it never happens again and review their recruitment process.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Another sophisticated example of a collectivist and inward thinking education system. You can’t totally lay the blame all on her. Some of the things that come out of ‘professional’ people’s mouths are often quite remarkable.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I do so dislike racists. Absolutely terrible.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

In a normal country she would have been sued until bankroupcy for this ruthless pure racism and especially by showing no remose what so ever. Just the same ol’ same pathetic excuse ‘I had no intention to bla bla bla’

Desgusting.

-2 ( +11 / -13 )

Still in the dictionary last time I looked. Am I now required to use “mankind”? I think you and I both would answer “NO”.

No, of course not. I just asked a question.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Did you call them primitive though?

Primitive can mean different things.

To outsiders, our behavior would definitely have seemed primitive. People who live in swamps sometimes do things out of necessity that outsiders wouldn't understand without explanation. After a little study, they would learn it was "clever" or "crafty", not primitive.

Someone calling others primitive is usually showing their own limited views.

The same can be said for people in a new country with unfamiliar surroundings, tools, utensils, toilets.

I remember thinking how primitive those floor-toilets with kick flush were in Tokyo the first time I visited. Or trying to eat using 2 sticks? Is that not primitive to some people? Is that statement offensive towards most chopstick-using Asians or does it just show how little I understood at the time? Either way, I don't see it as offensive. Sometimes primitive man solutions are best and being called a primitive man isn't offensive at all.

But since everyone is allowed to be offended over whatever they like, even when it wasn't directed at them, fine. Stay in the "politically correct" cage and limit freedom of expression because you are sensitive.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Just to clarify what anthropologists have said, humankindoriginated somewhere in what we now call Africa. 

What happened to 'mankind'?

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

Negative words only hurt if you let them hurt or take them in a negative manner.

Just this week, in describing myself and some childhood friends, I used the term "little monkeys", because we were running and climbing on everything in the environment, like little monkeys. Nobody was offended.

Humans are animals. We are primates, just like other ape, monkeys and chimpanzees. If you choose to be offended by those terms, that is your business. I would not. Treat people as you would want to be treated.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

@JeffLee

not knowing her name is to help protect her from potential attacks or hate enthusiasts. While I condemn her actions, I don’t believe plastering her name online is the right thing. One of the reasons why these cycles of hate continues is because instead of trying to educate and fix an issue, we attack those that make the mistakes. When we attack them, we only reinforce those negative feelings and then they become worst.

-6 ( +11 / -17 )

Ahe lacks the consideration a normal Japanese would have.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

When's the lawsuit?

-7 ( +7 / -14 )

Toasted HereticToday  09:29 pm JST

Sometimes, I despair of humanity.

Well, most of humanity doesn't go around calling people "chimpanzees," so I wouldn't despair too much if I were you.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

She's an interpreter - hence,an 'educated' woman (for what that's worth) who certainly has good enough knowledge of the world to know that saying this is racist. 

I don’t think your conclusion is supported by your argument.

-8 ( +9 / -17 )

Education problem.

-10 ( +12 / -22 )

What a lowlife, I’m sure if someone made a disparaging remark about him or his race he would wouldn’t take it lightly. The guy needs to get out more and see the world and all it’s beauty of cultures this world has to offer, maybe he can gain a better perspective on life, people and their culture.

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

Anthropology tells us all human races originated in the African continent and spread to the other parts of the globe. I am recently interested in African art and music including jazz music. They are not influenced by other civilizations which are more or less overshadowed by melancholic ideas.

-24 ( +3 / -27 )

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