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NHK to retrain staff after criticism of cartoon about black Americans

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Being educated in human rights is one thing, but educating them on the pop culture of other countries is also important. The stereotypes seen in the video would tell me that the makers are probably still stuck in the 80's or 90's. or they could've just hired foreigners to be consultants or just make such videos themselves.

20 ( +26 / -6 )

NHK also said it would take criticism seriously and make sure not to repeat the same mistake.

Seems to me this is the common response of NHK when something happens. Until the next time!

16 ( +21 / -5 )

The first time I saw this, I instantly knew that there were no westerners in the team responsible for making the cartoon.

When I was working at a Japanese TV station in an undisclosed TV program, they tried to depict:

Black afro disco dancer. Plume headress? wearing native american, that every japanese teamates around me were calling "apache" and "indian"

Even if I'm not that fond of PCness in mass-media, I let them know that people COULD find this depictions offensive, and that the correct term was "native american". The team leader acknowledge this and let me know that they will check with the producers before releasing them.

Some weeks later, team leader comes back and thanks me for letting him know. The producer staff agreed with me that those depictions could be found offensive and the poor lad that made them had to think of other "characters" to make.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

I've said this many times about NHK,

they never outsource to equally knowledgeable but outside sources,

as they know it all. The result is thumping mediocrity.

This is the reason their translators are terrible, speaking in muffled,

unprofessional voices, on information that is crucial to those in that language.

They cannot see from outside their own limited vision.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

In this particular case, it is an honest view and picture of how one in Japan may view what is going on in the USA. It does not take any sides or make any statement that may be harmful or derogatory. It just shows the emotional differences among those who are protesting.

A number of Africans and people of African descent have said they feel it is derogatory. They are being honest and sincere about their feelings. But that is just their 'perception', yes?

9 ( +11 / -2 )

NHK have decided to retrain our reporters and producers

Wait... so you are telling me that these caricatures and narratives were from previous trainings? That's troublesome. Then again, Japan did bring us Mr. Popo.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

Of course this will only get a minuscule mention on the Japanese news.

7 ( +13 / -6 )

did this even make Japanese news? My Japanese friends said they have not heard about this debacle. I said even Naomi Osaka was mad they said they had no idea.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Is it really even a human rights issue? I know it was bad but I don't see how it infringed anyone's human rights. I just think they were too scared to admit it was racism (or just plain ignorance, I'm sure they didn't mean to offend intentionally)

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Simply there is no defense of the cartoon as an accurate depiction of a situation.

The program - Sekai no Ima - is a current affairs program looking at international and domestic issues.

It was always a kids program with kids as the casters asking questions and offering ideas. So it used tons of graphics and explained things at an "elementary school" lesson level. It was enjoyable for the most and I grew up watching it with my kids every Sunday eve.

Then lo & behold NHK discovered a few years back that the biggest viewing demographic was not the targeted audience - kids - but senior citizens.

So they revamped the show, ie got rid of the nice kids, slightly adult-leaned more of the topics while retaining the kids look - comical graphics, dumb commentary character (shippu???) and kept the basic level of language. Of course the obligatory dumbed-down "talento" who always cries "Ehhh- shiranakatta or the like" is present.

So the main audience was/is elderly and the producers probably believed that keeping with the overly simplistic style - including stereotypes - gave them, the audience, better "understanding". Which of course is no excuse for the "learned" ones at NHK who should have had their finger on the pulse of international social mores if they're running an international current affairs program.

And the critical point in all of this is how Japanese media reacts to portrayal of Japan, Japanese citizens, customs etc outside of Japan. Some would say they are extremely thin skinned at times. But we know that if there was an American program for arguments sake about the Okinawa base situation, and the local Okinawan protestors were depicted in far less than flattering caricature - well the eruption would have been deafening.

NHK is still an extremely hierarchical organization and needs to be massively re-assessed and reformed if it truly wants to be an informative news/cultural agency with any relevancy in the future.

This sekai no ima case just exposed the insular world that lurks beneath the surface of NHK.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Retraining the staff? Good luck using that NHK money. This is like when Japanese companies get Hiroshi from HR who spent 6 months studying abroad in Australia to write their English copy and you get those gems of Japanese English. They are loathe to allocate anything to allow a foreign perspective to intrude upon their cherished viewpoints.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

How ridiculous. Obviously, the commenters and the idiot DCM at the US Embassy have not watched South Park in the US. As a native New Yorker, the two characters on the right are typical of what you would see as wall or building art in a black neighborhood in NYC. Indeed, the two images have that quasi-1930s Socialist Realism art look still painted by the usual left wing progressives (whether black, white or Latino) in the US.

South Park is not produced by a national government organization like the NHK. Maybe you can appreciate the difference. Also based on your comments about NYC maybe the last time you were there was in the 1930s?

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Who will first retrain the trainers?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I've actually read from a couple of sources, that Jared Taylor, an American white supremacist editor, living in Japan, was involved as an 'US expert' in the making of the program.

Got a source?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@BakabonPapa

Japanese" people living in Japan are surprisingly tone-deaf on the issue of racism

i make no excuses for ignorance. But the majority seldom take notice of things such as this.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Glad I'm not paying for it...

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Why should the Japanese prioritize foreign perspectives over their own? I just cannot understand why foreign people with a interest in Japan would be so intent to make it like their own.

There are black people living in Japan, maybe you have not noticed.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

"Prioritizing foreign perspectives over your own" versus allowing oneself to take alternative perspectives into consideration and exercising judgement is an either-or logical fallacy.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

This country is 95% one race. They simply do not understand nor are capable of teaching about race relations.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

To tell you the truth I did find it alarming but alot of the facts were true in a sense.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The interim head of the U.S. embassy called the caricatures"offensive and insensitive".

All good and fine. But how about opening the US Embassies already????

2 ( +2 / -0 )

You can't retrain racism out of people.

Anyone can learn to see people as individuals instead of one dimensional representatives of an arbitrarily assigned race. Doesn’t mean everyone will learn.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

"Japanese" people living in Japan are surprisingly tone-deaf on the issue of racism, and especially regarding race and racism in the USA (but not everyone, of course).

1 ( +9 / -8 )

Yeah I could expect that they won't even get fired. I guess they might even get bonuses so they can retrain themselves.

this is the link:

https://youtu.be/5hLFGq6zrX0

1 ( +3 / -2 )

But the majority seldom take notice of things such as this.

This can be said about everything in every country. It takes a few to put the word out to the majority about what they noticed. It isn't like the majority are glued to NHK on a weekday afternoon.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Toshihiro

Being educated in human rights is one thing, but educating them on the pop culture of other countries is also important. The stereotypes seen in the video would tell me that the makers are probably still stuck in the 80's or 90's. or they could've just hired foreigners to be consultants or just make such videos themselves.

@AetherCzar

The first time I saw this, I instantly knew that there were no westerners in the team responsible for making the cartoon.

I've actually read from a couple of sources, that Jared Taylor, an American white supremacist editor, living in Japan, was involved as an 'US expert' in the making of the program.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_Taylor

"**Samuel Jared Taylor** is an American white supremacist and editor of American Renaissance, an online magazine espousing such opinions, which was founded by Taylor in 1990.

He is also the president of American Renaissance's parent organization, New Century Foundation, through which many of his books have been published. He is a former member of the advisory board of The Occidental Quarterly and a former director of the National Policy Institute, a Virginia-based white nationalist think tank. He is also a board member and spokesperson of the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Taylor and many of his affiliated organizations are accused of promoting racist ideologies by civil rights groups, news media, and academics studying racism in the United States"

The problem of the program was not only just the derogatory animation. It was also the fact that they only showed videos of black people being violent and causing harm, i.e. no videos of whites doing the same (there were also reports on white supremacists dressing up as members of the BLM movement, then causing havoc to get the blame on them), or the police breaking peaceful riots with tear gas etc.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I doubt this will ever stop, at least until there are enough famous black Japanese complaining about it. Until then, we'll keep seeing Japanese "comedians" and "talents" donning blackface or making offensive comments about black people, and old, negative stereotypes being used in anime and manga. Lots of people will complain, as they always justifiably do. And, the offenders will halfheartedly apologize, giving the excuse of not being aware it was offensive, even though people complain every single time. Lather, rinse, repeat.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

N.H.K have the lowest pay, therefore , it is impossible to hire good people, who really works.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So, the Japanese national broadcasting company has to be trained in human rights. That sounds about right to me.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

N.H.K have the lowest pay, therefore , it is impossible to hire good people, who really works.

I've heard that NHK pays quite well. Where did you get the info that they're paid poorly?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The sad fact that, even in the age where (probably) Fox News would hesitate to release something like this, NHK "needs" additional training on something so basically and common-sensical, that is practically "TV producing 101"...

0 ( +5 / -5 )

@ArtherCzar: and that the correct term was "native american"

“Native Americans” also refer to themselves as Native Indian.

https://www.nativetimes.com/index.php/life/commentary/11389-native-american-vs-american-indian-political-correctness-dishonors-traditional-chiefs-of-old

0 ( +6 / -6 )

In this particular case, it is an honest view and picture of how one in Japan may view what is going on in the USA.

Is it an honest view? Really? I beg to differ. Singing happily while walking down the street while these people are being killed in the streets by the police? Ask yourself, is it an accurate depiction of BLM?

The people disagreeing with you are not trying to drag you through the mud. Please don't misunderstand.

When I saw this cartoon, I immediately rejected the idea of using it open discussion about the topic with my students.

Have you ever heard of the "Ice Cream Truck Song".

Try this! Look at the picture up above. Let's focus on the guy playing the guitar singing happily down the street. Hold that image in your mind for a minute.

Now watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1x6RcYxDc7s

It comes from a song that was played in every neighborhood in the United States at one time.

Not only is racist, but it's sadistic in it's approach. Is it just a cartoon? I don't like NHK, but this was a good call.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

expatToday  10:54 am JST

Glad I'm not paying for it...

Ha ha ha!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

To get hired at NHK,one must be from an elite Japanese national uni with an all rounded level of education in"local and international news.And since we've all seen the amount of crap they they show on TV,you can imagine the level of education.

Japanese education is about cramming and not necessarily understanding.Students are taught to be uniform.If you do anything out of the norm,you are hammered down.You have to tow the line.

Whenever they show foreign programs,the content is like child's play,and in most cases biased and miserably trying to copy the U.S.

No originality whatsoever.

Minds are controlled and brainwashed,that is why almost every Japanese person you meet including adults will always ask you exact same questions.Japanese TV is so crappy.I stopped watching it a long time ago.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

And how it be accurate if it leaves out the reason for the protests in the first place?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Fire the uneducated fools. NHK is irredeemably trash.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why don't the Japanese know already about the incident?

If you are living in this world you should be more aware of what's outside your little island

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Racism is very strong and alive here in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Fire the producers!!!

-1 ( +9 / -10 )

@DaDude

This can be said about everything in every country

I was clearly referring to every country. Not just Japan. Its the reason why some whites in America believe there is no racism in America. The majority, regardless of which country, seldom take notice of the inequalities that plague the minorities.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Retrain???? Who is going to be the trainer, some Japanese office employee? That is not going to work.... Employ some multiracial staff instead and get them to review before publishing...

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

how many non Japanese will be hired as trainers?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

So, no more crappy cartoons-great!

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Training staff on human rights is a step forward, have to give NHK that much for recognizing what went wrong.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I was really disappointed by NHK!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Guess why this happens? When you (nhk, japan) engage on discussions that are foreign to your reality, life or culture.

Why do Japan needs to create awareness on this? There are certainly none of these problems here.

They should let the countries with this problem to handle it.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

https://news.yahoo.co.jp/pickup/6362881

They're being racists in many places as well under this situation.

Panicking.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

A detailed look at the picture centers what most Japanese people view black people as, as blues, jazz, and rap musicians holding a guitar. In the background it shows the fiery demonstrations of today in the USA. Everyone knows Michael Jackson and the many black musicians of past and present. It is a simple image of a "perspective" and an awakening for the younger Japanese that have not experienced those harsh years past.

May be a satire, or a simple expression of what the artist saw in the demonstrations. It was not serious art but a simple cartoon which in today's comic and anime world expresses much more deadly images.

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

"Prioritizing foreign perspectives over your own" versus allowing oneself to take alternative perspectives into consideration and exercising judgement is an either-or logical fallacy.

Actually this isn’t an either/or logical fallacy as I wasn’t presenting a fallacious binary choice. It isn’t even a straw man argument. I am referring to prioritization which can be in innumerable degrees. I just don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that a relatively homogeneous people to prioritize the opinions and criticisms of foreigners living in or outside of Japan. A short cartoon is free speech. You may not like it but you don’t have to either.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

NHK should have never used a cartoon. There are plenty of video examples of the same things in the western news and Youtube.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

You can't retrain racism out of people.

-5 ( +15 / -20 )

Again we are looking at appeasement and conformity.

What id appropriate is in the eyes of the beholder and the perspective from which that person approaches and looks at what he sees and hears.

That "perspective" is his own bias and prejudice. That can be different, unusual, unexpected, radical, unwanted, and other wise unacceptable to others with a different perspective.

There is no law or rule in humanity that states, requires and forces and enforce one "perspective" unless it does "actual" HARM to something or some person based upon "values" by which a group (a society) has agreed to and want to abide by. That perspective is "different" for every individual person, group, society and nation. (One reason why in the USA, the Constitution has the 1st Amendment. The very right the black, yellow, brown, and white use and are able to express themselves. But that is NOT the same for other societies and nations. And each nation may believe that theirs is the "right" and "good" one.)

However, it is by having "different perspectives" that there can be dialog. It is not one perspective is right and the other is wrong or one is good and the other is bad. That is a "judgement" call from one side against the other. Every "perspective" has a reason, a rationale, a basis from which that was formed. It is by first "respecting" and understanding those differences in a meaningful, honest and sincere dialog and appreciating those differences that solutions can be found and the problems that may exist resolved.

In this particular case, it is an honest view and picture of how one in Japan may view what is going on in the USA. It does not take any sides or make any statement that may be harmful or derogatory. It just shows the emotional differences among those who are protesting.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

And exactly what is the difference between these and political cartoons?

-7 ( +9 / -16 )

How ridiculous. Obviously, the commenters and the idiot DCM at the US Embassy have not watched South Park in the US. As a native New Yorker, the two characters on the right are typical of what you would see as wall or building art in a black neighborhood in NYC. Indeed, the two images have that quasi-1930s Socialist Realism art look still painted by the usual left wing progressives (whether black, white or Latino) in the US.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

I think people have generally perverted idea around the issue of racism. Smart people will always have little patience for nonsense. Good looking people will stick together regardless of race; in fact the not so good looking too. Rich will always keep distance from the poor. It is just how social stratification works. I don't think this thing deserves so much attention, it is brain masturbation

-8 ( +5 / -13 )

@dagon: They are loathe to allocate anything to allow a foreign perspective to intrude upon their cherished viewpoints.

Why should the Japanese prioritize foreign perspectives over their own? I just cannot understand why foreign people with a interest in Japan would be so intent to make it like their own.

-9 ( +7 / -16 )

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