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Baye McNeil, a journalist based in Japan, has been working to change perceptions there of black people and culture. Originally from Brooklyn, he has spent 15 years in Japan and writes a column called “Black Eye” for The Japan Times. He appears frequently in the Japanese media to talk about diversity.
Mr. McNeil visited the newsroom this week and gave us a different perspective on race, one that we want to share with you. This interview, done after the visit over email, has been condensed and edited for clarity.
How has Japan changed your views on race and racism?
Living there has given me an opportunity to view and address race issues in a sort of laboratory setting or safe space. Before going there, there was no truly safe space in the U.S. That burden I carried, that psychological armor, was out of necessity because, particularly as a black man in America, your very life or livelihood is in jeopardy constantly.
This safety has allowed me to grow, experiment and expand my understanding of these complex issues and how to address them effectively.
You describe often having an empty seat next to you on the train — no matter how crowded it is — as few people want to sit next to you. It’s even captured in the cover illustration of your first book. Tell us how you deal with that.
Making peace with such behavior requires either a diminishing of the culprit’s inviolable humanity, or your own. Neither is acceptable to me. I’ve written about it extensively, for the empty-seat phenomenon permeates virtually every aspect of the conspicuous non-Japanese person’s life. It manifests itself on trains, buses, cafes, even walking down the street. But mostly I manage my feelings about it by raising awareness of its problematic nature.
There have also been blackface incidents in Japan.
An aging doo-wop group, which claims to pay homage to black people and music by dressing up in old Motown-like get-ups, Afros and blackface, was going to perform a minstrel show on Fuji TV, a national network.
I spearheaded a campaign to get the producers and sponsors to reconsider doing so. Not because it was racist, but because the world is now watching Japanese media in real time and the world will label Japan an ignorant or racist country if this kind of thing continues unchecked. The petition caused the segment to be canceled. But the decision to alter the programming in response to a protest and petition signed by Japanese people was not even mentioned in Japanese papers or newscasts.
Many Japanese aren’t aware of the history of blackface in America, nor the origins of its use in Japan (Japanese learned blackface from racist Americans). They operate under the belief that since Japan does not have the same history of slavery and oppression against black people, that their use of blackface should not be viewed as racist or offensive. In fact, many feel it’s their way of showing respect for black peoples and cultures.
Has Naomi Osaka’s rise to stardom been a turning point for how Japanese view hafus (mixed-race people)?
I don’t think her ascension has had much of an impact on how Japanese view biracial Japanese. I think most see a cute biracial Japanese girl. However, the pushback against the whitewashing or makeover of her image by Nissin, one of the world’s largest instant-noodle companies, has generated public discussion about why such a thing was done. That may lead to discussions of the challenges that face Japan’s growing number of mixed-race couples and their offspring.
You don’t like to use the word “racism,” so instead you use “presumption.” Why?
Words like “racism” have a tendency to shut down conversations and have all parties retreating to their respective foxholes, with nothing resolved or even meaningfully addressed. This can be particularly true when dealing with Japanese people: The brand of propaganda popular here pretty much dictates that Japanese are incapable of being racists because they only have experience with, and direct exposure to, one race over the course of their lifetimes.
But I’ve found that people are more open to discussing problematic behaviors like asserting presumptions at unknown entities, something everyone can recognize in themselves. Whereas, people are seldom willing to recognize racism, at least not aloud. Over the course of such a discussion, participants generally come to the conclusion on their own about how their presumptions can easily lend themselves to racialization, and even racism itself, if done on a larger, more institutional basis.
What have you learned from writing a newspaper column for five years?
I’ve learned my own knowledge of how diverse blackness is in Japan was limited. Through the column, I’ve learned of black lawyers, university presidents, stuntmen, filmmakers, J-pop idols, entrepreneurs galore, even true expats with political aspirations. This had the impact on me that I was hoping it would have on our Japanese hosts.
Second, I learned how writing is a form of activism. I never intended to be an activist but it’s inevitable that if you take on issues with passion and persuasiveness that will lend itself to activism. By virtue of your prominence, people will look to you for leadership. It’s a hell of a responsibility and has placed me and my work in the cross hairs of some unsavory elements over here, some of whom labeled me and any black person with a similar “can’t sit silent and still and accept the nonsense” mentality as dangers to Japan.
I wrote a column in response to this in 2018, called “Are black people dangerous for Japan?” In it, I declared that I definitely am dangerous to the status quo.
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第96期跑狗图【乌】【峡】【郡】【连】【山】【县】。 【残】【破】【的】【城】【墙】【上】【布】【满】【了】【斑】【驳】【的】【血】【迹】，【将】【士】【们】【沉】【默】【的】【把】【各】【种】【守】【城】【物】【资】【运】【到】【城】【头】。【滚】【木】、【擂】【石】、【箭】【矢】、【攻】【城】【弩】【与】【一】【根】【根】【丈】【许】【长】、【大】【腿】【粗】【的】【巨】【箭】，【高】【大】【的】【机】【关】【兽】【被】【组】【成】【一】【架】【架】【投】【石】【车】。【瞭】【望】【台】【上】，【士】【卒】【全】【神】【贯】【注】【的】【看】【向】【城】【外】【苍】【莽】【的】【大】【地】。 【大】【地】【上】【残】【枪】【断】【剑】【尸】【横】【遍】【野】，【焦】【黑】【的】【土】【地】【还】【冒】【着】【袅】【袅】【的】【浓】【烟】，【盘】【旋】
【把】【豆】【包】【拜】【托】【给】【江】【极】【北】，【我】【就】【拖】【着】【行】【李】【箱】，【跟】【着】【科】【长】【踏】【上】【了】【飞】【往】【广】【州】【的】【航】【班】。【航】【班】【在】【晚】【上】8【点】【半】【到】【达】【白】【云】【机】【场】，【六】【月】【中】【旬】【天】【气】【炎】【热】【的】【广】【州】【城】，【弥】【漫】【着】【大】【雨】【即】【将】【到】【来】【的】【信】【号】。 【出】【租】【车】【驶】【向】【定】【好】【的】【酒】【店】，【窗】【外】【掠】【过】【发】【光】【的】【小】【蛮】【腰】，【让】【我】【瞬】【间】【想】【起】【了】【两】【年】【前】【我】【和】【吴】【真】【儿】【到】【此】【出】【差】【的】【场】【景】。 【顺】【带】【着】，【想】【起】【了】【在】【我】【记】【忆】【深】【处】【安】
【最】【强】【青】【铜】，【争】【夺】【可】【是】【非】【常】【的】【激】【烈】【的】，【因】【此】，【现】【在】【就】【算】【是】【叶】【明】【也】【是】【不】【敢】【轻】【易】【的】【耽】【误】【时】【间】。 【来】【到】【这】【里】，【自】【然】【是】【要】【进】【行】【训】【练】【了】。【而】【军】【营】【里】【面】【的】【训】【练】，【比】【叶】【明】【在】【贾】【府】【的】【训】【练】【更】【加】【的】【完】【善】【的】【多】。【比】【如】【说】，【这】【一】【次】，【叶】【明】【进】【入】【天】【网】【之】【后】，【进】【入】【的】【其】【实】【是】【长】【平】【攻】【坚】【战】。 【残】【酷】【的】【长】【平】【攻】【坚】【战】。 【而】【这】【一】【次】，【可】【不】【是】【说】【直】【接】【的】【三】【对】
【不】【管】【伊】【宁】【有】【着】【怎】【样】【的】【打】【算】，【凶】【介】【现】【在】【的】【选】【择】【只】【有】【一】【个】。 【全】【力】【打】【断】【伊】【宁】【电】【灯】【怪】【的】【蓄】【力】！ 【既】【然】【是】【在】【水】【中】…… “【阿】【瑞】【斯】，【魅】【惑】【之】【声】！” 【听】【到】【凶】【介】【的】【指】【令】，【阿】【瑞】【斯】【立】【刻】【停】【止】【了】【前】【进】，【停】【留】【在】【原】【地】，【微】【微】【张】【开】【了】【嘴】【巴】。 【紧】【接】【着】，【那】【充】【满】【诱】【惑】【的】【声】【音】，【从】【他】【的】【嘴】【里】【发】【出】，【从】【水】【中】【传】【播】，【也】【由】【水】【中】【传】【递】【到】【海】【面】【上】【来】第96期跑狗图“【陨】【落】【了】？”【乔】【元】【静】【喃】【喃】【道】，【有】【些】【不】【敢】【相】【信】。 “【是】【啊】，【龙】【族】【差】【点】【就】【要】【绝】【迹】【了】。” 【和】【龙】【七】【的】【交】【谈】【中】，【乔】【元】【静】【得】【知】，【如】【今】【的】【龙】【七】【已】【经】【是】【龙】【族】【的】【族】【长】，【当】【年】【那】【场】【大】【战】，【他】【们】【损】【失】【惨】【重】，【是】【通】【天】【道】【君】【出】【手】，【将】【他】【们】【这】【些】【小】【辈】【留】【在】【了】【岛】【中】。 【这】【才】【给】【龙】【族】【留】【下】【一】【些】【香】【火】【来】。 【得】【知】【乔】【元】【静】【已】【得】【了】【通】【天】【道】【君】【传】【承】，【龙】【七】【自】
【许】【莱】【一】【听】【这】【话】，【赶】【紧】【担】【心】【的】【问】【道】：“【海】【龙】【神】【大】【人】，【难】【道】【以】【前】【签】【订】【的】【旧】【宠】【物】【契】【约】【对】【这】【次】【的】【契】【约】【签】【订】【有】【影】【响】” “【暂】【时】【倒】【是】【没】【有】【影】【响】。【不】【过】，【长】【久】【下】【去】，【对】【你】【实】【力】【的】【提】【升】【会】【有】【很】【大】【影】【响】。【尤】【其】【是】【你】【手】【腕】【上】【的】【这】【只】【小】【蝙】【蝠】，【那】【是】【直】【接】【在】【吞】【吃】【你】【的】【真】【元】【力】【精】【华】【啊】” 【听】【了】【海】【龙】【神】【的】【话】，【许】【莱】【赶】【紧】【谦】【虚】【的】【请】【教】【道】：“【不】【知】【龙】【神】【大】
【自】【母】【亲】【难】【产】【去】【世】【后】，【父】【亲】【就】【孤】【身】【一】【人】【带】【他】【们】【两】【个】【四】【处】【奔】【波】，【好】【不】【容】【易】【这】【才】【安】【稳】【下】【来】，【又】【遇】【到】【这】【些】【事】。 【顾】【月】【儿】：“【爹】！【如】【果】，【哥】【哥】【真】【的】【喜】【欢】【上】【了】，【你】【待】【如】【何】？” 【顾】【父】：“【我】【待】【如】【何】？【我】【把】【他】【们】【两】【个】【都】【赶】【出】【去】！” 【顾】【月】【儿】：“【就】【这】【样】？” 【顾】【父】【有】【些】【不】【解】：“【什】【么】【就】【这】【样】？” 【顾】【月】【儿】：“【赶】【出】【去】，【就】【完】【事】
【梁】【云】【生】【一】【脸】【的】【焦】【急】，【咬】【牙】【正】【要】【站】【出】【来】【再】【说】【什】【么】，【就】【在】【这】【个】【时】【候】—— “【等】【一】【等】” 【微】【微】【颤】【抖】【的】【地】【声】【音】【响】【起】。 【一】【位】【头】【发】【花】【白】，【拄】【着】【一】【根】【半】【人】【高】【的】【鸠】【头】【拐】【杖】【的】【苍】【老】【佝】【偻】【身】【影】，【与】【虚】【空】【之】【中】【踱】【步】【而】【出】，【虽】【然】【走】【的】【有】【点】【儿】【慢】，【但】【最】【终】【却】【还】【是】【无】【比】【坚】【定】【地】【挡】【在】【了】【凌】【霄】【面】【身】【前】。 【却】【是】【流】【风】【城】【之】【中】【的】【第】【一】【善】【人】【金】【老】。