japanese talento

“I am insulted that this anime did/didn’t do a thing with race! POC deserve respect! I want them to change it to be more like I want!”

The Japanese have a completely different racial and social history, so it may be that they are making it based on their own experiences. Are you basing this idea on Western ideas of race and racial relations? Wouldn’t making the Japanese make media that reflects a Western idea of race be cultural imperialism? Here’s a good way of knowing if you are informed of Japanese racial politics:

Are you aware that Okinawa was not originally a part of Japan, was conquered, and is often referred to as the Ryukyu Islands? That it has it’s own ethnic minority with its own rapidly-dying language, and Okinawa also has by far the largest concentration of detested American army bases? Here is a photo from the 19th century of a Ryukyu Island native, taken by a Japanese man to sell “ethnic photos” back on the mainland.


Did you know that the “Japanese” we know of are not technically native to the island at all, but arrived sometime in prehistory to displace the original inhabitants? This would be the Ainu, and genetic studies have shown they’re actually more closely related to Caucasians. They now mostly live in Hokkaido, most of their land having been taken and many been killed due to historic wars and slavery.

Did you know that countless ethnic Koreans and Chinese have lived in Japan since the colonial period, often because of having their land ownership and livelihoods forcibly taken and moved to Japan? That they were forced to not speak their native language and had to go by Japanese names? That even though many of them have lived there for generations, they could not obtain citizenship until 1980 without getting a Japanese name? That there were hate crimes committed against Korean schoolgirls as early as the late 1990’s?


And the ultimate taboo, did you know that Japan had its own class of “untouchables” like India? These are known as Burakumin, or at least that’s the nicest word for them. They were often relegated to “unclean” professions like tanning and butchery, and in premodern Japan someone could literally cut down a Burakumin in the street in broad daylight and receive no reprisal.  While they are legally no different from anyone anymore, socially is a different story. If you have Burakumin ancestry, chances are, you live in certain districts–because no one else will rent or sell a house to you. Employers use your address to openly discriminate against you. If you marry, your family may hire someone to trace your family history to make sure you have no Burakumin ancestors. To many, it’s taboo to even discuss them. Below is Jiichiro Matsumoto, a burakumin and considered to be the father of burakumin liberation.

There’s more, of course, but you get the idea. Most people outside of Japan are simply considered gaijin–whether you’re a black gaijin or a white gaijin. You’re a foreigner. Sure, due to imperialism, a Japanese is going to think of a white English-speaker first and there are some differences within the category, but know that this is the category the rest of the world has been placed in. We’re a goofy novelty sure, but there are random gaijin of all colors being the “talento” of Japanese television. Outside of the extreme Japanese right, we’re not very controversial.


As you can see, the Japanese are racial-ideology-wise far from perfect. But for someone to come in with no knowledge of this long and complicated history and insist that having more Hispanic/Black/POC(a meaningless term in a country full of POC) characters in anime, it’s saying that American racial ideas and politics are more important. Sure, I love when anime has diversity of any kind. But if you think an anime with a “POC” is more progressive and ignore something like Samurai Champloo–which has both a Ryukyu island native main character and several episodes devoted to the Ainu–then I’m sorry, but you’re being culturally ignorant and contributing to cultural imperialism. That yet again, the gaijin should be the star. And the West has a very, very long history of imposing its own sense of morality on everyone else. I can find way more foreigners of any color portrayed in anime than any Ainu, let me tell ya. I have no right to tell a foreign industry to stop making media that reflects them and their racial identity and instead make stuff that looks like an American sitcom.


This doesn’t mean let Japan off the hook. But that means that if you want to have your own opinion, if you want to be taken seriously, and if you want to promote social justice without doing the exact same white man’s burden act we’ve always done, then you have a responsibility to educate yourself.