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How do you deal with everyday discrimination ?

misternada

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I have been in Japan for a very very long time, you would think you get used to everyday discrimination after a while, actually for me it is the opposite I really did not pay attention to it for many years and now it is getting more impact on me and I would like to be able to deal with it more easily.

I would like to tell you about about two examples that happened to me this week.

One day leaving for work I was waiting for the lift with two girls I work with,
only people from that company use that elevator, when the elevator door opened, there was a young woman in there, she did not look easy, probably had a bad day, when she saw me come in she was set aback and promptly moved back to the left corner, one girl I am working with went to the right corner, the other girl went to the right side, the two girls I know were speaking with each other, myself I went to the back in the middle, when I did the woman moved quickly to the right side and turned her back to wall facing the center of the elevator, that was a bit weird, the message I received was like "I am scared of gaijin, I do not want one in my back on the lift", I smiled at the two girls pretending I did notice anything, I concerned the two girls noticed that strange behavior too, what did they think about it, and if that sent the wrong messages about foreigners.

A few days later, I went for lunch with 5 Japanese colleagues, at the end of the meal when we lined up to pay the bill, I was in 3rd position,the clerk, a middle aged woman, asked the previous guy in the line if he wanted the check, he declined, my turn, I just tell her what I ate "katsudon-teishoku" then I handed my card, no a word, she turn to my Japanese colleague behind me and ask him "katsudon-teishokudesuka?" to which he says "hai", she handed back the card and the check without a word, I did not say anything but I felt a bit embarrassed and although it is a very small thing I felt humiliated and I can't keep it out my mind. Also I wonder what my Japanese colleague thought about it.

Please let me know if you had some similar stories or advices for me.

Thank you
 
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the message I received was like "I am scared of gaijin, I do not want one in my back on the lift"
You shouldn't concern yourself with what some random woman thinks about you. As long as she didn't mistreat you (and she didn't, considering you had no interaction with her and her actions had no physical effect on you), it doesn't matter.
 

Mike Cash

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You shouldn't concern yourself with what some random woman thinks about you. As long as she didn't mistreat you (and she didn't, considering you had no interaction with her and her actions had no physical effect on you), it doesn't matter.


Have you ever personally experienced being thought repugnant due to some factor about yourself over which you have absolutely zero control?
 
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Have you ever personally experienced being thought repugnant due to some factor about yourself over which you have absolutely zero control?
I can't read anyone's mind, and I don't try to. I also don't pay attention to what strangers are doing which have no effect on me. Why should I?

The story given does not demonstrate that anyone was thought to be "repugnant". All that happened is some lady changed seats for no good reason. Who knows why? Maybe she's a bigot. Heck, maybe she's bigoted against men. That's perfectly plausible, too. Maybe it was just a coincidence and she moved because she saw a spider or something at that time. But regardless of the reason, if it doesn't affect you, so you shouldn't allow it to bother you.

The second story actually involves interaction with someone who refuses to acknowledge you (which is extremely rude, condescending even), so that's different. Always stand up for yourself in situations like that.
 

Mike Cash

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Thank you for your reply, but you didn't answer the question.
 

thomas

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Please let me know if you had some similar stories or advices for me.

Yes, it’s something probably all of us have experienced: the seat on the train next to you that nobody takes, or passengers moving away from you once there’s more space; the passive-aggressive elderly salaryman who repeatedly pushes his elbow/bag/smartphone into your ribs; the people distributing tissues in front of stations who’d casually ignore any passing foreigner.

But guess what? It happens to Japanese too. What I want to say is that sometimes NJ residents tend to be overly sensitive to how their environment reacts to them (and I’ve observed that in my myself quite often).

What we perceive as lacking acknowledgment is often related to shyness, the fact that many Japanese are not accustomed to being surrounded by NJs OR simply the assumption that they (the NJs) are unable to converse in Japanese tongue. When my wife and I go to a restaurant or to a shop staff will - without fail - address her but ignore me.

I concur with Mike: if that’s something that bothers you, just speak up.
 
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Thank you for your reply, but you didn't answer the question.
To reiterate, the question was: "Have you ever personally experienced being thought repugnant due to some factor about yourself over which you have absolutely zero control?" My answer is, "No, of course not, because I don't experience other people's thoughts." Do people think I am repugnant for such reasons? Perhaps. But I prefer to make charitable assumptions about people, mostly because I genuinely believe in the good of humanity.

I remember vaguely noticing a few weeks ago that something perfectly innocent I experienced could have been interpreted as some kind of bigotry if I had been in that mindset. I don't remember what it was, though, because that wasn't the mindset I was in (I instead interpreted it as something completely harmless), and whatever it was, it was so trivial that I quickly forgot about it. That's the thing: if you are operating with the presupposition that people are bigoted against you, you will find bigotry; that's just confirmation bias. It doesn't mean that bigotry is actually there.
 

Mike Cash

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Come experience it first-hand a few dozen times and see if your thoughts regarding it change.

By the way, often it isn't left to one's subjective guessing about what the other person's thoughts are....people here sometimes have no trouble expressing it outright. I've been denied housing and jobs for no other reason than being a gaijin and had the reason communicated directly to me. I've been treated differently in stores because of being a gaijin. Probably most of us who have lived here any time at all have experienced things like in the following video enough to know there is enough truth in it to make the exaggeration funny.


It gets old real quick in real life.

I agree with your thoughts on the subject on a purely theoretical level, but I assure you it is hard to maintain that in the face of repeated real-world exposure.
 

johnnyG

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I've always been pretty thankful that I don't have tissues automatically handed to me. Ditto card campaigns in stores--I've got a couple, thank you, and it's nice not to be subjected to someone's sales chat.

It's like I've got an invisible spam filter.
 
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By the way, often it isn't left to one's subjective guessing about what the other person's thoughts are....people here sometimes have no trouble expressing it outright. I've been denied housing and jobs for no other reason than being a gaijin and had the reason communicated directly to me. I've been treated differently in stores because of being a gaijin. Probably most of us who have lived here any time at all have experienced things like in the following video enough to know there is enough truth in it to make the exaggeration funny.
I'm not expressing any judgment regarding whether discrimination happens. I've never been to Japan, so if you say that Japan has a culture of racism against non-ethnic-Japanese people, I'm not going to argue that point. However, that particular example in the first post I was responding to is not discriminatory.

In fact, if it's true that Japan has a lot of actual discrimination against foreign-looking people, I would say that makes it even more important to not allow yourself to be offended by non-discriminatory events such as these.

I assure you it is hard to maintain that in the face of repeated real-world exposure.
Are there any laws against racial discrimination in Japan? That would be the first step, I think.
 

Mike Cash

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A parable:

When I was a young fellow I was once sitting around the family dinner table at my grandparents house after Christmas dinner. It was nothing but old folks and myself, all the other young people having gone to watch television. I enjoyed sitting and listening to the old folks talk about various things and chiming in with an observation here and there when I could. Topics shifted and flowed and the talk was always interesting.

After a while the topic turned to dentures, where it remained for what seemed to me quite a long while. I couldn't understand why until I looked around the table and examined each person one by one and realized that I was the only person there who had even a single natural tooth left in his head and that I hadn't the background to contribute anything whatsoever to the topic at hand, upon which I politely excused myself and left the table.
 

Glenski

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the message I received was like "I am scared of gaijin, I do not want one in my back on the lift",
You call that discrimination? How do you know what she was thinking or feeling? You don't. Lots of people here are super shy. Don't try reading minds. Ask the other women if they knew her, and get their side of the story before crying wolf.

my turn, I just tell her what I ate "katsudon-teishoku" then I handed my card, no a word, she turn to my Japanese colleague behind me and ask him "katsudon-teishokudesuka?" to which he says "hai", she handed back the card and the check without a word, I did not say anything but I felt a bit embarrassed
How is your pronunciation? Did you speak loudly enough? Good grief. How can we judge a situation like that without being there to hear you? You are too sensitive. If you spoke perfectly, then it's your responsibility to cut in and say "hai, so desu". A bit firmly, too, so they will know you understand, not just spout what you ate. You sound as if you know the language well enough. Use it, and show others that not all foreigners barely get by with minimal Japanese.

I live in a very rural area. I don't see much discrimination here. Oh, there's the usual stuff where a clerk will defer to my Japanese wife for things despite what I've said or wanted, but you have to learn to let some things go. I'll occasionally ask my wife if I was clear enough, and if she says yes, there's nothing more I could do about it.
 
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A parable:
Thanks, but it has several problems:

1. The parable assumes that not personally experiencing something necessarily means that you cannot be knowledgeable about it. This is a false premise. You can experience something and still know very little about it, and you can know very much about something despite not having experienced it personally. I'm sure someone who is engaged in the production of dentures would be able to contribute far more to that conversation than a bunch of old people who just happen to use them.

2. You have been told that I do not experience other people's thoughts, and therefore, I haven't "personally experienced being thought repugnant due to some factor about yourself over which you have absolutely zero control". I also explained that I don't assume that people believe I am "repugnant" simply based on their behavior. You seem to have extrapolated from this that I must have never witnessed anything that could possibly stem from bigotry against me. This is untrue. I have seen behavior that I can envision as being brought about by bigotry against some attribute I have. It's just that I don't know that to be the case at any point, and lacking that knowledge, I apply the principle of charity.

3. I was not even talking about the prevalence of bigotry in Japan. As I said, I was only evaluating whether a specific given story was a case of discrimination. I know what discrimination is, and I know how the story goes just as well as you do. And yes, I have experienced people misidentifying non-discriminatory actions as discriminatory. People have made such accusations against me. So the parable is completely inapplicable to this situation, regardless of how you feel about its usefulness or lack thereof.
 

Mike Cash

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If you don't mind speaking from complete ignorance and total lack of experience about a topic which you say you constitutionally lack the ability to experience in the first place, then by all means please continue.
 
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I'm sorry, do you have mind-reading powers, or do you only mean to say that you assume the worst in people, and that therefore my instinct toward applying the principle of charity is what makes it impossible for me to understand what you are talking about? If the former, then I am skeptical. If the latter, then I will gladly concede the possibility that I might not properly understand your thought process. It has no effect on what I am saying. I cannot think of a third possibility, but if it is indeed a third option, I would be happy to hear about it.
 

Mike Cash

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I'm merely saying that you don't know the pinch of the other man's moccasins. Walk a mile in them and then lecture him about mind-reading.
 

nice gaijin

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@Mike Cash, out of curiosity, if you were in the OP's shoes, how would you have responded to the cashier? I think it's sometimes difficult to find the words if one is unpracticed at speaking up in such situations. Would you have simply responded as Glenski suggested, acting as if she hadn't looked past you and asked your coworker, or would you have been more direct in your response?
 

Mike Cash

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@Mike Cash, out of curiosity, if you were in the OP's shoes, how would you have responded to the cashier? I think it's sometimes difficult to find the words if one is unpracticed at speaking up in such situations. Would you have simply responded as Glenski suggested, acting as if she hadn't looked past you and asked your coworker, or would you have been more direct in your response?

I would be very direct in my response.

Anybody who doesn't speak Japanese well enough to come up with something to say on the spot without needing a phrase list has no business being miffed about it to begin with.

I have always found the most surefire way to avoid that kind of thing is to just go take care of business on your own, without a Japanese friend or family member in tow. (Wouldn't have helped at the restaurant, of course).
 

johnnyG

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A parable:

When I was a young fellow I was once sitting around the family dinner table at my grandparents house after Christmas dinner. It was nothing but old folks and myself, all the other young people having gone to watch television. I enjoyed sitting and listening to the old folks talk about various things and chiming in with an observation here and there when I could. Topics shifted and flowed and the talk was always interesting.

After a while the topic turned to dentures, where it remained for what seemed to me quite a long while. I couldn't understand why until I looked around the table and examined each person one by one and realized that I was the only person there who had even a single natural tooth left in his head and that I hadn't the background to contribute anything whatsoever to the topic at hand, upon which I politely excused myself and left the table.

I'd be willing to bet that most any doc and/or med technician that makes dentures for those who need them do not have dentures themselves.

Three Pinocchios.
 

nice gaijin

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I would be very direct in my response.

Anybody who doesn't speak Japanese well enough to come up with something to say on the spot without needing a phrase list has no business being miffed about it to begin with.

I have always found the most surefire way to avoid that kind of thing is to just go take care of business on your own, without a Japanese friend or family member in tow. (Wouldn't have helped at the restaurant, of course).
An interesting point and I don't disagree, especially because in that situation it's kind of like "yeah, perhaps you're just getting miffed because you were accurately stereotyped." I haven't seen how you operate in person so I guess I'm just curious how you would word yourself; would your direct response have the goal of putting the cashier on the spot and make them uncomfortable, hoping to catalyze them to change how they would approach the situation in the future... like なんで僕に答えてくれないんですか。日本語で注文したので、せめて日本語で返事してください…とか?
 
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I'm merely saying that you don't know the pinch of the other man's moccasins. Walk a mile in them and then lecture him about mind-reading.
You're still being very non-specific. You say I am lacking an experience that is essential to understanding the situation. Can you please tell me what experience you are talking about? Because, as I have already said, the only experience we have established I didn't have is someone else's thoughts. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you have never experienced someone else's thoughts, either. So you're actually talking about something else which you have thus far not named. What experience is so essential for me to be qualified to determine whether or not some lady you don't know moving to the other side of an elevator is an act of discrimination, and why is that experience necessary?
 

Mike Cash

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What experience is so essential for me to be qualified to determine whether or not some lady you don't know moving to the other side of an elevator is an act of discrimination,

Actually having that kind of crap done to you over and over again, like I've experienced since way way way the hell before you were even born, gives you a pretty good baseline for recognizing the behavior and reason for it absent the need for telepathy.

You don't know what we're talking about and you have nothing of value to add to the discussion.
 

johnnyG

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You don't know what we're talking about and you have nothing of value to add to the discussion.

Goodness, aren't we grouchy this morning!

That's kind of like, "Juli, go back to the kitchen where you belong."
 

thomas

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Actually having that kind of crap done to you over and over again, like I've experienced since way way way the hell before you were even born, gives you a pretty good baseline for recognizing the behavior and reason for it absent the need for telepathy. You don't know what we're talking about and you have nothing of value to add to the discussion.

Mike, we want to keep this discussion open to everyone, even those who haven‘t experienced subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) discrimination on a regular basis. ;)

I wonder if the OP (@misternada ) is still following up.
 
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