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Is "Gaijin" a Racist Slur?

Is the word "Gaijin" a racist slur?

  • Yes, it is a racist slur and should never be used.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Yes, in practice, it is a racist slur.

    Votes: 8 7.8%
  • No, but it have Racist connotations.

    Votes: 24 23.5%
  • No, it is not a racist slur.

    Votes: 21 20.6%
  • No, it is perfectly fine to refer to those who don't have Japanese Citizenship.

    Votes: 10 9.8%
  • No, it is perfectly fine to refer to those who are not of Ethnic Japanese Descent.

    Votes: 19 18.6%
  • I don't have an opinion.

    Votes: 20 19.6%

  • Total voters
    102

Flanker

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I have a simple question for the JREF Community: do you consider the word "Gaijin" a racist slur? In my opinion, it in and of itself isn't a racist slur, but many people have co-opted into a word that has racit connotations (I.E. being shouted at a white person, who may or may not have permanent residency or citizenship). I also think it is kind of a rude word, and I don't use it much.
 

RockLee

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Gaijin or Gaikokujin means "foreigner", so why would it be racist? It is what we are as non-Japanese. Foreigners.
 

Damicci

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I don't the word was considered rude because of your particular example. But rude because it sort of labels a person as having no origin that are just outsiders where gai koku jin actually makes says the person is just from a another country.

gai - jin = foreing / outside person
gai - koku - jin = foreign / outside country person
 

nice gaijin

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Out of context, the word indicates a sense of exclusion, but whether it is meant as a slur or derogatory statement is entirely dependant on how it is expressed. There are a lot of people who get offended by the word, even when it's used in an innocent way, because they think it's indicative of a racist mindset. Everyone is ethnocentric in one way or another; the Japanese have just incorporated it into their language.
 

Damicci

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nice gaijin said:
Out of context, the word indicates a sense of exclusion, but whether it is meant as a slur or derogatory statement is entirely dependant on how it is expressed. There are a lot of people who get offended by the word, even when it's used in an innocent way, because they think it's indicative of a racist mindset. Everyone is ethnocentric in one way or another; the Japanese have just incorporated it into their language.

Agreed. I don't see the big deal. As far as I am concerned if some said it in a spiteful manner, "You stupid gaijin etc." then maybe you can be upset about it. I just think some people take these equal rights things too far.
 

Hachiro

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nice gaijin said:
Out of context, the word indicates a sense of exclusion, but whether it is meant as a slur or derogatory statement is entirely dependant on how it is expressed. There are a lot of people who get offended by the word, even when it's used in an innocent way, because they think it's indicative of a racist mindset. Everyone is ethnocentric in one way or another; the Japanese have just incorporated it into their language.

Pretty much the same way as people in the US would use the word immigrant. THAT has all sorts of connotations as well, not only today but from throughout history too.

Like nice gaijin wrote, and for myself as well, it all depends on how it is said on whether or not I find it offensive or not.
 

JimmySeal

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The dictionary will tell you that gaijin and gaijkokujin are not completely synonymous. Gaijin has this extra meaning:
(2)窶愿?窶氾問?堙??堙遺?堋「ツ人ツ。窶伉シツ人ツ。ナ?O窶「窶昶?堙個人ツ。
Outsider, stranger.

Gaikokujin is not completely synonymous with "foreigner" either, as gaikokujin has the added definition, "somebody who does not have Japanese citizenship," so even an Australian strolling around in the outback is a gaikokujin even from the perspective of Japanese visitors to his country, and he can do little to change that.
 

Ewok85

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I have some friends who call me ketou or hakujin when they want to wind me up :p

If you want to have some fun, respond by calling your Japanese agitator アジア系 👍 See how much they enjoy racial grouping.
 

Mike Cash

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Ewok85 said:
I have some friends who call me ketou or hakujin when they want to wind me up :p

If you want to have some fun, respond by calling your Japanese agitator ニ但ニ淡ニ但ナ地 👍 See how much they enjoy racial grouping.

My wife once recommended "窶ーツゥツ色ツ人" (oushokujin) as a reply to 窶昶?卍人. I have yet to use it.
 

Ewok85

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I'll remember it and it shall be sweet - will let you know if my mate can trump it!
 

Glenn

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Mike Cash said:
My wife once recommended "窶ーツゥツ色ツ人" (oushokujin) as a reply to 窶昶?卍人. I have yet to use it.

Wow. That's pretty hardcore. I guess in Japanese they're about the same as far as connotation (I don't have much experience with either word, though), but in America "white" is fine, but "yellow" is just wrong.
 

Maciamo

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I feel it is racist in the sense that it is meant to exclude. Its meaning is not as much "foreigner" as "not of Japanese blood and education".

It has little to do with nationality on paper as naturalised Japanese who don't look Japanese are refer as "gaijin". It is not just about blood as emigrated Japanese also become gaijin (or at least their children not born and bred in Japan).
 
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JimmySeal

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Sometimes old people use the word and I don't let it bother me 'cause they probably don't know any better, but I sure stew when people who should know better use it.
One time I told a colleague that we have a channel in New Jersey that shows Japanese programming for an hour every night with no English subtitles. She asked (in Japanese) "So gaikokujin who don't understand Japanese won't understand it?" The correct response should have been "Well, Americans in their own country aren't foreigners are they? You are." But I couldn't think that fast.

The dual meaning of gaikokujin enables Japanese people to use it in as racist a way as they see fit. And of course common usage always beats out dictionary definition anyway. Even though ツ広ナスツォ窶ー窶 defines ニ淡ニ停?ヲツーニ湛 as (and only as), liquid drawn from a fruit or vegetable, that won't stop people from using the word as though it were synonymous with "soft drink."
 
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JimmySeal said:
One time I told a colleague that we have a channel in New Jersey that shows Japanese programming for an hour every night with no English subtitles.
You talking about WYBE? They show a lot of awesome stuff from overseas. Jersey pride, baby! Snoochie boochies!

The correct response should have been "Well, Americans in their own country aren't foreigners are they? You are." But I couldn't think that fast.
Damn! That would have been a good one. It's always good to knock at the unconscious preconcieved notions about the world that people don't realize they have. Whenever you get one of those, it makes you re-evaluate a small but vital piece of the world you live in.

It's always a good day when I can say, "Huh! Well, I never thought of that!" It can lead to enlightenment, and that's a great feeling.

The dual meaning of gaikokujin enables Japanese people to use it in as racist a way as they see fit. And of course common usage always beats out dictionary definition anyway.
It's the same as how the Hebrew term "goyim" can be used. As well as how the Greeks and Romans used the term "barbarian". The concept is not that new.

Maciamo said:
I feel it is racist in the same that it is meant to exclude.
Bingo! Again, just as the term "goyim" is used to mean "other" or "non-Jew".

In a world of millions of different ethnic and linguistic groups, to divide the world into terms of "us" and "not us" does indeed smack of some degree of racialism and ethnocentrism.

Like I've said on another thread, it is my understanding that most Japanese are brainwashed with this from a young age. If they are racist, they don't realize it, and many would be appalled to discover if they were. They may interpret it as national pride. In many of the fantasy worlds of anime, Japanese writers and animators create an ideal world bereft of racism and sexism, displaying a marked interest in equity and the "brotherhood of man" in stark contrast to the realities of their society. Any ethnocentrism many individuals exhibit is because they seek to maintain wa.

Besides, like it or not, Japanese is a language of power, and the relationships of power are very apparent in the vocabulary, moreso than in many modern European languages. It cannot be surprising that the designation of "foreigner" or "not Japanese" will have overtones of power and separation between the speaker and the listener.
 

Elizabeth

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Mike Cash said:
My wife once recommended "窶ーツゥツ色ツ人" (oushokujin) as a reply to 窶昶?卍人. I have yet to use it.
I agree it may be unpleasant to think about but 窶昶?卍人 is Caucasian, ツ坂?「ツ人, black etc. What are they supposed to use instead? That is their language. :eek:
 

osias

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I don't use the word gaijin when i speak japanese, but on an English forum like this one, this word seems to show up quite frequently, and i somehow use the word on an English forum, because others use it. Is gaijin an english word already? I find it strange that many gaijins prefer to use this word gaijin, while many others complain about its racist connotations? There is no single consensus.

I myself grew up overseas in 4 different countries, i've been a foreigner most of my life time. But i don't take offense at being considered a foreigner, because i am! I like the aloofness, rootlessness, etc of a global nomad.
 
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Mike Cash

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Elizabeth said:
I agree it may be unpleasant to think about but 窶昶?卍人 is Caucasian, ツ坂?「ツ人, black etc. What are they supposed to use instead? That is their language. :eek:

I have no problem with the words. I use both 窶昶?卍人 and ナ?Oツ人 as descriptors for myself, when appropriate. I also don't play the idiotic P.C. game of ナ?Oツ坂?伉人 = "okay" and ナ?Oツ人 = "offensive".

The specific occasion my wife recommended using 窶ーツゥツ色ツ人 as a rejoinder to 窶昶?卍人 was one time when a carload of young idiots in the darkest recesses of Fukushima decided to shout 窶昶?卍人ツ! to me as an epithet.
 

Glenn

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osias said:
I don't use the word gaijin when i speak japanese, but on an English forum like this one, this word seems to show up quite frequently, and i somehow use the word on an English forum, because others use it. Is gaijin an english word already? I find it strange that many gaijins prefer to use this word gaijin, while many others complain about its racist connotations? There is no single consensus.

That's an interesting question, but I would say that the answer is "no" in that it isn't known by the population at large, only amongst those who have an interest in Japan. I'd be surprised if some of my friends who ask me to translate Korean for them (they think it's Japanese) knew the word "gaijin."

It is true that lots of non-Japanese on this forum use the word to describe themselves, and I think that it can have different connotations when we use it just like when Japanese people use it. For instance, if I were to say something like 窶堋ス窶堋セ窶堙固?Oツ人窶堙??堋キ窶堋ゥ窶堙ァ窶堙 ("I'm just a foreigner") then I would be putting myself down, whether I meant it sarcastically in a way to attack someone's prejudices or jokingly to offer an excuse for not knowing a word or some fact about Japanese history or whatever.

My guess as to why we would use it would be that we want to, ironically, show that we are a part of the Japanese circle by showing a knowledge of the language and how it's used, but perhaps it also shows a sense of comaraderie amongst non-Japanese and serves to bring us closer together and comfort us in our knowledge of the fact that we'll always be outsiders. There also may be some destigmatizing effect involved, the way many black people started using "nigger" to refer to each other. Of course, I don't think the two words are really comparable (although nowadays "nigger," or "nigga," has come to be used to refer to anyone you're friends with by some young people irrespective of race, but initially there was absolutely no positive connotation inherent in the word), but some people may perceive "gaijin" as only being a slur and by using it they can take some of the sting out of it.
 
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Damicci

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Mike Cash said:
I also don't play the idiotic P.C. game of ナ?Oツ坂?伉人 = "okay" and ナ?Oツ人 = "offensive".

Thank you, Foreign is foreign. Only be upset if they mean it in an offensive way.
 

Maciamo

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Elizabeth said:
I agree it may be unpleasant to think about but 窶昶?卍人 is Caucasian, ツ坂?「ツ人, black etc. What are they supposed to use instead? That is their language. :eek:

The language belongs to the person who use it. Would you argue that the English should be the only ones allowed to define the rules and usage of the English language because it is their language ?
 

Maciamo

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Mike Cash said:
I have no problem with the words. I use both 窶昶?卍人 and ナ?Oツ人 as descriptors for myself, when appropriate. I also don't play the idiotic P.C. game of ナ?Oツ坂?伉人 = "okay" and ナ?Oツ人 = "offensive".

I dislike the use of 窶昶?卍人 for Caucasians only because to me East Asians are as white as Caucasians.

I dislike the use of both ナ?Oツ坂?伉人 and ナ?Oツ人 as they mean the same and have the same intention to exclude ("not us", "not one of ours").
 

Damicci

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Maciamo said:
I dislike the use of 窶昶?卍人 for Caucasians only because to me East Asians are as white as Caucasians.
I dislike the use of both ナ?Oツ坂?伉人 and ナ?Oツ人 as they mean the same and have the same intention to exclude ("not us", "not one of ours").
But isn't that the case? Unless they come up with new classifications for Non Japanese residents in Japan (e.g. American-Japanese, African-Japanese, Chinese-Japanese) Like we have here then thats what you are. Non Japanese, a foreigner. It's not like it's "really" meant to say "Hey you guys are not Japanese hahaha we shall label you hahaha" It's mainly classification. Unless I am missing something, there is no true intentional disrepect with the word. Just some Japanese can use it offensively if they choose.
 
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