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White privilege in Japan?

nahadef

Quietly exploding
27 Nov 2012
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My Tumblr feed gets overwhelmed with activist ideas at times, and while I support a lot of the ideas, it's not why I started a Tumblr blog, so I tend to stay out.

The notion of white privilege comes up from time to time, and I mostly agree with it. I think it's fair to say that white people have an advantage in North America/Europe. I don't want to get into why, but I just want to say that I agree with the concept... THIS THREAD ISN'T ABOUT THAT.

At one point, I responded to someone about the notion of white privilege in Japan. I don't think it's really there any more than Asian privilege exists in America (I suppose it sort of exists since Asians often have 'nicer' stereotypes than some other ethnic groups, but I hesitate to call this privilege). I mainly replied to remind people of the luxury minorities in the West have, in the world and in history. Most of the world still just ignores minorities. Something very unique has developed in America, where so much attention is given to this topic.

Another person picked up on this and claimed it was most definitely there, though he had no experience in Japan per se.
(feel free to read some of their points, to see where one person who disagreed were coming from)
Lost City Comics | The Sun Never Sets on White Privilege

I disagreed with him first off because he was in Taiwan 18 months, which is 100% different from actually trying to live somewhere and make yourself at home.

Here are the reasons I would say it doesn't make a difference:

I don't think whites get treated better overall than other ethnic groups. I have anecdotal evidence that East Asians are not always treated
well, but that doesn't put whites above others. I think Japanese, in general, find foreign people interesting, regardless of ethnicity.

In Japan, whites suffer the same discrimination all foreigners have, such as with getting contract work instead of actual jobs, and not being able to rent (though a lot of Japanese can have trouble renting without a parent to sign for them).

In poor Asian countries, being white may mean having money to throw around to the locals, but in Japan, it means very little. Any foreigner showing up in Japan is likely to have a certain amount of money behind them. I could be wrong, and whites get better treatment as a tourist, but I can hardly see how.

One point the guy made, was that he was able to easily work as a kindergarten English teacher, compared to a Filipino working as a nanny. It's true, whites get those jobs, but the Filipino is not likely fluent in English and a university grad. My boss at my old language school job was actually a Filipino, but he was fluent and a university grad, which was how he got into his position in the first place. I can't call this a matter of white privilege, except in that white people have a better opportunity to go to university in the West than many others. I've seen Filipinos, Jamaicans, and Brazilians teaching here. It's the university degree that matters, not the colour of them.

Furthermore, the teaching thing is a sort of a discrimination unto itself. Though foreigners often have issues learning the language, even with that, other jobs will not be easy as easy to get as it might for a native. In many ways, teaching is what people prefer for foreigners, temp jobs.

On top of that, there is the issue of being the perpetual outsiders, based on looks and blood, more than on manners, language, what have you. It is simply difficult to be treated as an equal as a foreigner in Japan, regardless of one's ethnicity (if it's Japanese).


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is not a post about the racism in Japan, that's something totally separate. This is a question of the Western ideas of white privilege having weight in Japan. I think there might have been an argument 30 years ago, when Western culture was in vogue, but today, I just can't see it as making a difference. Do you think it does? Especially to the people actually living here and not simply on an extended working holiday, trying to make a life for yourselves... If white, do you feel a privilege? If not, do you feel worse off than the whites here?

I'd love to hear it.
 
Hmmmm....not to go into too much detail....but I think it exists....but is so focused on just a few specific aspects of life, and when you factor in the negatives that come with being a minority of any race in Japan, in aggregate, Whites are not really privileged at all...just more than others.

In fact, you could even say there is a White American privilege. And while all this is certainly not systematic, I think that where personal feelings play a part in how things pan out, being White can mean being more trusted. But of course it depends on the individual Japanese. I just think most have more positive feelings about Whites, or at least just a healthy respect, again, in certain aspects. For example we may be regarded as unclean, with strange customs, manners and habits, but so much culture and technology that Japan has imported is viewed as coming from Whites, such as Christmas and computers. Plus its viewed that they got their butts kicked in the war by Whites, even though it was a multi-racial effort.
 
'White' is a state of mind.

Not to say white people are better or any of that jazz, but there is a strange thing that white people have in their racial state of mind that does not traditionally exist in the same form with any other race. I don't posit that it is a good or bad thing, but in my years i've noticed it's a thing.

Generally speaking - Such a thing does not exist in the 'white' mind set that they are anything but number 1.

Either number 1 because everyone is number 1 because we are all equal

Or number 1 because of some kind of bizarre racial pride. Which is something different to National pride.

While Everyone decided to be nice and get along with their neighbours. Europe just so happened to be full of narky, backstabbing warmongers. So there is no historical context even to bring any doubt.

From this comes what I would dub, for lack of a better word, a racial 'confidence', that is total. And only seen in it's reality in white people.
From this confidence comes it's advantage in foreign countries such as Japan. It's a confidence that had the Japanese dub westerners barbarians because they though we were uncouth and impolite.

People react to the vibe you give off. To make the best impression and thus succeed you need to be able to 'walk in like you own the place'.
It's something that apart from a few specific situations, 'white' are not hindered in if they are in a racial minority.
You could be the only white person for 300 miles and it would not matter, the thought would not even cross your mind.

And it's that complete lack of negativity within the mind set that gives the advantage. People of other races can have the same 'white' mindset, and many do, but it's something that seems to be naturally found in people who class themselves as white. It is near universal.

It's obviously not the be all and end all - There are certainly Japan/country specific things, and things that form from the views of the specific people you are with, be they Japanese, black etc.

But i think it's in part connected with that.
you literally can't troll a white person about being white.
which reminds me of

[video=youtube;TG4f9zR5yzY]
 
Sevenstars,

First, a correction. Westerners weren't considered barbarians because of their confidence, but because they didn't bathe, and had no respect for/understanding of Japanese manners.

For the rest, I can see that as a psychological bonus as a tourist, but I don't know how well it applies to someone actually living in Japan for life. When you have limited job selection, can't rent an apartment, and years on in, still get complemented like a child for your ability to use chopsticks, you start to develop a less than equal mentality. I haven't experienced it so much, but people here longer than me have described the train bubble, where even on a crowded train, nobody wanted to sit next to them. I think there are enough foreigners here now that people have gotten used to them in that case.

Now, I don't want to whine about racism, since it's totally voluntary to live here, and most whites could go home if/when they want to, but I do think this sort of experience erodes some of the natural confidence of which you write. At the very least, foreigners can feel being treated differently, and not in a "bonus!" sort of way.

As for Louie, I love him, and it's true, whites are the exploiters in history, not the exploited, but it doesn't apply to Japan in the 21st century. I've never worried about being made into a slave here.
 
What non-eikaiwa jobs are you qualified for and for which you have the requisite verbal and literacy skills? Have you ever sought employment here in any of them? Please tell us about it.
 
What non-eikaiwa jobs are you qualified for and for which you have the requisite verbal and literacy skills? Have you ever sought employment here in any of them? Please tell us about it.

My resume and work experience isn't relevant to the point of the topic whatsoever. I know foreign people working outside of the eikaiwa system. The notion is that white people don't have a working privilege in Japan versus other ethnicities. Hence the thread title.

As you imply, the qualifications and language skills come first. I think someone of any nationality with those skills would be doing better. You can look at the Japan-born Korean population as a concrete example of that, as they work in all fields of Japanese society.
 
But you state that foreigners (whites?) are stuck in teaching jobs as a form of discrimination because that's where the Japanese want them,

The actual fact of the matter is that the vast bulk of the "teachers" are here for only a short time and came specifically for that employment. The others, those who stay long-term, may very well be "stuck" in teaching but that is entirely a matter of their either having failed to acquire any other marketable skills or qualifications or language abilities, or simply having never even tried to seek positions in other fields. If they're stuck in Eikaiwa it is a failure on their own part, not some act of discrimination on the part of the Japanese. The simple fact is that they are stuck in a mindset that the only way they can make a living in this country is by selling their gaijinity. Put that aside and be willing (and capable and qualified) to do the same sort of work the Japanese do, and for the same wages and under the same conditions, and there are employers who will overlook your whiteness. The other part of the problem is that many of the non-whites are from poorer countries and will do jobs and work for wages that the whites, who tend to be college graduates from developed countries, will turn their noses up at.

Whites in Japan have very little genuine discrimination to gripe about, in my opinion, and in fact do more to hold themselves separate from Japanese society in their own little gaijin bubbles than the Japanese could ever do even if they tried. And the whites whose very ability to remain here at all depends on selling their gaijinity (foreign language ability, foreign appearance, etc) really have no room to gripe when some Japanese person notices or comments on their being a foreigner....such as expressing wonder over their chopstick skills. I would say that to the contrary the bulk of whites in the Eikaiwa field ought to be glad the Japanese are so willing to take upon themselves the blame for poor English learning instead of demanding better and more professional instruction from teachers whose job qualifications exceed a pulse and a pleasant smile. If they ever do wake up and realize what a sham and scam that whole industry is they would ride the whole lot out of town on a rail and I would love to have the pitchfork concession.
 
So you're saying whites are privileged in Japan then? That's the question.
 
So you're saying whites are privileged in Japan then? That's the question.

A certain proportion of them are able to earn aiming here despite being in a industry whose employers and customers have little to no demands or expectations that they what they do result in any discernible or lasting improvement or benefit and thus are a sector that contribute little to nothing or nothing of consequence to society or the economy....not even delivery of what they are purportedly selling. So, yeah, of at least that sector I would have to say that their being able to remain here at all is indicative of an indulgent attitude toward them. Yes, they're privileged.
 
Fair enough, though I would say non-whites with equal skills are quite capable of the same, making it an English privilege and not a white one.
 
Fair enough, though I would say non-whites with equal skills are quite capable of the same, making it an English privilege and not a white one.

Very true, very true.

But there have been sufficient complaints about a real or perceived hiring preference for whites as English teachers that even within the subcontext of the Eikaiwa world there exists (or is perceived to exist) a white privilege.

I've many times over the years encountered Eikaiwa teachers here for the long run and who admit to hating it and feeling stuck in it. I similarly quite often hear comments attributing everything under the sun to Japanese racism/discrimination, when more often than not a sober analysis of the situation revealed the problem to be their own cluelessness about things and/or an expectation that they be treated differently (read: "better") than Japanese people would in the same situation. In my experience, not only are whites here privileged, but they act like they're privileged and damned well expect to be treated like they're privileged. It is the times they don't get treated with the kid-glove deference they think their privileged selves deserve that they whine the loudest and longest about how unfair Japan is to them.
 
'White' is a state of mind.
To an extent, yes. But when a white person tries to have the mindset of a different culture, they're not usually taken seriously by anyone, whether it be that culture, their own culture, or other cultures. Think of how people react when a white person tries to adopt a mindset that is traditionally associated people who are, for example, black or Asian. That's racism if I ever saw it. People should be allowed to adopt mindsets regardless of the color of their skin.

There are advantages to the white mindset, but there is a disadvantage in not being allowed to have other mindsets. White people may be dealt a hand that is generally better than other races, but if there was truly no racism against whites, they would not be stuck with it if they wanted a different one.
 
Very true, very true.

But there have been sufficient complaints about a real or perceived hiring preference for whites as English teachers that even within the subcontext of the Eikaiwa world there exists (or is perceived to exist) a white privilege.

I've many times over the years encountered Eikaiwa teachers here for the long run and who admit to hating it and feeling stuck in it. I similarly quite often hear comments attributing everything under the sun to Japanese racism/discrimination, when more often than not a sober analysis of the situation revealed the problem to be their own cluelessness about things and/or an expectation that they be treated differently (read: "better") than Japanese people would in the same situation. In my experience, not only are whites here privileged, but they act like they're privileged and damned well expect to be treated like they're privileged. It is the times they don't get treated with the kid-glove deference they think their privileged selves deserve that they whine the loudest and longest about how unfair Japan is to them.

I'm not in the eikawa-business, but I certainly started in Japan there. And I saw more than enough people of all ethnicities working there. I don't see any discriminatory practices, but it could be different from school to school, especially in smaller, less regulated ones. I only have my own experience to go on.

As for your issues with eikawa teachers, and especially white ones, that's your thing, and not something I care to get into. There's a certainly quality of the way some Chinese Canadians used to label new Chinese immigrant FOBs, and have zero sympathy for them. It's not that there's no validity to what you write, but the degree to which you label them as all the same and your anger over it that makes it off-putting, and not something I really want to discuss with you. You're first in line with the pitchforks after all. Who wants to discuss social issues with a guy pointing a pitchfork at you?

Feel free to start a thread explaining how bad English teachers are, but it's not really what question I was asking here.


More along the lines I was asking (and wanted to hear from long-term foreign residents in Japan, who have the experience behind their opinions to back it up):
White privilege - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Surf through that a bit, and then see if you want to add your own input.
 
How did you read what I wrote and get out of it that I'm "angry", have "issues" with English teachers, or people FOB? You find one instance anywhere of me backing up a statement with "I've been here blah-blah years" ....which I've seen from you several times.
 
How did you read what I wrote and get out of it that I'm "angry", have "issues" with English teachers, or people FOB? You find one instance anywhere of me backing up a statement with "I've been here blah-blah years" ....which I've seen from you several times.

It could simply be the Internet, but you have an angry tone. In many threads, but this is one in particular.

I compared it to the way Chinese Canadians have this attitude of FOBs. I've seen it on forums for years, this hierarchy that foreigners who aren't English teachers make sure people know English teachers are the low end of the totem pole (not in terms of length of stay). Some people come here as English teachers, and it seems you think it (eikawa in particular) is a sham and a scam. Maybe that's not you, and I misconstrued the way you were speaking here.

As for backing things up with, I've been here for blah-blah years, in this thread, I was specifically looking for people to discuss the question in those terms. Sometimes that's a valid point. Someone who stays in Japan for a year, not speaking the language often has a shallower experience of things. Yeah, you can back things up that way when appropriate... I think you misunderstood why I brought up the FOB comparison. It has more to do with someone trying to demean people from their own country in their new adopted home for whatever reason. Maybe they are all truly scammers that should be run out of the country in your mind, making your hostility legitimate. I know there are scams, but I also know the industry has improved immeasurably over the last 10 years, as the big companies haemorrhaged students and schools. But man, I don't really care to talk about eikawa, certainly not on a web forum.

You know you like to speak in a brusk, aggressive manner, so you shouldn't be surprised when someone has a disagreement with you. Anyway, moving on... I'll let you have the last word on the topic if you like.
 
"and it's true, whites are the exploiters in history, not the exploited."

Not true. Muslim slavers used to raid the coasts of England and France to haul off whole villages of white Europeans into slavery, for instance.

My experience is now decades old, but when I lived in Japan most landlords and rental agencies wouldn't rent to me and my Japanese wife, solely because I was a gaijin. How do I know that's why? Because they outright said it. "No gaijin."

Now you might say, Roland, that may be bigotry, but it's not actually racism. To which I would reply, but what if you add the fact that they would and did rent to native Japanese married to non-Japanese Asians?

And then the widespread refusal appears to qualify as racism in all meaningful aspects and results. But maybe it should be called something else, because "racism" is such an ugly, politically incorrect term.

I should add that in some ways, in some situations, I was treated as privileged, when they made allowances for my lack of manners and cultural knowledge.
 
"and it's true, whites are the exploiters in history, not the exploited."

Not true. Muslim slavers used to raid the coasts of England and France to haul off whole villages of white Europeans into slavery, for instance.

Fair enough. Whites were the exploiters in history 95% of the time. I stand corrected.


I suppose people here aren't really up on the white privilege debate going on in North America. That's fair enough. I sort of wonder why I'm up on it, since I'm so far out of the loop.
 
The word slave is derived from "Slav", as in "Slavic people". They are and were White.

The ancient Romans enslaved a lot of Europeans. I remember one account saying how they loved those blond haired little boy slaves.

I would say there was a definite period in history when whites were supreme as exploiters, say post-Renaissance even to the modern day. I would also say that period is the most significant to this discussion though. For that time period, 90 to 95 percent might hold truth, but not for all history.
 
I don't post angry, as a general thing. And for the life of be I can't understand how people read anger into my posts. Maybe it comes from having grown up before the era of conflict resolution, anger management, touchy-feeliness. I really don't know.

There are legitimate English teaching operations and legitimate, qualified, professional, effective English teachers in Japan. But there is also a large number of operations which sell dreams and don't deliver, employing for the most part unqualified youths using subpar materials and methods. The latter type of operation is the sham and scam I was talking about. I don't have issues with the people employed to teach at those places. They're here today, gone tomorrow. I do hate to see the customers unwittingly fleeced by the smooth sales talk, though. If Japan ever wises up and demands quality and results, the eki-mae mills are going to be in trouble and likely forced out of business. In no other field of human learning would any nation be willing to invest the time, energy, and anguish that Japan invests in English education in return for such p!ss-poor return on their investment. If math or science were done as poorly as English it would be a national scandal and heads would roll. But the Japanese just blame themselves and keep on shelling out dough to schools/teachers which are no better than and perhaps worse than what they got in regular school. Hence the sham can continue and the people....many of them white and otherwise incapable of supporting themselves in Japan....are able to keep coming and making a living. Hence, they are privileged, as they are exempted from the same expectations one would expect from practically everybody else here.

That's a dispassionate assessment from a man as placid as a clam, not an angry rant. That's an indictment of the sham and scam operators, not the unqualified youths they run in and out of here on a conveyor belt.

If you care to search (and I can't imagine you would) you can find plenty of instances of me strongly putting forth the opinion that the amount of time a person had spent here isn't a reliable indicator of any damned thing, is meaningless, and that it is in poor taste to cow others by mentioning how long one has been here. I found it distasteful behavior back when I was on the short end of if and I vowed that if I ever found myself on the long end of it I wouldn't engage in it myself. If my points can't stand on their own without some reference to how long I've been here to prop them up, then they're too lame to put out anyway.
 
I don't post angry, as a general thing. And for the life of be I can't understand how people read anger into my posts. Maybe it comes from having grown up before the era of conflict resolution, anger management, touchy-feeliness. I really don't know.
I don't understand why people consider your posts to be angry either. I haven't seen you do things like rant in all caps or call other uses names. Then again, this forum is a lot more civilized than others in general.


Hence the sham can continue and the people....many of them white and otherwise incapable of supporting themselves in Japan....are able to keep coming and making a living. Hence, they are privileged, as they are exempted from the same expectations one would expect from practically everybody else here.
Maybe it's supply and demand? Still, it's puzzling why Japan has trouble with English education when so many other non-English-speaking first-world countries seem to manage.

Either way, I think it's very sad for everyone involved. If English "teachers" aren't held to a reasonable standard, that could also hinder their development as a professional. Most people need an outside stimulus to maintain decency. I don't think such a lenient atmosphere is one that brings out the best in people.
 
"If you care to search (and I can't imagine you would) you can find plenty of instances of me strongly putting forth the opinion that the amount of time a person had spent here isn't a reliable indicator of any damned thing, is meaningless, and that it is in poor taste to cow others by mentioning how long one has been here. I found it distasteful behavior back when I was on the short end of if and I vowed that if I ever found myself on the long end of it I wouldn't engage in it myself. If my points can't stand on their own without some reference to how long I've been here to prop them up, then they're too lame to put out anyway."

We see the same kind of thing here. "How long have you been in Alaska?" is almost inevitable when you first meet someone. If you haven't been here long, the implication is that you haven't seen much and don't know anything. It may be a useful gauge for measuring how long a relationship is likely to last, since cheechakos (new-comers) aren't likely to stick around past their first few winters.
 
I don't understand why people consider your posts to be angry either. I haven't seen you do things like rant in all caps or call other uses names. Then again, this forum is a lot more civilized than others in general.
Angry was probably not the best choice of words. I'll retract that for now, but not substitute something else in hopes of not prolonging the discussion on Mike Cash's attitude over the Internet.

We see the same kind of thing here. "How long have you been in Alaska?" is almost inevitable when you first meet someone. If you haven't been here long, the implication is that you haven't seen much and don't know anything. It may be a useful gauge for measuring how long a relationship is likely to last, since cheechakos (new-comers) aren't likely to stick around past their first few winters.

In terms of discussion, it's a case by case thing. In terms of this topic, I would trust the opinion of someone with a decade's experience more than someone with a year's worth. To say someone can validate their argument with the amount of time passed is stupid, but it's also dumb to ignore the breadth of experience a person directly involved in a topic has.
 
But it is a mistake to assume length of stay equals breadth/depth of experience/knowledge/awareness/insight.

The most concise and insightful remark on the nature of Japanese society I have ever heard came from a guy who had been in Japan about four months. And I can point you at people who have been here ten, fifteen, or more years and who are pretty much clueless and content to be so and remain so.

Bolstering statements with one's length of stay adds no real information as to the validity of the statement, implies that the views, observations, and opinions of those with a shorter length of stay must be less valid, has the effect of cowing others into silence by showing them their inferior place in the pecking order, and is gauche.

Trust me; you wouldn't like it if every time you told somebody here on something and backed it up by telling them you've lived here ten years I then came along and refuted what you said and told how long I've been here. Statements of independently verifiable fact need no amplification from the period of one's stay, and expressions of opinion can do without it quite well.

Backing up statements with length of stay or upon meeting another gaijin for the first time immediately comparing lengths of stay are probably the only two near universal gaijin behaviors more annoying and meaningless than using the phrase "...my Japanese wife/girlfriend says xxxx..."
 
IMG_1284.PNG


I scored a whopping "3".....

2, 10, and 12 for me.
 
I fail to see how the checklist you have provided is by any means privilege of any sort for any person of any color. It simply looks like representation and stereotypes. I would expect for everyone to get positive representation and stereotypes in societies where the vast majority of people are the same identity as the person being assessed.
 
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