Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
“‘Hafu’ focuses on whole individual” (February 28) is another addition to recent articles on the identity of half-Japanese children and adults. Contributors to the paper have expressed a wide range of opinion on the “half” epithet - from indignantly offended to good-naturedly unconcerned. It bothers me to think that foreign residents and spouses of Japanese might push, or try to push the debate over language and racial identity, race relations associated with bi-racial, bi-cultural, or Amer-Asian people here to the level of a public phenomenon like what it is in the United States, because I regard concern over race a complete red herring, an issue of little value because it boasts only negligible substance. Race is not important. It’s nothing. Properly speaking it should not register, and concern over racial issues betrays both a social agenda and an underlying racism. I’m bored with the topic. And yet, the fiction of the racial divide in America is so established in that country that it is a permanent fixture of life there and they try to export it with the rest of their culture. To question its reality, its veracity, or its validity is unimaginable.
I hail from a country were race does not register as the social divide that it does in America and that I worry it might become among foreigners and their children in Japan. I was raised in a place where language, not race is the great social issue.
I understand that for Japanese nationality is closely associated with race because of the history of (relative) racial homogeneity here. But let’s admit the truth that racial homogeneity here is and always was a myth for all that. I think it is absolutely imperative for Japanese to learn this lesson - or have it taught to them - that nationality is primarily a question of citizenship, not of race.
And, incidentally, I am one of those whose calls my children “double.” I vehemently deny that they are “half.” They are 100% Japanese, and to prove it the government issued them with Japanese passports proclaiming it. Why? Because they are citizens. The Revised Nationality Law of 1984 says so.
Printed on Sunday, March 8, 2009 as “Moving past the debate about race.”
The paper edited this letter somewhat, but in retrospect I am not unhappy with it. I think that the editing compromised my feeling of passion for the topic. My line about concern over race constituting an issue that boasts only “negligible substance” I thought was a good-sounding ass-kicker. My point is that I do not believe that Japan needs a social dialogue on race, racism and race relations on the scale of what occurs in America. I don’t think Japan would benefit from it, and so it seems unbecoming if foreign residents push the issue in Japanese’s faces. Or mine, either, for that matter.