Monday, July 11, 2005

Racism is ubiquitous - the Japanese experience

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Japan racism 'deep and profound'

In Japan it's legal to have store signs that say "Japanese Only", by which I think they first mean "no Koreans" and secondarily no Euros. (Africans are probably too shocking to contemplate.) Many Japanese are still explicitly ethnocentric and racist.

So, for that matter, are the Quebecois. Also the Chinese and the Koreans. And umm, oh yes, the rest of us. What's a bit different about Japanese racism is that it's relatively widely accepted and institutionalized in both religious and political life. Such honesty is unusual for a wealthy nation.

The US has traveled some distance since our days of explicit, santioned racism -- not so long ago. It's been an irregular course and it's sure to reverse; since 9/11 racism has probably grown here. We're still very racist, but we're less honest about it. I think, in this case, dishonesty is good. The first step towards changing a behavior is to make it shameful, something that ought to be hidden.

Progress can occur. One day humans may even be civilized; perhaps in two or three hundred years.

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