The issue that dares not speak its name

In Japanese, “racial discrimination” is jinshu sabetsu. That is the established term used in official translations of international treaties (such as the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, or CERD) that Japan has signed up to.

However, the Japanese media won’t couch the discussion in these terms. This was visible during the nationwide debate generated by the Otaru onsen case (1999-2005), where public bathhouses refused entry to customers because they didn’t “look Japanese.” If you read the oodles of non-tabloid articles on this case, you’ll see the debate was conducted in milder, misleading language.

For example, it was rendered in terms of gaikokujin sabetsu (discrimination against foreigners). But that’s not the same thing. The people being discriminated against were not all foreign (ahem).

Or else it was depicted as gaiken sabetsu (discrimination by physical appearance). But that’s not “race,” either. Nor is “physical appearance” specifically covered by the CERD.

This term particularly derails the debate. It actually generates sympathy for people afraid of how others look.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20090602ad.html

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