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Sunday, August 4, 2013

That Bi-Racial Look


If you were to look at my parents, you might think I was actually bi-racial, or what the Japanese call 'hafu', which is exactly as it sounds… half.

My father is as dark-skinned as myself - maybe darker (at least before the Vitelego stripped him of all skin pigmentation), while my mother has an olive complexion that has her being LESS swarthy than people of Greek, Spanish or Italian heritage… whatever that means. Of course, she's been dead for 19 years, so skin color isn't really a factor here.

My son is bi-racial, however… white mother. He's got a beige complexion… still darker than my mother, but has brown hair like HIS mother.

Skin complexion has never been a big deal for me… except when others make it a big deal. And trust me… growing up in Toronto during the late 60s and 70s and 80s and 90s and 00s, people liked to make a big deal out of it. Yeah… Toronto has racists in it. Big surprise, huh? Still does, but admittedly I have not been a target of said racism in a few years.

Having said that, I don't want it to seem like Toronto is full of racists… it is… but 99 per cent of the people I've met in this city - even a higher percentage than that - are not racist. Or they hide it very well. Unless they show or tell you - you never really know.

It's kind of like that in Japan. But… not quite. I think it's still a few decades behind Canada… and that's okay… because… Japan is still relatively new to immigration.

And with immigration, there's always a learning curve. 

Proof that Japan is still behind such nations as Canada (and I'm speaking only from personal experience - I don''t personally know the level of racism in Australia, German, the UK or wherever… but everyone I've met from there is very nice), comes some evidence.

See the image above (start at the bottom right and work your way to the upper left)… for those of you who can not read all of that Japanese in the Nikkei Marketing Journal dated July 29, 2013, the main article shows how the average Japanese woman can apply make-up to turn herself from a dull and boring ordinary Japanese woman into a hot, bi-racial bitch that will be beating off the men... well... maybe nothing quite so sexually violent as all that... unless you are into that sort of thing. And who isn't?

There are just so many things wrong with that article that I don't even know where to begin.

But I'll try… because that's my job as a fair, but opinionated blogger who doesn't get paid for writing this stuff, but does it anyway because he has to. Like a slave. I'm a slave for your commentless love.

So... 

1) Why is there a newspaper article like the Nikkei one?
2) Why do Japanese women need to look hafu? (auto correct likes to change it to 'half')
3) Are Japanese women ashamed of their Japaneseness? I think I just made up a word.
4) Is the mere presence of this Nikkei article racist?
5) Are people who change their look to appear bi-racial actually racist?

I have no idea.

When I began this blog, I thought "Yeah - here's proof that Japan is being racist again!" But is it?

They aren't portraying bi-racial people in a negative way. Instead, by making themselves look more bi-racial, the Japanese are saying being bi-racial is cool.

That's not being racist.

It's not like they are donning black face a la Al Jolson. There's no bone in the nose. No one is carrying a spear, watermelon or fried chicken. No one is making monkey noises.
It's a schtick... I get it. Sort of. No, I don't.

No one is getting drunk wearing a turban, painting their face brown and carrying a Quran (the holy grail of Islam) and a hand-grenade.

No one is wearing nazi gear even though they are a prince of the British empire.

This whole make-up to look hafu is a homage - it is not racist.

Now… this brings me back to my initial five points…

5) No… I don't believe the people wanting to look hafu are racist. They think that looking bi-racial is cool and makes them look prettier. I said 'think' - not that it does or doesn't.
4) The article shows how make-up application can tastefully make a Japanese woman look bi-racial. Nothing racist there. Except that is says the 'Japanese' look isn't as good as the 'hafu' look.
3) Are the Japanese ashamed of their Japaneseness? Let me get back to that one in a few lines.
2) Why do the Japanese need to look hafu? Because it's part of Point #3.
1) See previous two answers as to why there is a Nikkei article like this.

I have long wondered if the Japanese were indeed ashamed of the Japaneseness.

My initial thoughts on this go back to when I was a kid - long before I ever went to Japan.

I always wondered why Japanese anime (cartoons) and later manga (comic books) portrayed the Japanese with large round eyes, rather than the typical epicanthic fold present on the Oriental race.

What's wrong with making your Japanese heroes look Japanese? Don't you create for your audience?

Granted the early days of anime wanted to show 'cuteness', and the best way to do that was/is to oversize the eyes of your character… but not every Japanese cartoon needed to look like it was a Disney cartoon. Why so hung up on being cute, Japan?

But... I assume the whole large-eyed anime thing was for cuteness… not to 'westerneyes' things (Did I just create another new word?).

In the 1930s and 40s, Japan was a military nation committed to make Asia its bitch.

Like the Three Musketeers said: "All for one, and… " no, wait… it was always all for one for Japan back then.

Since 1868 when the isolationist policy of Japan bit the dust, more people within Japan were exposed to foreign things… so… European fashions, foreign inventions, and though I have no proof of it, foreign foods…. and while the Japanese did indeed begin dressing like their global counterparts, they did not attempt to mimic their faces to appear more… gaijin.

But… following World War II… something happened in Japan. A change in the psyche or radiation poisoning, perhaps? Despite life and death battles with the Allies, Japan started to look at the west as something worth imitating.

And this is even though the US nuked the crap out of Nagasaki and Hiroshima killing thousands and thousands of civilians…. not military targets… civilians. Hence my crack about radiation poisoning. Thanks for keeping up with current events.

Yes, maybe it had something to do with the fact that after WWII the Emperor of Japan had to renounce his divinity… his godhood… which made Japan more… common. Or maybe more commoner, as in society.

The Japanese liked baseball…. loved it with a passion after seeing American GIs (General Infantry) play during the occupation of their country…

Maybe it had something to do with the Allies re-writing Japan's constitution… making Japan more dependent on being a part of the solution rather than the problem… no army, but you can help fund one…

Japan's inexpensive labor and ability to shrink items (like radios and televisions), made their inexpensive goods popular around the world… just as their cars in the 70s and 80s…and video games...

By the time I arrived in Japan in 1990, I saw new Japanese buildings - houses - being erected... that no longer had that typical Japanese roof style… but instead looked as plain as a western one (North American)… boring, in my eyes… lacking in style… looking so… non-Japanese… looking as though it had no identity of its own…. and I thought right then and there… that Japan was going to lose its identity one day… It might still be called Japan, but it would look like any other place in North America (Un-bombed WWII-Europe has its own look).

I recall being sick to my stomach once when I saw a young Japanese man wearing a U.S. military bomber jacket (a fashion piece) with the words Enola Gay written on the back, with a needlepoint image of the plane under it. The Enola Gay was the B-29 Superfortress bomber that dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Now… it's 2013… and a newspaper is offering beauty tips on how to apply make-up to look not as a gaijin, but to at least look bi-racial. Being bi-racial… you can at least still appear to be Japanese, but have a skin tone that is… and here it gets silly… not so Japanese…

So… why are some Japanese trying to look hafu? Because someone has said that 'look' is cool.

It's just an opinion, but the offspring of two differing races can either look incredibly good, or not so good, though I have seen it only run towards the good side.

My own son… holy crap… I looked at him and wondered if he got any of the genes from his parents - he was that good looking.

In fact… I know so many people who have bi-racial kids, it's not even funny… I know more bi-racial couples than uni-racial couples. In fact… here in Toronto, it's so common no one even notices them anymore.

I know my mom got looks from people at work when I would show up and call her "mom". How did she get such a dark son? Oh my god, she didn't marry one of those brown people, did she?

The looks aren't there anymore. At least not the negative looks…

But… looking bi-racial in Japan… that seems to be the "in thing."

Having come to that conclusion, I can still hazard a guess that looking bi-racial and being bi-racial are two different things on the scale of coolness.

I would imagine that actually being bi-racial in Japan is not as cool as one might think.

Here's a personal example. I can relate… here I am… in Toronto… growing up as the brown-skinned Canadian with parents born in India… and I'm being called names by racists who have darker suntanned skin than myself. If that isn't the pot calling the kettle brown (sic).

Tune in tomorrow when we look at either the problems of being bi-racial or being bi-cultural. I haven't decided yet.

Somewhere being a hafu-wit,
Andrew Joseph

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