Thursday, April 23, 2009


I saw this mannequin on Takeshita Dori in Harajuku yesterday. People were laughing and clapping their hands and taking photos with it. In Japan you often see depictions of black people that would flip Westerners out. Japanese people are usually pretty bewildered when anyone takes offense. Then lots of non-Japanese people argue about it. Some people say Westerners are trying to impose their own ideas of political correctness on Japan, and that these depictions can't actually be racist because Japan has no history of racism involving black people like the US does. Most people agree this is an issue of ignorance rather than deliberately malicious racial stereotyping.

Of course I agree with the last statement, but it can't be left at that. I would call this mannequin thoughtless and insensitive. It is unequivocally offensive. I don't assume the people responsible for this mannequin are bad people, but it should not be difficult for them to understand how this could offend. This and other such grotesque Sambo images are accepted as depictions of black people in Japan. It's 2009. Time to get a clue.

It sucks because Takeshita Dori is usually such a refined and intellectually stimulating place.


Julie said...

I totally agree with this. Remember the blackface at the Obama onsen?

The last sentence cracked me up. Takeshita Dori...

jerylynism said...