Black Culture in Japan

I, of course have my own opinions. What are yours?

2 Responses to “Black Culture in Japan”

  1. Matt

    This is very interesting.

    In some ways this is a less P.C. example of the worldwide mimicking of American pop rap culture. Many kids/teens across the US, whether they’re White, Asian, Latino, or other, have seen this culture and worked to mimic it in their dress, speech, music, etc. Similarly, Black kids with no relationship to gang life or the violence and stupidity so often represented by the pop rap culture have taken advantage(?) of their Blackness to easily identify with this culture. Also, I’ve seen videos of African teens adopting this culture and heard from many people who’ve visited Africa that this is the primary representation many Africans get of Black Americans, and many assume that this is what Black American culture looks like.

    So, this definitely joins all of those groups. Just in its relationship there, it’s sad–that they assume, at least a little bit, that this is what Blackness is. It’s sad that pop rap culture is so popular that *anyone* would want to emulate it. It’s strange for us to see non-Americans emulate it, even as it’s a little less strange (since it’s so familiar) for us to see kids from the suburbs emulate it.

    What’s worse, or more jarring, about this is how upfront they are about calling this “Black ______”. Black night. Black culture. Black lifestyle. Black for life. They’re unashamedly assuming quite a few things: That this represents global Black culture (wildly untrue). That this represents Black American culture (also wildly untrue). That you can enter, represent, and claim a culture purely by wearing their clothing, changing the color of your skin, or listening to different music. This is one of the most painful aspects of it. To yell “Black for life”, “Black lifestyle”, and other things like this is a little absurd. It certainly has its parallels in suburban White kids sporting shirts with things like “Thug life”, but again, it’s a little less painful when they’re at least identifying with *thug* culture (pop rap) instead of *Black* culture (or their complete misunderstanding of it.)

    Also, the identification with a particular culture is one thing; tanning your skin to look like them is another. I’m all for breaking out of boundaries of colorism in one’s culture, but tanning every week to look more Black is kind of nuts. I can’t say for sure how it’s more or less nuts than white folks tanning for beauty, but for me it seems more off.

    I don’t want to be some hater who says no one can appreciate other cultures. I love hip-hop. I love many aspects of Black american culture, African-American culture, and shared global aspects of Black culture. I also have respect for Japanese and White American cultures. I don’t think I shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy aspects from those cultures, or even clothing, styles of dress, music, and more. But just like I shudder at a bunch of White kids wearing karate clothes and watching Anime and thinking they understand and represent the entirety of Japanese culture, I shudder at this. Not just because these girls are ignorant, but because there’s been nothing given them to battle that ignorance. What opportunities have they been given to receive a positive image of Black culture? How have they been exposed to any Black cultures outside of the American pop rap culture?

    I dunno. That’s all for now, but this is really a great opportunity to think through ownership and freedom in culture, misrepresentation of Black culture in the media, and to remember (only Tereva will remember this) Bengston’s class and thoughts about appreciating every culture. Thanks for posting it!

  2. Morgan

    :\. Hmmm…I’m not mad at, I think her name was Hina? and her friend for emulating something they like… I’m very disturbed/ offended in general by this idea though. The reporter really got me when she said that the girl and her friend were off to have a “black night.” Ha, wow 😐 . Obviously it’s problematic, very very problematic that in Japan this is the popular idea of what it means to be “Black.” And how degrading really, to an entire VARIED group of people to be reduced to this representation. To consider the richness of black culture/history and to see that the world’s (or other ethnic groups’) take away from that is mainly commercial hip hop–the kind that tends to be exploitative and degrading to women–well, that’s really sad.
    I think it would be a different issue if they seemed to understand that there was more to being black, that what they liked was only one aspect of black culture but that doesn’t seem to be the case…


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