The documentary “The Making of Black Japan” is a mini-documentary about the racism in Japan and how African Americans are treated there. It contrasts the treatment of African Americans in Japan with that of African Americans in America, showing how much more difficult it is for them to live in America.
A documentary by a husband-and-wife team of photographers examines how African Americans in Japan relate racism in their nation to racism in the United States. “Living while Black, in Japan,” a 15-minute video, was posted to NPR’s YouTube account on September 15.
During an episode of NPR’s “The Picture Show,” African-American Keith Bedford and his Japanese wife Shiho Fukada addressed their picture. The couple stated that they had planned to return to the United States from Japan in the summer of 2020, but then came word of George Floyd’s death.
According to NPR, the pair was inspired to make the film after seeing a video of Floyd’s death. Six African Americans – three men and three women – compare their reception in Japan to what Black people might anticipate in the United States in this documentary.
‘It’s a fantastic mini-documentary.’
On his blog at LaGuardia Community College’s Japanese Studies Department, Professor Tomonori Nagano praised the video as “a wonderful mini-documentary” (chrysanthemum.commons.gc.cuny.edu). In the same way that the film showed Jones being made to feel like a “other” in Japan, Nagano observed that the film represented his wife experiencing similar experiences in the United States.
‘In Japan, I can do things that I couldn’t do in the United States.’
The respondents were more at ease in Japan than in the United States, according to the news site NextShark.
“I can do things here in Japan that I couldn’t do… in the United States,” one lady was quoted as saying on the website. NextShark also remembered one guy saying that he was seen as “less of a human, more of a danger” in the United States.
Other perspectives on racism in the United States and Japan
The documentary isn’t the first time the American media has compared and contrasted Black Americans’ lives in Japan and the United States.
Tracy Jones reminisced on his experiences as an African American returning from Tokyo to Charlotte, North Carolina, in a piece published in the Charlotte Observer. “A Black American Returns from Japan, Then Finds Culture Shock in Charlotte,” he wrote on October 16, 2020. He remembered how “the American media machine” had corrupted most Japanese people with unfavorable preconceptions about African Americans.
“Upholding their politeness, they’d carefully observe me and maintain their distance to avoid embarrassment,” Jones recalled of his nine years in Tokyo. Jones remembered that after moving in the United States, he and his Japanese wife had not experienced the same politeness. He went on to say that witnessing Black Lives Matter protestors on the streets had given him “hope.”
Baye McNeil stated in a New York Times interview that Japanese people avoid sitting close to Westerners in public areas. “The empty-seat phenomena pervades almost every element of the life of the prominent non-Japanese person,” he added. McNeil said Japan had given him a “safe place” to think about and confront racism. “There was no genuinely safe place in the United States before coming there,” he added.
“What It’s Like to Be a Black Man in Japan” was the title of the interview, which was published on March 9, 2019.
Keith Bedford and Shiho Fukada, a photojournalist and filmmaking duo, created a documentary on numerous African-Americans residing in Japan. They talk about their experiences with police and racism in the United States, as well as how this influenced their choice to move overseas. https://t.co/9N4tbBeRYs
15 September 2021, NPR (@NPR)
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