Friday, August 15, 2008

JT and the Weather

Up here in Niigata we get the JT a day late. No doubt about it. I think I've mentioned that before. But sometimes we get news or announcements that come even before that. For example, it might be Tuesday and we'll be getting the actual Monday paper, only the weather will be for Sunday. Or there will be an announcement that something will take place on Friday but it will already be Sunday. You'd think JT could get it right, or at least get the day right.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Is a Gaijin a Nigger

The current brouhaha on the JT's letters to the editors pages is about the word gaijin and whether or not it is racist or just good plain ignorant fun. Probably a little of both, cause what is racism but ignorance without the fun. Just plain ignorant. But I don't understand why JT runs such letters. Why they have run them for 20 years and probably more. When I was growing up my father used the word "nigger" but his wife and his kids, we didn't use it. It seemed to be a word that some families used. For instance, up the street from me was a family of four boys and they did use the word nigger when we were young kids but my the time the 60s kicked in they had given it up. My father's use of "nigger" was odd, though, and maybe idiosyncratic. For him it didn't necessarily refer to a black person. It had several uses, when I think back. One applied to a kind of behavior. If he saw a group of us lazing around in the summer heat, drinking Cokes, shoes off, hardly talking, he might say, "You're all niggard up, aren't you?" Or if he saw me or one of my siblings being stingy or petty about something he might say, "Don't be niggardly", and at that time we didn't know niggardly was a perfectly acceptable adjective. But his strangest use of the word was in cases like this, where he might open a story with, "Me and a couple of other niggers were....." And you'd realize the other two guys were white guys, or even Catawba indians, my father having grown up on a Catawba reservation.

My father is dead now but I'm sure he would never, ever use the word nigger in any context these days. Why? Because he would know just as we all know that it is just plain rude. Forget that it insults other people, that it might trigger a verbal or physical backlash against the user, that blacks use a variant among themselves, a variant that whites must use with some care. It's just plain rude, like South Carolina insisting on flying the confederate flag on the state house grounds in Columbia, SC. Why fly any symbol that offends so many people, such a great percentage of the population. And it's not offensive to, say, people who dislike flags based on that of Britains, or that have red and white as primary colors. It's offensive because it is a symbol of slavery, or being a slave. It means that most black people in South Carolina have no idea who their ancestors were because white folks came and kidnapped them and forced them to work apart from their countries and cultures and families and then sold them like.......worse than dogs. Like pack animals.

Which brings me back to gaijin. Some Japanese will look you in the face and call you a gaijin. Why do they do this? Because they are ignorant. Plain and simple. They may not mean a thing about it.....and that is ignorance.