October 19, 2013

"Microagressions, particularly those of a racialized nature, are... 'the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities, and denigrating messages..."

"... sent to (visible minorities) by well-intentioned (members of an ethnic majority in a society) who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated."
They include, in Japan’s case, verbal cues (such as “You speak such good Japanese!” — after saying only a sentence or two — or “How long will you be in Japan?” regardless of whether a non-Japanese (NJ) might have lived the preponderance of their life here), nonverbal cues (people espying NJ and clutching their purse more tightly, or leaving the only empty train seat next to them), or environmental cues (media caricatures of NJ with exaggerated noses or excessive skin coloration, McDonald’s “Mr. James” mascot....).

48 comments:

n.n said...

The everyday hypersensitivities that make life unbearable.

YoungHegelian said...

You know, the Japanese are really upfront about the fact that they are the most "special" people on Earth. It's not like they go around priding themselves on their sensitivity to the cultural needs of others. If you want PC sensitivities, move to Berkeley & stay away from Osaka. It's that simple.

And always, always be grateful that the modern Japanese are into "micro-aggressions", because when they move into the "macro", you get stuff like Nanking or the Battle of Manila.

Moose said...

Americans have this weird need to be accepted by people of other countries when visiting there. I think the worst insult to "cultured" Americans traveling overseas is to be identified as Americans. It's really odd - like Germans not wanting to be identified as Germans.

Moose said...

...missed the point I wanted to make. Japanese can fuck off if that's how they need relate to "NJ".

madAsHell said...

....and then they assume that all white people speak English. That's probably a micro-aggression too!

Cedarford said...

Japanese can fuck off if that's how they need relate to "NJ".

-------------
Think about that next time you are reconsidering "cherishing" the diversity of illegals, Somali Muslims and Chechen refugees, NYC jewish tourists...with cultures very different than the local one.

Rather than just expect us to be tolerant good hosts that behave admirably with visitors but understanding locals want their own society and culture to not be permanently disturbed so visitors leaving ends certain disruptions - Leftism teaches local cultures should "cherish" their permanent change though visitors that never leave.

The Japanese haven't reached that point. And within Japan, there are many NJs that fit in well and the Japanese sentiment to them is truly delivered - "hope you remain longer".

Shahid Alam said...

YoungHegelian said:

You know, the Japanese are really upfront about the fact that they are the most "special" people on Earth....

And always, always be grateful that the modern Japanese are into "micro-aggressions", because when they move into the "macro", you get stuff like Nanking or the Battle of Manila.


Even if true, it would be a mistake to think the Japanese are particularly special in either of these respects. Anyway, consider that the Japanese were thrown straight from feudalism to modernity without an intervening renaissance.

I'd also suggest the impact of losing WW2 is more ingrained in the Japanese cultural consciousness than it is just about anywhere else (including among the Germans). This, along with an almost European social regime and a series of nearly hopeless/drive-less generations makes it highly unlikely the Japanese would have the inclination or drive for any conquest for the better part of this century.

Skyler said...

In the Marine Corps microaggression is a bad thing. We aim for macroaggression as the workplace ideal.

Hagar said...

The Japanese are entirely mistaken about being the most "special" people on Earth.

We Norwegians are.

n.n said...

Cedarford:

Exactly. There is significant difference between tolerance and normalization. There is a good reason for logical partitions of land, including: nations, states, cities, etc., and it's not simply for administrative purposes.

I find it amusing when people travel to another land, presumably to escape their home, only to seek its conversion. They are such disingenuous immigrants or visitors, who travel with undocumented, ulterior motives.

rcocean said...

Waah, waah. Just shut the hell up Gaijin.

God how I hate people who move to other countries and then expect everyone else to bow to them and change their behavior.

Just be glad the Japanese allow you to hang with them.

Sorun said...

Following the link to the Psychology Today article, the original microaggressors are (of course!) white Americans.

I avoid being a microaggressor by never speaking to, or acknowledging the existence of, any "people of color." Except Latinas and Asian women.

rcocean said...

East Asians are racist to their core, and given the example of "diversity" in the West, not likely to change.

Ever.

These countries aren't a bunch people from all over the world chasing a dollar, living in a proposition nation. They're 'peoples' with thousands of years of history as separate unique societies. Most of them were happy living in "splendid isolation" before the West barged in and demanded they "globalize".

Real American said...

what a bunch of fucking garbage. just get the fuck over yourself and stop looking for insults where there are none. Life's too short to worry about this petty crap.

Biff said...

The author has been writing about this stuff for quite a while, including a piece in the NYT back in 2000.

Japan is a challenging place for a foreigner to visit, and more so if one chooses to live there permanently. It takes things to a whole different level if you're a foreigner attempting to reform Japanese society, even if done on a local scale. In return, I imagine that many Japanese would regard quite a few of the author's actions as "microaggressions."

I actually sympathize a little bit with the life that the author has chosen to lead. He seems to have chosen it consciously, and I'm sure it's not an easy path. At the same time, the addition of "microaggression" to our lexicon threatens to peg my cynicism meter. It's not that "microaggressions" don't exist or can't be harmful, especially cumulatively. It's that "microaggressions" are so easily used against the earnest and the innocent by those who aggressively seek power by finding grievance in nearly every human interaction.

On a distantly related note, I have friends who have been living in Maine for several generations. Their neighbors still say that the family is "from away."

Michael K said...

"It's really odd - like Germans not wanting to be identified as Germans."

The people who don't want to be identified as Germans are Austrians. I've attended some medical meetings there and they all wear clothing with bone buttons and leather trim just to let you know they aren't Germans.

betamax3000 said...

I Picture "MicroAgressions" as Colorful Little Plastic Toys Imported from Japan With Voice Chips That Make Zippy "Zoooom" and "Whoosh" Noises When You Play With Them, Then When You Set Them Down They Say Tiny Insults At You:

"You Have Small Hands for an American"

"Do Not Worry, Little One, I'm Sure You Will Become More Agile as You Get Older"

"I Can Tell from Your Smell That You Like Cheese"

"You Are Not So Good at Sparrow-Face"

Paul Zrimsek said...

The people who don't want to be identified as Germans are Austrians. I've attended some medical meetings there and they all wear clothing with bone buttons and leather trim just to let you know they aren't Germans.

Think of them as the Canadians of the Sprachgebiet.

betamax3000 said...

The "MicroPassiveAgressions" Toy Series Wait Until You Leave the Room Before Insulting You.

Biff said...

Hmm...the author also has a Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debito_Arudou

rcocean said...

I think to Liberals and the NYT's the Japanese have become "Honorary White People"

Usually, they'll never criticize "countries of color" or if they do, will always soften it by saying Americans are "no better or even worse".

betamax3000 said...

The "Micro-MicroAgressions" Toy Series Says Things To You That You Think Are Meant to Be an Insult But You Aren't Sure Why:

"Are You Sure Those Shoes Fit?"

"Are You an Only Child?"

"Is Your Grandfather Dutch?"

rcocean said...

I'm waiting for the New York Times to report on the "micro-aggressions" suffered by a White Texan living in Manhattan.

rcocean said...

Micro-aggressions suffered by Californians in Seattle:

- Do you miss the sun?
- You drive well
- What do you think of the phrase "Don't Californicate Washington"?
- Have they started to read books in LA?

David said...

"You are really a very articulate negro" was never too cool, but now you can't even call white people articulate.

A. Shmendrik said...

I got your microaggression - right here!

Foobarista said...

Reading this guy's Wiki page, it looks like he's the classic "professional English teacher" of the sort I've met in China. In China, they're white Americans (and yes, always white) who've moved there, fell temporarily in love with the place due to its respect for teachers and the exoticism of being a white foreigner, tried to assimilate, discovered it isn't easy (especially on a teacher salary), toy with the thought of going back home, and discover that other than skill in languages, they have no useful skills (and their language skills aren't any better than a Chinese immigrant's). This guy sounds luckier than most since he's operating at the university level, but many end up in rather low-paying teacher jobs in Asia, unable to return to the US, and ultimately getting rather bitter about things in their "new" country.

An aside: the only place where I've ever seen anything I could call "white privilege" is in China, where whites definitely have a better deal as foreigners than other Asian foreigners (including Chinese Americans), and especially Africans.

Foobarista said...

Reading this guy's Wiki page, it looks like he's the classic "professional English teacher" of the sort I've met in China. In China, they're white Americans (and yes, always white) who've moved there, fell temporarily in love with the place due to its respect for teachers and the exoticism of being a white foreigner, tried to assimilate, discovered it isn't easy (especially on a teacher salary), toy with the thought of going back home, and discover that other than skill in languages, they have no useful skills (and their language skills aren't any better than a Chinese immigrant's). This guy sounds luckier than most since he's operating at the university level, but many end up in rather low-paying teacher jobs in Asia, unable to return to the US, and ultimately getting rather bitter about things in their "new" country.

An aside: the only place where I've ever seen anything I could call "white privilege" is in China, where whites definitely have a better deal as foreigners than other Asian foreigners (including Chinese Americans), and especially Africans.

ddh said...

Debito (David) needs to go home. He sounds completely jaded.

In my experience, Japanese often seem awkward and self-conscious the first time they meet foreigners because foreigners who interact with Japanese are relatively scarce, even in Tokyo and Osaka. I think the common Japanese reactions to foreigners that Debito recounts are simply expressions of surprise that an individual foreigner does not behave as most foreigners in Japan do. Once the Japanese have met you and know your capabilities, they stop marveling over your ability to speak Japanese or eat gracefully with chopsticks.

rhhardin said...

Derbyshire has been reporting microagression of the week recently, apparently first picked up from an Oberlin College website.

ALP said...

Interesting article. My partner is half Japanese; his mother took him to Japan many times in his childhood, where his grandmother took pains to put as much Japanese in him as she could. This subject, which I term "that superior race crap", is a regular subject of discussion. After reading this article, he adds this example:

Japanese addresses are structured in such as way to confuse anyone who is not from Japan, stopping short of giving you a precise location. They do not refer to a specific place on a map. It nests smaller geographical areas inside larger ones...getting smaller and smaller, but stops before telling you EXACTLY where the building is, ending in a such as way as if to say: "good luck finding it from here".

If you are born in Japan, I guess it easy to figure out - or you have the language skills to ask. If not...like I said, "good luck finding it from here..."

ken in sc said...

Germany was deliberately De-Nazified after WWII. Japan was not. The Japanese had absorbed a whole bunch of Nazi thought about race. They thought they were the Asian—or really the real master race. They still think that.

rhhardin said...

Just at random from the blog of an ex-pat English teacher

There is nothing wrong with most of these kids that a prolonged and merciless beating wouldn’t put right. This new human rights legislation has really taken the fun out of teaching.

Harry Hutton, scroll down to "Teaching English" for links.

Scott said...

The last time I worked for someone else, they put me through a course called "Microinequities." There's even a Wikipedia entry describing the term.

Basically, the company wanted employees to constantly critique themselves with respect to their communication by word and gesture to others, lest the counterparty felt slighted or offended. It's auto-regulating political correctness -- a nice reframing of the Orwellian concept "doublethink".

We live in an era where people can't differentiate insult and injury.

These days the only corporation I work for is my own. I can choose who I want to deal with. And I can go to work naked. Yippee.

rcocean said...

"The Japanese had absorbed a whole bunch of Nazi thought about race. They thought they were the Asian—or really the real master race. They still think that."

Suggest you read more about Japan. Nazi Germany had little or no influence on them in thinking about "race". No surprising since Nazi Germany lasted 11 years (1934-1945) and Japan has been a "tight, little Island" for thousands of years.

Sorun said...

"In my experience, Japanese often seem awkward and self-conscious the first time they meet foreigners because foreigners who interact with Japanese are relatively scarce..."

Perhaps "microaggression" is a fancy word for making small talk with strangers.

traditionalguy said...

Japanese see themselves as a single extended family all of whom are descendants from one Sun God, today called Akihito, who can demand they sacrifice their lives for him whenever he demands it.

That is a one authority that Obama implies he is owed too, but has not yet demanded.

Douglas said...

I've lived in Japan and currently live in China and my advice is to grow a thick skin before you move abroad. If you can't do that, don't go.

Careless said...

The Japanese had absorbed a whole bunch of Nazi thought about race. They thought they were the Asian—or really the real master race. They still think that.


That's not a Nazi thing, particularly. History is stuffed with that everywhere you look, as far back as you can see. People who call themselves "the people", people who call their languages "language", etc

Joe said...

This is merely more extension of the narcissistic victim mentality infesting so many; you make yourself the center of the universe and then get upset when nobody caters entirely to your desires and whims.

Balfegor said...

The author has a really unhealthy chip on his shoulder.

For example, indicate that you dislike being treated this way and the aggressor will be confused; after all, the latter meant no harm, so therefore the NJ must just be overly “sensitive” — and therefore also “troublesome” to deal with.

Yes, precisely because he is overly sensitive and "troublesome" to deal with. I get some of these kinds of comments quite regularly -- I have a little spiel I have repeated literally hundreds of times to explain why I can speak Japanese ((1) both my parents speak some, (2) I studied in University, (3) I interned at a Japanese law firm). But you know what? It is unusual for a foreigner to speak Japanese as well as I do. It really is exactly what it seems -- an inoffensive bit of small-talk for a people who do not excel at small-talk -- and characterising it as "microaggression" is deeply unhealthy.

When he says:

Alas, my actions to stem or deter this just make me look alarmist, reactionary and paranoid in the eyes of the critics (especially the NJ ones, who seem to think I’m somehow “spoiling” Japan for them), either because they haven’t experienced these microaggressions for themselves, or because they live in denial.

He's the one in denial. I wouldn't go as far as to say that he's "spoiling" Japan for other foreigners (how would that even make sense?), but the man clearly has some serious personal problems, and he's avoiding engaging with them by blaming others.

Japan has a very clearly defined, and comfortable, "foreigner" role. It's clear as soon as you come into the country (at Narita, the signs say "welcome" in every language but Japanese, where they say "welcome home" -- this is not directed at Japanese-reading foreigners), and it's clear in any working interaction you have. I'm always amused when clients struggle to figure out whether etiquette requires that they call me "-sensei" (I'm only a US lawyer, not a real Japanese lawyer), or whether they can get away with calling my junior "-sensei" and me "-san" (the answer is I don't care either way). That isn't a structure established and maintained through "microaggressions" -- it's open and obvious. If it takes you by surprise, you're an astonishingly obtuse idiot. And if you don't like to be the "foreigner," and the expectations that come with that role, well, you shouldn't be living there.

I feel a strong twinge of irritation when shop attendants here in DC (usually African-American) address me with excessively familiar terms (like "sweetie"), but I suck it up -- they don't mean to cause offense, and it would be churlish of me to take any. That's their culture, after all.

Balfegor said...

Re: ALP:

Japanese addresses are structured in such as way to confuse anyone who is not from Japan, stopping short of giving you a precise location. They do not refer to a specific place on a map. It nests smaller geographical areas inside larger ones...getting smaller and smaller, but stops before telling you EXACTLY where the building is, ending in a such as way as if to say: "good luck finding it from here".

It's not really that hard. The only difficulty I've ever had is with the final step (which building on the block -- but you just walk around the block for that). At least in the large cities, there's maps everywhere (every subway exit, lots of bus stops, etc.) so it's not hard to figure out where you need to go.

If you're illiterate, sure, even the maps won't help much, but it's the same way in any country. And it could be worse -- in Korea, because there's so many different romanisation systems, it's often not much of a help to know the "English" version of an address.

Eric said...

Ah, "microagressions". At first I hated the term, but lately I've come to appreciate it. Now I can more easily identify the wilting flowers who'll never amount to much.

Kirk Parker said...

"And I can go to work naked. Yippee."

Oh, so you're from Southern California? :-)

cokaygne said...

Bill is dead right about Mainers and people "from away". Bob Marley tells a story about the guy who was born while his native Maine parents were on a trip to NH and then promptly went back to live in Maine. So the man lives in the same town, the one where his parents were born, for 90 years and dies. The obit in the local weekly calls him a New Hampshire man.

Bill R said...

"Microagression".

That would be a millionth of an aggression.

An standard "aggression" might be a punch in the nose which in energy terms is equal to a about a joule.

A "microgression" then, would be the equivalent of a millionth of a joule or, in everyday terms, the impact of a cherry blossom landing on your shoulder.

My advice, get over it.

pduggie said...

If only these Japanese would realize their Japanese privilege these microaggressions would stop and Japan would become a multiethnic paradise!

Or, not, since Japan would rather build robots to care fore the elderly or kids than allow gaijin to take over their low birthrate country. They have a point. How did immigration work out for the Palestinians?

pduggie said...

It is funny. the usual microaggression against Asians in the USA is "where are you from" ("Oregon, you white twit").

It would really cheese them off if you make your question "how long are you going to be here"