I started thinking more heavily about this Japan-side expat, internet topic of the month after reading Baye McNeil’s three-part piece on Loco in Yokohama.
I like McNeil’s take on the topic, because he is so non-comittal about whether some Japanese tend to microaggress on the foreigner community. (Here, we would be talking about rather progressive Japanese who have even cared to learn English, right?)
I did some Eikaiwa-style teaching, besides corporate accounting work, in Japan; so, I know that “jyouzu desu ne!” skit. I take it as small talk. The fact is, we use forks and speak English. We don’t really speak very much Japanese in America, and Chinese characters are almost useless to us here. They are themes for decorations and tattoos. Finding foreigners in Japan, and using Eastern utensils and writing systems shouldn’t be so strange there—but in fact the set of people doing it are rather unusual compared to the typical Westerner. So there you go: the international-minded meet the international-minded.
For me, it used to be a bit grating to have to repeat conversations with “English learners”. It was grating in the way that politicians have to repeat their stump speech, or rock musicians have to play the big hit from 25 years ago, even though they’re tired of it. But what also made me feel sad, is that these “English learners” were still stuck on Chapter One. Chapter One. They are still practicing Chapter One. Years on. Sad, when you think about it. It’s a sign that no one within Japan was committed to have good teaching resources in the country.
The petty and constant wearing down that some situations become is, yes, as aggressive a thing as more overt and obvious attacks. In my years in Japan, though, it seemed that really big problems were, well, the overt and obvious attacks. Equal protection under the law, respect for labor and contract rights, housing rights, etc. I call these macroaggressions. You might prefer to think of them as: justiciable. When you compare, “wow, you can use chopsticks!” to “wow, I just overcharged you 50,000 yen/month compared to your neighbor, because I’m treating your lease as if it’s a hotel room”, I tend to get more riled about the latter. I’m sure you would, too.
To me, if it’s not my small group of associates and the day-to-day ups and downs we all experience, the wrongs have to get bigger before I see them as issues. But as I was saying a week or two ago, I believe in the Modern Regulatory State. So, I do see the bigger wrongs as issues.
Baye McNeil’s approach is that he acknowledged how, (and typically), there quickly become two main sides of the issue on the internet. Just letting them “be”, in their own quarrelsomeness, is about all anyone can do, but he does point out that he sees that sort of behavior by the people fighting about it as ending badly. I think he was also as disappointed as I was about the two-dimensionalism of the commentary on the topic. Thank God somebody who has a readership is taking a traditional, liberal arts approach: presenting the topic, explaining the perspectives, and then letting you figure it all out.
I thought Debito had a great article, even though, as I say, I am more interested in the bigger issues and tend to discount microaggressions. I can see where some people would say certain things aren’t microaggressions. I am not sure why they care.