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Tweet of the Week #85: Racist NHK Video on US BLM Protests Sparks Outrage

We're not buying that ridiculous 'apology' either.

By 6 min read

The Japanese public broadcaster NHK is in well-deserved turmoil after airing an offensive video clip aimed at explaining the background behind U.S. protests for police reform to Japanese children. While the program may have had good intentions, the cartoon completely misrepresents the Black Lives Matter movement and features tired racist stereotypes.

We expected better from a broadcaster funded through fees we’re technically all required to pay under The Broadcast Law of Japan.

What the heck were they thinking?!

Short answer, they weren’t.

The short animated video was broadcasted in the weekly Sunday evening segment Kore de Wakatta! Sekai no Ima (Now I Understand! The World Now), a 30-minute show to explain current international news in an easy way for a young audience to understand.

Very typical of Japanese media caught red-handed, they ‘apologized to those who were made to feel uncomfortable.’ Uncomfortable. Thank you, NHK, for the understatement of the year.

First, for some obscure reason, the cartoon didn’t make a single reference to police brutality and the event that sparked the world’s outrage—the death of George Floyd, an African American, at the hands of the police on May 25th in Minnesota. Instead, the animators chose to focus on economic grievances, while the world grieved for yet another terrible tragedy.

To make things even worse, the video (remember this is supposed to educate children) lines up some of the worst racist stereotypes on African-Americans you can think of. It is so offensive and repulsive, we have decided not to post the full video here out of respect for our readers.

れいのNHKのやつ。動画どうがだけじゃなく、一連いちれん解説かいせつぜんぶがヒドいからビックリする。責任者せきにんしゃてこい案件あんけんだと思う。

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“Here’s the NHK example. I’m shocked, not only the video but also the series of explanations are horrible. I think the person in charge should come out on this matter.”

The animators thought no better than to feature a tough-talking muscular Black narrator in a white tank top, holding an empty purse and yelling about the wealth disparity between Black and White Americans and the economic impact from the coronavirus. In the background, Black protestors are stamping their feet and destroying property. We can spot a man with an afro and mutton chop sideburns carrying electrical appliances as if he had been looting. As if the narrator wasn’t visually already exaggerated, his voice, loud and rough, makes him sound violent.

Shame on you NHK

The clip, shared on NHK’s Twitter account, sparked an instantaneous wave of outrage and criticism from Japan and abroad, with people pointing out how outright racist the video is. Some Japanese folks went as far as saying they’re ashamed and embarrassed by NHK.

NHK、民放みんぽうわらないかんじでタレントつかってワイプ多用たようしてちゃらちゃらしたバラエティつくっているし、ニュースの編成へんせいはひどいし、ジャーナリストいないし、公共放送こうきょうほうそうとしての役割やくわりまったたしていない。ずっと我慢がまんしているけど、今回こんかいの「世界のいま」のバカさ加減かげん一線いっせんえた。

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“NHK, very much like commercial broadcasting, produces a lot of variety with celebrity guests’ reaction clips. The news program is terrible, there are no journalists and it does not play a role as a public broadcast at all. I’ve been tolerating it for a long time, but the ridiculousness of ‘Now in the World’ has exceeded the limit.”

The clip even prompted beloved tennis star Naomi Osaka to express her bewilderment in a GIF.

Is that even an apology?

The uproar finally forced NHK to remove the video from Twitter, but their apologies are far from sounding sincere. In a subtle twist, very typical of Japanese media caught red-handed, they blamed a “lack of consideration” and “apologized to those who were made to feel uncomfortable.”

Uncomfortable.

Thank you, NHK, for the understatement of the year. Now, let’s talk about the real issue here: how on earth a Japanese broadcaster felt perfectly ok spreading racist stereotypes in a show educating children on the Black Lives Matter movement.

れいのNHK動画が「ご不快ふかい謝罪しゃざい削除さくじょされたというので、問題もんだいは不快感ではなく歴史的れきしてき構造的差別こうぞうてきさべつへの抗議運動こうぎうんどうについて不正確ふせいかくで差別的な説明せつめいをしたことだろうとおもいつつアカウントを確認かくにんしたら、このtwはのこったまま。根本的こんぽんてき理解りかいをこれほどいたまま「世界のいま」とか無理むりだし、番組ばんぐみをやめるべきでは。

“The example of NHK’s video was deleted with apologies because it was ‘unpleasant,’ but the problem isn’t so much the discomfort, but the inaccurate and discriminatory explanation of the protest against historical structural discrimination. I checked and found this tweet left as is. With such a lack of fundamental understanding, the program ‘Now in the World’ is impossible and should stop.”

(The quoted tweet, from the program’s Twitter account and in relation to the ongoing BLM protests, says “how the division between two ways of thinking is getting deeper and deeper in the U.S.”)

The NHK man ringing our bell while we’re hiding to avoid signing up for the subscription fee used to be a common running joke among foreigners living in Japan. But now more than ever, NHK representatives are not welcomed to knock on our doors, as we may have a thing or two to tell them about racism.

How to talk about Black Lives Matter in Japanese

Black Lives Matter is global and in Japan too, people mobilize to protest police brutality and racism for a better, safer world.

In Japanese, BLM is read ブラック・ライブズ・マター, with the adjunction of 運動うんどう for the word “movement.” Whether you are joining in a protest or having difficult conversations about racism with your Japanese friends, here are some words and phrases you can use.

Slogans

  • 人種差別じんしゅさべつゆるさない : We do not forgive racism
  • 黒人こくじんいのちまもるべきだ: Another way to say “Black lives matter” (literally, “we have a duty to protect Black people”)
  • 黒人の命は大切たいせつだ: Black lives are precious
  • いきができない: I can’t breathe
  • 黒人をあいしてあなたが黒人文化ぶんかを愛するのとおなじように: Love Black people like you love Black culture
  • わたしたちはわすれない: We will not forget. (This expression can also be used to remind us of Black victims’ names. For example, “George Floyd を忘れない“)
  • 人種差別は日本にほんでもきっている: Racial discrimination happens in Japan too

Keywords

  • 平和的へいわてきなデモ行進こうしん: peaceful protest (or march)
  • 抗議こうぎする: to protest, do a demonstration
  • 人種差別じんしゅさべつ: racism
  • 制度的人種差別せいどてきじんしゅさべつ: systemic (or institutional) racism
  • 警察けいさつ残酷ざんこく行為こうい: police brutality
  • 片膝かたひざをつく: take a knee

Racial discrimination is a problem that is prevalent in all societies and now is the time for all of us to unite, stand up, and use our voice to speak out against injustice.

Vocabulary

一連いちれん解説かいせつぜんぶがヒドいからビックリする。責任者せきにんしゃてこい案件あんけんだと思う)

放送ほうそうする housou suru broadcast
黒人こくじん kokujin Black person, people
偏見へんけん henken prejudice
ふくまれる fukumareru be included
おお ooi a lot
ひとたち hitotachi people
不快感ふかいかん fukaikan discomfort
しめ shimesu show
動画どうが douga video
批判ひはん hihan criticism
続出ぞくしゅつする wokushyutsu suru continue
米国大使べいこくたいし beikoku taishi US embassador
苦言くげん kugen complain
民放みんぽう minpou commercial broadcast
わらないかん kawaranai kanji feeling no difference (with something)
タレント talento TV celebrity
ワイプ waipu small video clip visible focusing on guests’ reactions during a TV show
多用たようする tayou suru heavy use
バラエティ baraitei Variety (program)
ニュースの編成へんせい nyuusu no hensei news program
ひどい hidoi horrible
ジャーナリスト jyaanarisuto journalist
公共放送こうきょうほうそうとして koukyouhousou to shite as a public broadcaster
役割やくわり
yakuwari role
まった mattaku not at all
たす hatasu fulfill
我慢がまんする gaman suru endure
加減かげん一線いっせんえる kagen ha issen o koeru cross a line
れい rei example, modele
不快ふかい gofukai discomfort
謝罪しゃざい shazai apology
歴史的れきしてき構造的差別こうぞうてきさべつ rekishiteki kouwouteki sabetsu historical structural discrimination
不正確ふせいかく fuseikaky inaccurate
根本的こんぽんてき理解りかい konpontekina rikai Fundamental understanding
番組ばんぐみをやめるべき bangumi o yameru beki The show must stop (be stopped)
ビックリする bikkuri suru be surprised, shocked

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