Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Google prejudiced

Google included some historical maps of Japan in its online collection which showed the boundaries of burakumin "lower-caste" areas. These folks were and are still discriminated against.

...still face prejudice, based almost entirely on where they live or their ancestors lived.

An employee at a large, well-known Japanese company, who works in personnel and has direct knowledge of its hiring practices, said the company actively screens out burakumin-linked job seekers.

(The same thing can still happen to those of Korean descent, illegal or not.)

"If there is an incident because of these maps, and Google is just going to say 'It's not our fault' or 'It's down to the user,' then we have no choice but to conclude that Google's system itself is a form of prejudice," said Toru Matsuoka, an Upper House Diet member. (He is also a member of the Burakumin Liberation League.)

When complaints reached Google, they removed any reference to burakumin on the maps.

The result?

"This is like saying those people didn't exist. There are people for whom this is their hometown, who are still living there now," said Takashi Uchino from the Buraku Liberation League headquarters in Tokyo.

The Justice Ministry is investigating. Not sure, but it seems that the discrimination against these folks is not Google's problem but Japan's and hiding the fact of continuing discrimination is not going to resolve anything. But then again, "This is Japan." One of E.O Reischauer's sugary books (The Japanese Today, I believe) mentioned the eta/burakumin and those references were removed from the Japanese edition. Reischauer must have been a bigot too.

All quotes from the May 5 Japan Times article.

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