Saturday, October 09, 2010

Nah, it's not that!

There's a perfectly innocent explanation.

Imagine, if you will, that the following was written about Tokyo instead of New York:

Almost invariably, after I have hustled aboard early and occupied one half of a vacant double seat in the usually crowded quiet car, the empty place next to me will remain empty for the entire trip...

...I can rule out excessive body odor or bad breath; a hateful, intimidating scowl; hip-hop clothing; or a hideous deformity as possible objections to my person...

...I can’t accept the bounty of an extra seat without remembering why it’s empty, without wondering if its emptiness isn’t something quite sad. And quite dangerous, also, if left unexamined... The Seat not Taken: NYT Opinion

Apologists and explainers, both Japanese and non-Japanese, would be all over the fellow explaining why the reason for this in the US is not the reason for such behavior in Japan. No, it would have to be tradition, innocent naivety, provincialism, or maybe zen.

And no, it need not be examined by the citizens of this special land.

Edited to correct nativity to naivety.


  1. I think one of the reasons why American treatment of minorities trudges painfully ahead (but still ahead) is that there is a recognition of the reality behind these experiences. No one would deny this "man of color" (as he calls himself) the validity of his observation because most Americans have been socialized and educated to embrace viewpoints and interpretations such as his as credible. To do otherwise is to show disrespect for him and to dismiss the reality in favor of a conscious-salving fantasy.

    Until people are ready to face the ugliness that propels their actions and accept that their true motives are based on fear, prejudice, and insecurity, there will never be change. Japan and its apologists are all about the fantasy, the excuse, and undermining the feelings and (valid) interpretations of the victims so they can go along feeling that they are not "bad" because of their biases, but are simply "unique" because of their culture.

  2. That says it perfectly.

  3. Jeffrey12:58 AM

    I look to my middle-school daughter's cohort and hope hers is becoming the norm in most of the country rather than an anomaly.

    She posted photos on her Facebook page from a birthday party she attended on Sunday. Of the attendees, my daughter is a hafu, another friend's father is second generation from Mexico, the birthday girl's parents are white and black, another girl is African-American but her adoptive parents are white and another of the girls has two mommies. I think there were just two token white girls from "normal" families.

    Seattle is by-and-large a liberal place, but this is the 'burbs.