I’ve been debating this one for a bit, but I think I’m going to wade in anyway.
There’s a YouTube channel called “Find Your Love in Japan”, a channel run by a YouTuber named “Nobita”. He recently made several videos about how he feels about “Black” people and their perceived attitudes.
I’m not going to go into how I feel about what he said to any degree, for obvious reasons. Suffice it to say he had a few valid points and a few not so valid ones, and the valid ones were expressed very poorly. And the poor way he expressed his ideas is the topic I want to get into here.
I am not a particularly politically correct person. I, like Nobita, tend to say what’s on my mind, and damn the consequences. It’s a very freeing mode of being, and it’s also a very difficult mode of being, because it tends to piss people off more often than not. The good news, though, is that those I do befriend, I can be pretty sure they’re people who actually like me, because if they don’t, they’ll find out pretty quickly. Nobita, then, appears to be a rarity in Japanese culture. He is fairly fluent in English, fairly good at expressing his thoughts and feelings, and extremely direct.
The problem, though, is that Nobita does not really understand the cultural influences that shape the behaviors he’s commenting on.
See, Nobita repeated, over and over again, that he did not understand why his videos got the very polarized reaction that they did. I believe this is true – I think he was completely confused, and that the reaction he got from his videos came as a shock to him. It did not come as a shock to me – he struck a very deep cultural nerve without even intending to.
He speaks fluent English, but he did not understand the culture.
This strikes me as being somewhat hypocritical, honestly, because the videos he made that engendered that reaction were criticizing the behavior of people who did not understand Japanese culture.
We in America, when it comes to race relations, have a lot of problems that need to be worked out, and each person bears responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I also think that Nobita brings up some fair points that America, as a culture, needs to address – we’ve gotten to a point where we are so completely polarized and hateful – on all sides of the political spectrum – that having a productive conversation about these matters has become almost impossible. I regret that these cultural issues that we are currently attempting to work through as a people are spilling over the borders and into JSL classes taught by Nobita. For whatever hateful and inconsiderate behavior he did observe from Americans, I apologize on behalf of my country and people (and if you want to protest that I have no right to apologize for you, then assume I left you out, and don’t bother telling me about it).
However, In attempting to address the issues Nobita saw, he did exactly what he was accusing others of doing – painting with a broad brush and putting down broad swaths of people because of the behavior of a few. In that regard, I do not think that Nobita represented his country or people very well, and I feel that before speaking up on cultural topics that he does not understand, he should probably make a little more of an effort to learn of which he is speaking. For, if he did understand those topics, he could have easily predicted the reaction he got.
I would like for Nobita to think a little more about what he says the next time he is tempted to make a video calling an entire race of people out for the behavior of a few. This is a very touchy subject, frought with landmines. I am sure that I hit a few with this post. I recognize that I probably pissed a few people off. I really don’t care. The difference, though, is that I am aware of exactly what I said that would piss people off, and intentionally said it anyway.
The fact that Nobita was so horribly ignorant (and that word is not a pejorative, but an accurate description) about what he said until after the fact is sad. He is an intelligent, well-spoken Japanese individual with a rare gift for directness and a reasonably good command of the English language. He still did not see that landmine as he stepped on it. There’s a lesson for all of us trying to learn about a different culture, I think. I hope I can learn to see the Japanese landmines before I hit them.