On Black Lives Matter, Taking A Stand, and Finding Myself
I have several posts in queue, including a summer skincare guide and bilingual toddler homeschool resources. But, light of the senseless murder of George Floyd and what would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday on June 5th, I can’t. Instead, I’m sharing my thoughts on Black Lives Matter, taking a stand, and finding myself by confronting my reality of life as a black woman from the United States currently living in Japan.
For the most part, I’m very comfortable with my life in Japan, and embrace my “gaijin” (outsider) ness very much. And the reason why I’m so comfortable here is because being a “gaijin” means that I don’t have a place after a lifetime of struggling with my own identity in the US.
Here, I’m literally an outsider, with no expectation to know/confirm to Japanese society. However, I do try my best to be knowledgeable about Japanese culture and politics and current events. I also keep up with current events in the US, from mundane celebrity gossip to stories of racial inequality.
And every single time I come across an English or Japanese article about a young black man or young black woman killed by police, my heart skips a beat. I’m filled with panic, terrified that the victim could be my brother or my sister. Any relief I feel is immediately wiped away with the sadness of knowing that someone else lost their sibling that day. My family very well be next.
This week’s protests in support of justice for George Floyd was no different, and yet it awakened something in me.
Black. Lives. Matter
When I saw BLM protesters marching in solidarity blocks from where I went to school, all my childhood feelings of inadequacy, anger, anxiety, guilt, and distrust rushed over me.
I realized I was silencing myself for years: Having the “right” hobbies & interests; listening to the “right” music; speaking the “right” way; dresing the “right” way; presenting myself the “right” way. All in an effort to make other people comfortable with me.
Being a black girl, but not looking black enough and cautious to never behave too black as to offend or scare my white peers. Growing up with a grandmother who knew all too well the pain and injustice of being a black woman in the South and so invested in my education as my ticket out.
I’ve talked about my transition to natural hair which came about in my late twenties. I transitioned because I was pregnant and I wanted to avoid chemically straightening my hair. My transition to natural hair also came about me being a mother of a child who will grow up not looking like her peers. To instill self-confidence in my child, I had to learn to accept myself.
Finally, I feel like I can speak up for myself and be heard because finally the world is watching and seeing the ugly reality of what it is to be black in America. But, right now, however, is not time to share my story — it’s time to give a voice to those slain by law enforcement.
Last weekend, all over the United States, in all 50 states, and even across the globe, men and women of all colors marched united to demand justice and elimination of systemic racism that marginalizes people of color in every nation.
Black Lives Matter & Japan
(June 8 Update: I’m expanding this part after the peaceful BLM march on June 7 and the backlash that Naomi Osaka got for daring to retweeting information pertaining to her hometown.)
There’s not enough space to write about Japan’s treatment of its own ethnic minorities like the Ainu of Hokkaido and Ryukyu of Okinawa.
And, I could go on and on about the treatment of colonized Koreans. Their descendants are not Japanese citizens, but rather “special residents” with no right to vote. Lastly, we can’t overlook Japan’s treatment of foreign residents and mixed citizens with a non-white parent.
I’m happy that my daughter and other black/Japanese kids will grow up with public figures like Naomi Osaka and Hakim Sani Brown. But, it’s not enough, especially when they’re still seen as “less than” just because of their skin color.
These marginalized groups rarely get attention in Western media. Thus, creating the image of a homogenous and peaceful Japan that has no need for a “radicalized” movement like Black Lives Matter.
But how many Japanese and non-Japanese know about the 1960 student protests again the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan?
Likewise, do Japanese history books even mention how the Japanese Red Army dominated the 1970s and 1980s with a reign of terror? You can’t tell me that Black Lives Matter wouldn’t have support in Japan back then!
How To Help
As for me, I’ve decided to help is by supporting the The National Bail Fund Network, a directory of over sixty community bail and bond funds across the US and Canada: https://www.communityjusticeexchange.org/nbfn-directory
If you’re unable to donate, there are still many, many, many ways to take action.
Here are 5 things that you can do today:
1. Be an active listener. Hear black voices, listen to our anger, struggles, fears, and hopes.
2. Educate yourself (and your kids, if you have any) on colonialism & systemic racism. For a concise history of the racial bias in the criminal justice system, please watch the Ava DuVernay documentary “13th” on Nextflix. You can also watch it for FREE on Nextflix’s official Youtube channel.
3. Share content created to bring awareness.
4. Support black-owned businesses.
5. Speak up! Every voice counts.
Here’s a comprehensive list of resources for those who want to take action: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/
Black Lives Matter (TOO, if that makes you feel better) and I will continue to use this platform to raise awareness for those that need a voice. Japan/beauty content will resume but healing & getting my house in order is my priority.