I got vexed at my boy the other day…
He, who shall remain nameless (but I should point out he’s a black guy also living in Japan, in the Tokyo-Yokohama area, and a sometimesy reader of my blog. For the purposes of this post I will call him Homeslice) sent me a text that read:
“Since I have been working nights I have a made an effort to look for women clutching their bags around me. I haven’t seen it once, yet. Are you sure you’re not seeing what you expect to see? Purse snatching isn’t big here but it is at home. Do you think you’re seeing things through your own cultural lenses?”
“Don’t get me wrong. I have had MANY a white woman cross the street or clutch their bags when I came near them. But I haven’t experienced that shit here, yet. Never seen it and I’ve been looking.”
I hate when Mofos say, “don’t get me wrong!” You just know some foulness will follow that phrase. And, I really hate it when they add insult to injury by going ahead and getting me wrong.
A little background to clarify the context of his text.
We’ve been friends for a couple years now and share some similar experiences in Japan. But, there are a few things we don’t see eye-to-eye on. One of them just happens to be the theme of some of my more passionate posts. Those about Iwakan, Xenophobia and yes the ugly “R” word.
Personally, I think the reason we hit it off so well is due to this discrepancy.
If he had been in total accord with everything I’ve written about my experience here in Japan- as far as my ideas, theories, and rationales go- I think it would have made for boring conversations, sickening redundant complaint sessions and I would leave his company feeling wasted, having learned nothing.
I don’t know about y’all, but a new associate’s capacity to teach me something and broaden my thinking is a prerequisite for friendship. And, if he (or she) is intelligent and entertaining, that’s just gravy.
Homeslice is all of the above, and I knew it from day 1. And I’m pretty sure he feels the same.
He has certain qualities I lack and I can only assume he feels the same way.
For example: Homeslice isn’t troubled by what Japanese people he don’t know think, feel and do. Take the classic “Gaijin Perimeter” for instance (The Gaijin Perimeter is a common occurrence on crowded trains where Japanese people conspicuously avoid being in your vicinity for whatever reason.) This doesn’t fill him with revulsion for the practitioners like it does me. This doesn’t faze him at all!
Or at least this is what he’d have me believe.
For one, “they’re fucking Japanese! Who gives a fuck what they think?” He’d say. Or, “Man, I got too much shit going on to pay these ignorant fucks any mind!” Or, my personal favorite, “I think you’re too fucking sensitive, man.”
The language is harsh, I know. And, yes, it rings of some of the issues I discussed in my racism series last year (and truth be told was partially the inspiration for it) but they were nonetheless useful. Food for thought.
I had to at least attempt to step outside of myself and see things through the eyes of others, to look at my experience here objectively.
I envied Homeslice’s ability to ignore some of the nonsense that goes on here. I imagined this was the same kind of thing my parents and grandparents had to do in the US, back in the days.
Like when some random white person called my full grown grandfather a “boy”, or worse. You need thick skin to endure that, and not grow indifferent, or to resent or even hate the entire culture or race that produced and encouraged that kind of thinking. As much as we would like to think that my grandfather thought something like, “forgive them lord for they know not what they do!” or “This man, and the other people that think of me as a boy, only do so out of ignorance or malice. It’s my responsibility to show them the error of their ways through my response to it. And perhaps someday they can break out of their cocoon of prejudice and philistinism and emerge as butterflies of love and tolerance!”
More likely, though, my Grandfather, too, had to tell himself, “who gives a fuck what these white folks think? I got a job to do and a family to feed and what they think of me is irrelevant!”
Yep, Homeslice used to set me to thinking a-plenty, kept the juices flowing. I listened to his assertions in awe, eager to understand how he does it!
Then, the other day I got that text.
And, I was vexed.