18 May 2011 ~ 19 Comments

Don’t get me wrong…pt.3 (conclusion)

(click here for part 1)

I thought, maybe that’s why I got vexed.

A psychological cocktail of sorts. Two parts abandonment and disillusionment due to the estrangement of my closest friend and one part Quakebook 2:46 /Stay-jin/disaster survivor PTSD or whatever you wanna call that mixer. That might even explain the falling out with my friend for it occurred in the weeks immediately following the Tohoku Quake. I’m certainly no authority on the tale-tell signs of PTSD, so that may be something I need to look into.

I gave that idea due consideration…but, nah. Mumbo-Jumbo I concluded.

But, I knew it was something and that I wouldn’t be able to sleep peacefully until I sorted it out.

Then something occurred to me the other night as I lay in my bed. Last week, a few days before I’d received the text in question, someone else had suggested that “Japan is in the eye of the beholder.” If you recall, one of the guest DJs at my Blog party, a relative newcomer to the Japan blogosphere, Miss Verity, a black woman, had said something similar. She’d said, with don’t get me wrong written between every line:

I read Loco’s blog a lot, and I was steeling myself for the sight of empty train seats to my right and left and people crossing the street to get away from me. I was dreading children running and screaming at the sight of me. No such thing has happened, in fact sometimes salarymen get a little too close on the train, if you know what I’m sayin’. Maybe it’s because I’m small and non-threatening. Or because I’m a woman. Or, maybe it’s because I’m oblivious —

And, I didn’t get her wrong. I knew where she was coming from.

But, maybe it was just the two of them, coming in such rapid succession, like a jab and an upper-cut, that had me reeling at center ring. If they had been white people I’m pretty sure it would not have troubled me so much (for reasons I’ve discussed numerous times) but I think I gave their estimations more tenebility due to race.

I wondered why…I mean, it couldn’t, hell, I couldn’t be that simple, could I?

It didn’t take long for me to answer that question though.

The answer is of course no!

They are not the first black people living in Japan I’ve come across-either in the flesh or on the Internet- that have challenged my assertions and assessment of the situation on the ground here. And, they won’t be the last. At the level and frequency that I experience events that cannot be rationalized as anything but overt acting out of an almost instinctual  “you are a danger to me and mine and should be avoided by any means necessary,” I can’t say for certain why they don’t experience it or can’t see it.  Maybe one day I will.

But the more I thought about it the more I realized that that wasn’t the reason I got upset at Homeslice.

The answer that came to me, and allowed me to sleep well the other night, was actually simpler and yet more complex at the same time.

Doubt. Just plain old doubt.

You see, I’ve devoted a lot of irretrievable chunks of my life and energy to sharing my thoughts and feelings on these matters. I’m not really worried so much that what I see on a daily basis is a figment of my imagination. I know it’s real. My biggest doubt is: has all of this effort been for naught? Who gives a fuck? What the fuck am I doing? Why the fuck do I discuss these ideas? Is this the best or even a productive use of my energy and talent?

This is the doubt that taunts me. I repress it, though. This repression is alleviated by writing, sure, but the doubt never really goes away. Apparently it just sits in ambush, like a dark force in some Pandora’s Box, waiting for someone with the key- someone I’ve handed the key willingly, for that’s what friends do, right?- waiting for that person to come, open it up and unleash it on me.

They say if you can reach even one person then you’ve done plenty, and I know I’ve reached quite a few. But, more often than I’d like, I find myself beating (or in my case writing) my head up against a wall. A deaf but not mute wall.  I know that’s just the way it is and I embrace that because I know in the end it will make me a better writer, better able to present and defend my ideas, whatever they might be. That, someday, I’d be able to find the right words and put these words together in just the right way. Not perfection, but eloquent, persuasive, incisive, inspiring…and entertaining in the best sense of the word.

I remember a movie called “The American President” starring Michael Douglass. It was a pretty good movie but I always think about a line from the speech he gave near the end of the film. It’s a line that has helped me often. It goes:

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”.

I guess what I’m saying is that I shouldn’t have really blamed Homeslice. It was my doubts vexing me via his text. If it didn’t exist his words wouldn’t have bothered me at all.

On my blog I deal with dissenting views all the time; Some times better than other times, granted, but, as Michael Douglass suggested and I believe, this is a tenet of advanced citizenship (minus the “American” part. I like to think of it as Human citizenship). If a writer or anyone for that matter does not have the courage of their convictions then he/she had better work on getting convicted.

Living in Japan has been a challenge, to put it mildly, and that challenge has had the side effect (or side benefit) of easing the process of strengthening conviction. (thank you japan) I just think that I have a vulnerable area reserved for friends and family. A part of me that says things like “these people know the real you”- you know?- like that’s a contradictory thing. It tells me that I should give what they say as much credence as I give my own convictions, because they know me.

What a crock, right?

Anyway, Homeslice called me last night and asked me to help him move tomorrow. Like nothing had happened.

And I said, “aight, see you tomorrow.”

Cuz, in reality…and please don’t get me wrong… but nothing has happened.

終り

Loco

Who the hell is this Cat, Loco, anyway? Click here!

 

 

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19 Responses to “Don’t get me wrong…pt.3 (conclusion)”

  1. FuKnWitU 18 May 2011 at 11:45 pm Permalink

     It simply isn't possible to put this in a way that is understandable to everyone. Most people are fucking sheep.
    Dr.Sheep, Reverend Sheep, …it doesn't matter where they are from or what color they are or their education level.
    I have always "seen". I have always "known" what was about to happen. Even in Elementary School they sent me to a Psych because I seemed …fucked up but in a weird smart ass way. 5th grade Summer vacation spent talking about my issues and inquiring about the hapless Dr's apparent issues…I could see he chewed his nails like me and asked why and the guy got the creeps from a 10 year old trying to switch chairs on him…infront of him.

    I could "see" your writing for what it is. Rare. Well written views of what I see. You are black and I imagine it has obvious effects but if you could see through my eyes you might be shocked at how similar the view is cuz alot of black folks…like all folks just ain't lookin but my brain is activated…my "awareness" switch has been on since I can remember and I thought I was crazy sometimes because other people werent stimulated like me but they should be I thought based on what they said. I always remembered what everybody said and the place it was said and the music that was playing in the background and everything. 

    I saw it all…all the time and everything that surrounded "it". The offense was recorded in every way my brain could do and it still does. It's a blessing..not a curse. I sometimes wasn't sure but I am now.

    I could never figure out why others couldn't see? But I never doubted what I saw. 

  2. Verity Veritas 19 May 2011 at 12:43 am Permalink

    I wasn't trying to discredit you, just explain my experience so far in Japan. Sorry if it seemed that way.

    • Locohama 20 May 2011 at 12:48 am Permalink

      I never claimed you were…
      My writing had impacted your thinking and tainted your experience apparently. Instead of taking things as they come you're looking for trouble. That's disturbing.

      • Verity Veritas 20 May 2011 at 1:02 pm Permalink

        I certainly was looking for trouble when I first came. In fact for the first few weeks on the train I turned it around and I wouldn't sit down right next to a Japanese person, for fear they would get up and move.This is not solely as a result of anything I read on your blog though. I'd been reading blogs by other black foreigners in Japan as well, or reading experiences of black foreigners in forums, and they were giving similar experiences. They didn't go quite as deep into analysis as you did, trying to get to the root of the behaviour or the root of their reactions, but they did mention racist or offensive behaviour directed their way. Things that stand out are one girl describing as an old man proudly and obliviously showed her an old "dancing jigger" doll, expecting her to be thrilled because it was black and she was black. Another is from a student in university who's peers always assumed she must run track. So armed with all of that knowledge, I made my way to Tokyo expecting extreme ignorance. So far there have been some offenses but nowhere near the "volume" I was expecting. 

        Anyway you know what? I think I'll wait a little longer before I debate this any further. I'm still supposed to be in the "honeymoon" stage after all, I don't have enough data yet. 

  3. Miltdigity 21 May 2011 at 3:45 am Permalink

     What up Homeslice!! I just decided to check you out. Looks like I had good timing. The point that I made is being reinforced by your readers. What I see has nothing to do with black fear. Everything I have experienced has been from xenophobia. If your white readers can relate to what your writing then they obviously haven't experienced the utter disdain, repulsiveness and fear that some whites have for blacks in America. All gaijin go through the I don't want to sit next to you because you have the cooties bullshit. That shit ain't fear it's utter stupidity and childish. That's why I ignore that elementary school shit. I have heard shitauchi (teeth sucking) and I used to waste my time responding to that shit. I used to confront the salary men whenever I heard it. If they feared me they would have never had the balls to do that shit.
    I grew up in the suburbs of DC and Baltimore in a majority white upper middle class neighborhood.I have scared walkers,neighbors and have been questioned by the police in MY neighborhood just because I was walking down the street. I can mention the countless times that women crossed the street because I was behind them. Or I can talk about the lady that clutched her bag when I got in the elevator with her. I was so insulted that I showed her the 2k in cash in my pocket and told her that I had my own money. I really wish I could count the number of times that I have been pulled over by the police and harassed just because I was black. I have had two experiences with cops here in 5 years and they didn't even shake me down. I wish I could have that kind of peace at home. Meanwhile in Japan I have luckily only seen white dudes getting their pockets searched and I enjoyed watching it.I don't get the fear vibe from Japanese people. The reason why I said it was an American cultural phenomenon you are reacting to is because they rarely snatch purses here. They don't have the same level of street crime that we do. It's not part of their thinking that someone is going to snatch their bag. How many times have you walked up on somebody and they don't even acknowledge that someone is behind them? If you walk around in any urban center in America like that you're asking to get jacked! Shit, sometimes I walk around so banged up that I start getting paranoid about mf's walking down a dark alley with me. I get tensed and ready to respond with the quickness and then I remember that I'm in Japan and not Baltimore. A dude almost got punched in the face and didn't even know it. Just because I was walking around looking at shit through my cultural lens. Why else would someone be walking through an alley that close to me unless they wanted to jack me, right?I could talk about the young girls that say kowai (scared) and giggle when I walk by at work. Sure, they're saying I'm scared but is that the vibe they give off? No, it's not. They are intrigued but they don't know how to express it. As soon as I confront them with a laugh and a smile it's clear that they want to talk. No white person in America that feared me ever stood still and had a conversation with me. They were always too busy trying to get the fuck away from me. That's what I call fear.As I have said to you before I used to react to a lot of the bullshit that I saw the first time I lived here and it was pointless. I stayed agitated all the time and I was always having confrontations. I'm not just talking about the Japanese either. I got run out off the country feeling pissed off and defeated. When I decided to come back I decided to ignore the bullshit and bullshit people. That's how I lived in the States so why should I be any different in Japan?Now my life here is completely different. I have had a ton of positive experiences with Japanese people on a human level. It might come from a mother that catches me making make crazy faces at her kid on the train. Or the old lady that always says "hello" when she sees me because I gave her my seat on the train. I'd much rather focus on those experiences.I'm not excusing them for their behavior and lack of respect but that's all it is. I don't have time for dumb shit like that. 

    • Locohama 21 May 2011 at 8:01 am Permalink

       What point did you make? Are you referring to some previous comment or conversation we've had? Anyway, what you've done here is illustrate my point vividly. People hear/read.see what they want to see, hell, what they NEED to see to make staying here a plausible decision and maintaining your self respect and dignity.possible. You know? People like yourself just "imagine" they know where I'm coming from and respond accordingly.
      Cuz, if you were a reader you would know that I never said white folks don't experience xenophobia, all i said were that if there are degrees of it, and there are, then I'm hard pressed to call it xenophobia. But i'm already tired of responding to you. I feel like you've written a dissertation to supoport an argument in your head and discredit an argument i haven't made and what a waste of my time!

      Thanks for at least visiting my blog…next time try reading it!

    • Locohama 21 May 2011 at 9:19 pm Permalink

       Oh Shit! i just realized who you are!!! LMAO!! It's Homeslice!!! Damn I feel dumb, I thought you were a troll. I almost spammed you. That's funny! You made my night! Good looking bruh!

      • Miltdigity 27 May 2011 at 11:10 pm Permalink

        I didn't base my comment off of anything you wrote or said. I wrote that because I wanted your readers to know my perspective. I mentioned that I grew up in a white neighborhood because I know that your neighborhood was predominately black. My point was to let your readers know that I'm used to being feared and being viewed as a potential threat. Fear isn't easily quantifiable and it's even harder when everyone in your neighborhood is of the same race.

        Sorry for eating up your space again. I just didn't want to be misunderstood.

        Peace

  4. Rubi 21 May 2011 at 7:07 pm Permalink

     Hey, Loco. ご無沙汰して済まない。What you wrote: 

    … has all of this effort been for naught? Who gives a fuck? What the fuck am I doing? Why the fuck do I discuss these ideas? Is this the best or even a productive use of my energy and talent?

    really impacted me. I've been in situations that have challenged my identity in a similar way, but I can only imagine what it must feel like for someone like you, who is compelled to put their thoughts and experiences into words. For a man of the written word to doubt the utility of his written words…

    • Locohama 21 May 2011 at 9:12 pm Permalink

       Thanks Rubi, for jerking me off, let  @daa0087e3d63a2756cc72818f904b7b0:disqus   tell it!
      And, yeah, it sucks big time doesn't it. Thanks for commiserating. It's nice to be gotten.

  5. Rubi 21 May 2011 at 10:07 am Permalink

     Hey, Loco. ご無沙汰して済まない。What you wrote: 

    … has all of this effort been for naught? Who gives a fuck? What the fuck am I doing? Why the fuck do I discuss these ideas? Is this the best or even a productive use of my energy and talent?

    really impacted me. I’ve been in situations that have challenged my identity in a similar way, but I can only imagine what it must feel like for someone like you, who is compelled to put their thoughts and experiences into words. For a man of the written word to doubt the utility of his written words…

  6. Tonya R. Moore 21 May 2011 at 9:30 pm Permalink

    Loco, let me just tell you, as a fellow writer/aspiring Something: not once was I ever under the impression that what I was reading here was inadvertently or intended to be anything other than the story of your experiences, from your own perspective. We are–each of us, very much entitled to that. Both writing and our perceptions of what we experience are immensely subjective. In this day and age, you'd imagine that would go without saying.

    I think there are very few who have the ability or courage to combine the two in a way that most people find evocative and thought provoking. I think you do that quite neatly, and although I may not always comment I rarely read a post on your blog that I didn't appreciate reading, for one reason or another. (I do wonder what your Fiction would be like–I think it would be brilliant. Do it sometime!)

    I do understand the self doubt though. I ask myself the same questions every other day. I've comforted myself with the idea that not all writers are confident and unquestioning about their abilities. When I've said it enough times, I manage to convince myself for a little while, and I can plug along.It's all a part of the process, I guess… I hope.

    • Locohama 21 May 2011 at 9:50 pm Permalink

       @mikodragonfly:disqus  Tonya love, thank you  And coming from a brilliant fiction writer like yourself, I'm honored! Self Doubt is indeed a beeeotch. These are hard questions for anyone to ask themselves and find the wherewithal, even without a definitive answer, to keep on keeping on. It's prolific writers like yourself, to be honest, that also inspire me and encourage me to keep on  keeping on. I too hope it's all part of the process…Thank you again!

  7. dwayne mckenzie 24 May 2011 at 1:18 am Permalink

    homeslice i agree 100% with all you wrote…..
    it's kinda suspect that loco would take your comment for a troll, i don't understand that…..

    but people are people and once you understand why the behave they way they do, it makes it much more 
    tolerable….

    it doesn't make it okay but tolerable…

  8. dwayne2d3d 24 May 2011 at 1:20 am Permalink

     homeslice i agree 100% with all you wrote…..
    it's kinda suspect that loco would take your comment for a troll, i don't understand that…..

    but people are people and once you understand why the behave they way they do, it makes it much more 
    tolerable….

    it doesn't make it okay but tolerable…

    • Locohama 24 May 2011 at 4:56 am Permalink

        Hey Dwayne,
      I agree with some of what he wrote as well…but to say
      that Japanese don't sit next to foreigners (at times) on the train has
      nothing to with fear part i don't agree with. It's childish and stupid
      too, but the main motivation for their taking that action is clearly
      fear, borne by ignorance. I thought he was a troll because I don't know
      who this guy was but seemed to be getting ultra familiar with me LOL But
      that was more a joke than a serious accusation. If i really thought he
      was a troll I would have deleted his ass like I do trolls these days!
      Thanks for the shout! getting ultra familiar with me LOL But that was
      more a joke than a serious accusation. If i really thought he was a
      troll I would have deleted his ass like I do trolls these days! Thanks
      for the shout!

  9. Locohama 24 May 2011 at 4:55 am Permalink

     Hey Dwayne,
    I agree with some of what he wrote as well…but to say that Japanese don't sit next to foreigners (at times) on the train has nothing to with fear part i don't agree with. It's childish and stupid too, but the main motivation for their taking that action is clearly fear, borne by ignorance. I thought he was a troll because I don't know who this guy was but seemed to be getting ultra familiar with me LOL But that was more a joke than a serious accusation. If i really thought he was a troll I would have deleted his ass like I do trolls these days! Thanks for the shout!

  10. Dr. H 8 June 2011 at 10:43 pm Permalink

    Hey Loco,

    I know this comment is a little late on this post, but I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your perspective. I went to Tokyo for the first time last month. I had read up on some of your blog before I went, and I saw some of your posts about people avoiding you on the train. I figured," eh, those Japanese don't live around black folks like I do. I've grown up in a mixed community, I've got black friends, friends I consider family. Those poor Japanese just don't have the benefit of growing up around a lot of different kinds of people. It must be so frustrating for Loco to deal with that garbage."

    Then I got there, sat down on the train, and people would get up and move away. Stand up on the other end of the car. I thought WTH? I'm a cute white girl! I'm not fearsome! I couldn't hurt anybody! Why are they scared of me? I'd say that it happened about one out of every two times I got on the trains. I'm glad that at least some people had the maturity to just stay put in their seat.

    It made me angry, it made me feel literal rage. It made me wonder what my friends, my black friends, deal with every day here in the good old U.S. of A. It made me wonder how they deal with the rage. How much of the rage must be pent-up in them from years and years of dealing with this stupidity. It made me realize just how ignorant I was of what racism really feels like.

    The comment of "Japan is in the eye of the beholder", "you see what you expect to see." That doesn't hold true for me. I came to Japan expecting wonderment, excitement, finally being able to see and experience all those things I had read about and studied about as I tried to start learning the language. I fully did not expect to be treated….well….treated like a big scary black guy. Yet I was, and it made me feel horrible. I now have mixed feelings about whether I want to be a "fan" of Japan anymore. I have mixed feelings if I want to continue trying to learn the language. I know I shouldn't let a few ignorant morons change my view of an entire culture. It has opened my eyes to what my friends here at home have dealt with their whole lives. So…if nothing else, my experience has at least turned me into a sympathetic ear for those suffering from racism in the US….something I can honestly say I never would have had the understanding to do otherwise. My thoughts and prayers are with you, continue fighting the fight, continue being a good example of humanity to the people around you.


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