The following conversation took place today between a japanese friend and I. We were discussing why when I was a kid I thought that Abraham Lincoln was a black man (which is a whole story unto itself I’m in the process of writing)
Me: …so, no one ever said he was white and in my school ALL the heroes in American history were black. There were no white ones.
Friend: Really? That’s funny!
(I stood there thinking about how this could have happened)
Me: Now that I think about it, no one ever really uses a racial designation unless it’s pertinent, or they believe for some reason for it to be pertinent information.
Friend: it’s not important, right?
Me: Exactly. But would you assume he was black?
Friend: Ummm…yeah, I guess so.
Me: Now, if I think that the fact that he’s white is something you need to know, for some reason, and I have no idea what that reason would be, I might mention it.
Friend: Oh, I see…
Me: And if you wanted to introduce me to one of your Japanese friends…Nah, that wouldn’t work. Cuz as soon as you say “his name is Loco,” they would know I wasn’t Japanese.
Friend: LOL. True.
Me: But they would probably think I was white, right?
Me: if you said that my friend is gaijin, they would assume I was white, and if they met me they’d be surprised as hell if I were black. no?
Friend: I don’t think so…but you are my friend so I don’t think like that…anymore.
Me: Huh? So, before you met me, if you wanted to introduce a gaijin friend to your Japanese friends, and if your friend happened to be black, would you say your gaijin friend or your kokujin (black) friend?
Friend: Hmmmm… probably I would say Black friend.
Me: But if you didn’t say black friend, would they be surprised if I were black? Or would you if it were the other way around?
Me: Just curious…
Friend: I’d probably be surprised…
Me: Cuz Gaijin generally means white?
Friend: Yeah…I guess.
Me: As does Igirisu-jin (British), Canada-jin, Furansu jin (French), and Doitsu jin (German), I bet. All mean white…except maybe Amerika-Jin and Afurika-jin (African), right?
Friend: Hmmm…never thought about that.
Me: Why would you?