17 September 2017 ~ 0 Comments

A Japanese Professor Explains Why it’s Essential that Japanese Learn the History of Racism in America

This month’s #BlackEye, for the first time in its 3-year run, speaks with a Japanese professor, Dr. Keiko Shirakawa! As I explained in the previous column, we’re in the midst of a series on teaching “blackness” in Japan. Here in Japan, this of course will be the responsibility of predominantly Japanese professors. So, I’m using this series to also explore and examine their methods, goals and reasons behind their decision to take on this complicated task.

During the interview professor Shirakawa explained how studying the history of America, particularly the history of slavery and racism in America, can help Japanese students to expand their horizon and their grasp of the influence America has on this country.

Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

“Dr. Keiko Shirakawa is a professor at Doshisha University in Kyoto. She earned her doctorate in American literature from Keio University in 2003. Her dissertation entitled: Antebellum Monsters – Race and Subversive Imagination in the American Narrative Tradition was inspired by her research of American literature about the south prior to the Civil War, during which she came across a slave narrative emblematic of the plight of black Americans of the period. That narrative, ironically, written by a white author –William Styron – is known as “The Confessions of Nat Turner”. 

Nat Turner was a slave who led a bloody revolt against white tyranny in Virginia in 1831. Styron’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel was based on the writings of a white lawyer, Thomas R. Grey, who had obtained the confession just prior to Turner’s execution. Turner’s insurrection was also the subject of a 2016 film directed by Nate Parker called “Birth of a Nation”. 

“Styron’s novel was published in 1967. Here was a white southerner writing about a hero to many black people amid a period of intense racial conflict in the US,” says the 52-year old Shirakawa. “So the book was quite controversial.”

For more of this remarkable interview, CLICK HERE:

I just wanna thank Professor Shirakawa for sharing her thoughts and insights with Black Eye! What an honor!

Baye

 

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