Racist Regimes

Racist Regimes
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Assuming — not without cause — that my disastrous year in Japan has left me forever craving anecdotes of the country at its worst, a friend recently brought to my attention this snarky article about the inflated self-regard in which the Japanese hold themselves. Among the most unsettling stats cited, when a recent survey asked if “the Japanese possess vastly superior qualities” “compared to the people of other nations” 64% of the country answered yes.

Such numbers won’t surprise fellow ex-expats. Some years ago I illustrated a book cover for a collection of essays written by an African-American fellow living in Yokohama, documenting his uncomfortable life as a racial outcast in the land of the pure. People pointing and staring and clutching their purses and changing seats and whatnot with a brazenness that would have raised eyebrows in the Jim Crow South for its lack of subtlety. That was the kind of thing all the immigrants always talked about when I was there. Just like how it was an article of faith in those same circles that some restaurants and shops in lower-class neighbourhoods hung explicit “NO FOREIGNERS” signs in their windows.

That Asian countries are some of the world’s most racist is an assertion born out by data. A revealing 2013 World Values Survey of racial tolerance around the globe (as measured by one’s willingness to have neighbours of a different race) placed Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and South Korea all near the bottom of the global rankings, well beneath anywhere in the Americas, non-France Europe, even South Africa.

Whatever its roots, this cultural inclination towards xenophobia and bigotry is often blamed for the loud, exaggerated paranoia and distrust Asian nations routinely display towards each other, and the vicious, bloody wars of colonization and ethnic cleansing that have historically erupted in response. (And of course ominous storm clouds loom today over the multi-sided stand-off over those islands in the South China Sea, a ridiculous conflict most outside observers agree is as much about upholding reactionary notions of “national pride” as any legitimate geopolitical interest.)

No great shock, then, that ethnocentrism is also a particularly pronounced feature of Asia’s worst kid on the block.

In 2010, a guy named B. R. Myers wrote a book on North Korea entitled The Cleanest Race, that was later the subject of a memorable review by Christopher Hitchens. Meyers’ thesis was that much of the country’s lunatic patriotism was actually a racial thing, with their hermit-like isolation from the rest of the world viewed as a source of national strength, since it reflected such enviable ethnic purity. Hitch himself recounted meeting a NoKo bureaucrat who bemoaned the Southern regime’s comparative mongrelization at the hands of all those interloping foreigners bedding their women, “even black American soldiers, or so he’d heard to his evident disgust.”

Earlier this month the world received a reminder of just how high this ugliness goes. On May 2, 2014 (or, as the North Koreans evidently record dates, Juche Year 103 — Juche Year 1 being the birth of regime founder and Great Leader Kim Il Sung, whose xenophobic spin on Marxism is known as Juche), the infamous Korean Central News Agency churned out a press release in response to Barack Obama’s recent Asian tour.

Writing in the trademark half-coherent pseudo-English that’s become a quintessential component of North Korean sloganeering, the bulk of the thing consists of a fiery denunciation of South Korean president Park Geun Hye (referred, in traditional, and only somewhat metaphorical fashion, as “no more than a dirty political harlot” and an “old prostitute”) but it was the passing reference to her “American master” as a “wicked black monkey” that made the biggest headlines.

Lest anyone think it was just a casual slur, the NoKo news office banged out a second, more Obama-centric release that same day ratcheting up the racial rhetoric to truly cartoonish heights.

Originally untranslated into English until the blog One Free Korea got their hands on it, the rant apparently describes the President of the United States as a “ugly sub-human” with “cross-breed blood” and “cavernous nostrils” and a “thick-lipped maw” who belongs in a zoo “licking at the bread crumbs tossed by onlookers” — among many, many other colourful analogies. As The Washington Post dutifully noted, while the White House “often ignores the rhetorical excesses of the North Korean regime,” even they reached their limits with this one — “ugly and disrespectful” was the official denunciation of a spokesman.

One of the great ironies of America’s ever-more zealous drive to extinguish racism within its borders — in which every other week this-or-that b-list celebrity is being dragooned out of their job for using some noun or adjective freshly forbidden by social justice censors, and overt discrimination has become so rare we must now worry ourselves with shadowy phenomena like “structural racism” — is how blind it makes us to the persistence of considerably more aggressive, destructive forms of bigotry practiced elsewhere in the world.

True racism, in the sense of angry, ignorant, cruel hate directed towards those visibly different from the majority, remains, as it always has, the ideology of tyrants eager to redirect their subjects’ rage towards phantom enemies, and sheltered societies whose insecurities about their own weakness can only be effectively masked with puffed-up chauvinism.

That’s not a bad description of many of the regimes running Asia at the moment.

Not that I want to stereotype.



  1. AdamG

    A good point, but I'm not going to let you get away with saying Structural Racism doesn't exist. The simple fact that real estate taxes directly fund schools in much of the US means that rich areas retain educational benefits from pre-K through 12th grade.

  2. Rachel

    Or the fact that blacks are arrested much more often for marijuana use, despite using it at the same rate as blacks.

  3. ThePsudo

    I think you meant to say "… at the same rate as whites."

  4. JJ McCullough

    I don't think it doesn't exist, merely that it's a vague concept, and three people will probably give you four different definitions.

  5. AdamG

    That's fair.

  6. Jake_Ackers

    Not completely true. Most states they just redistribute the property tax income. And schools in poor neighborhoods can ask for additional funding from the state gov't. So actually many poor districts get more money than "rich" ones. Problem is poor districts have other problems like crime and just generally horrid administration practices.

  7. Guest

    If you think that the schools in poor districts are getting the same amount as money as ones in wealthy ones I think you've got to live in some sort of alternate universe.

  8. Jake_Ackers

    It's a fact that they do or get more. Look it up. Of course it varies by state. Difference is rich districts tend to do fundraisers. While poorer districts have other expenses like needing more security. It's not the amount of money, its how it is used.

  9. Zulu

    Although racism is worst in other countries, that does not absolve us of disparity of treatment here in the US. For once in this cynical age, though, I feel a bit more proud to live in a country that is less hateful than others, for what it's worth.

  10. w00062016

    "proud to live in a country that is less hateful than others"

    Quick! Someone call the United States Mint, we have a new commemorative coin!

  11. Stranger

    I agree that while the US doesnt have the same level of racism as it did 50 years ago, and there's certainly worse, much worse perpetrators out there, its not like the US, or any other western nation for that matter, is a post-racial society. Racism is still very much present, and even still institutional in some ways, such as the economic disenfranchisement of minority groups. It just sticks out more because places like the US profess to being standard bearers of liberty and equality, yet dont really live up to either of those concepts.

  12. Jake_Ackers

    Difference is we don't tolerate racism. If anything that is what makes us a racial society. We are in post-racism but not in post-racial. We view everything though a racial lens. Everyone likes to call everyone else racist in the US.

  13. JonasB

    I personally find it amusing that so many of the earlier posters seem to think talking about other racist countries is an attempt to absolve the US of what racism it still has.

  14. Colin Minich

    Then what would this particular piece convey instead?

  15. Stranger

    The difference is that some of these countries such as NK are run by despots. Others, like Japan, are rigidly traditional, which means civil rights and anti-racism movements are nearly impossible to get off the ground. But the western nations have no such excuses, they are supposed to uphold certain ideals, but dont seem interested in actually doing it. Its not meant to absolve other nations, its meant to point out that you have to look over your own house before starting to point fingers at others.

  16. Jake_Ackers

    "Everybody is racist except me." That pretty much sums up the view of the world on race. Whether it be Westerners or anyone else.

    Although there is one argument I always think is odd:

    "If you are Asian, you must marry an Asian. If you are Black, it is wrong to marry outside your race because you aren't helping the race. If you are Indian you have to marry an Indian. Better yet someone from your own caste. If you are Native you have to preserve your culture. etc. etc."

    If some white person even said anything close to the above, they would be labeled a racist and face a social lynching.

    Why is it when a racial minority says something like that in the US its labeled as "It's their culture."

    No. You are part of the US culture now. It's okay to have interracial marriages and learn English. The world is not going to end because your daughter married a white male Protestant Christian who speaks English. Stop holding onto old world or yesteryear ignorance.

  17. @Locohama

    "If some white person even said anything close to the above, they would be labeled a racist and face a social lynching. " Are you serious or being facetious? How easily history is erased. While those attitudes and idiotic statements you suggested other races' incorporate to illustrate their ideas on race, white Americans, to my knowledge, are the only ones I know to actually (not socially, but actually) lynch other humans (as in from trees) for even looking or thinking about white woman, let alone dating or marrying them. Jungle Fever was actually used for white attraction to black woman, the way yellow fever is used for white attraction to Asians. The most accurate way to describe the reverse attraction pre-1970s would be "Rope Fever" or Jesus Fever" cuz you were surely flirting with meeting your maker effing around with white woman (and it still has a lethal stigma in some areas) But perhaps American history (and not ancient history by any means) and current events are obscure to some.

  18. anonymouse

    His point

    Your head

  19. Colin Minich

    JJ it was never a secret that the Asian nations have ultimately become the most racist and inclusive. They're unimaginably racist even to themselves! For example, look at the Han supremacy mindset in China especially around regions such as Xinjiang. For centuries they've been warring with each other and mired in either isolation or paranoia about other nations. Hell even the children of Asia today harbor surreal resentment towards the Japanese or Chinese or Koreans or Cambodian or whomever, still insisting that a shade darker is a shade less pure, and blacks do get it bad sometimes from the older generations. Kim Il-Sung's Juche ideology was built off the racial "supremacy" of Joseon (Korea) in a way that'd make Hitler blush with flattery. If anything though, I'd take the North Korean reports with a grain of salt. They've pulled this kind of crap for decades and when the time comes that the regime falls, all you'll see are the empty words they spewed and the failure of Juche.

    That being said, I know it becomes a bit of a hyperliberal problem to try to sniff out any semblance of perceived racism or sexism in the US…but using North Korea or Japan as a comparison isn't really fair when trying to point out how the US handles its racism. It's also not worth using it to discredit how there are people in my country who still seethe with hatred at Obama on the general notion that he's a "mongrel."

  20. Jake_Ackers

    Who keeps giving Colin and myself negative points? Seriously. I'm arguing against racism and I get negative points.

    Moreover, Colin is right. Asia is racist. Goes back to my main point. Even more so when you consider the whole Sino-centered theory they have. Where they literally think the world came out of Asia and they rotate the map so China or any other Asian country is in the middle. Again, "Everybody is racist, especially whitey, except me."

  21. Colin Minich

    To be more accurate, "Everyone is racist, but only if they're whitey, so the rest of us are exceptions."

  22. Nerdling

    I'd like to point out that the Han supremacy thing is kind of being encouraged by the Chinese government in conjunction with resettlement programs. As far as I know, it's a sort of loyalty thing.

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