Thursday, December 30, 2010
Barack vs. Buraku/Burakumin-I
On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama became the 44th President, the first minority ethnic President in more than 230 years of American history. According to Hong Kong media 1.5 billions people watched Obama’s inauguration ceremony. The society of the superpower of the world is beginning to change. Unfortunately, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the second economic superpower, Japan, has not changed at all. Japan is still struggling with prejudices that are preventing it from breaking ancient taboos. The New York Times (January 15, 2009) had an extremely interesting article, “Japan’s Outcasts Still Wait for Acceptance,” comparing with minorities treatment in both sides of the Pacific Ocean. The buraku or burakumin, is not my misspelling of Barack (Obama), are descendants of Japanese who performed tasks including slaughterers, undertakers, and executioners. These Japanese were called eta (defiled mass) or hinin (nonhuman) who were forced to wear telltale clothing, becoming segregated into their own neighborhoods. During the Tokugawa era (1603-1867), the government officially made the buraku an outcasts class. The word of buraku existed as far as the 13 century in Japanese history. However, in 1871, the Japanese government officially liberated the buraku, just a few years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the U.S. Today, the fact that Nonaka Hiromu holds the number two position of the Japanese government and could be the top leader in Japan, is as significant as America’s election of Barack Obama in 2008. Nevertheless, Nonaka did not get into stage of the candidate of the Japanese prime minister because he originated from the buraku. One resister to Nonaka’s becoming prime minister is Aso Taro (current prime minister). “Are we really going to let those people take over the leadership of Japan?” Aso stated in the closed-door meeting in 2001. Eventually, Koizumi Junichiro took the seat of the prime minister in 2001. It should not be surprised to people who really understand Japanese history, culture, and society because Japan is an invisible racist society. Unlike the USA, a lot of issues, such as race (between black and white), can not be even be discussed in Japan. Everyone is staying away from the buraku issue, one of many taboo issues, and not even taking Aso’s comment as a scandal, because the topic is till a major taboo in Japan. It is unthinkable that the buraku can be the prime minister, nor any other minorities including zainichi Korean (Korean who are living in Japan for generations) can be “Japanese Barack Obama.” It will not happen in this century, and the next century. There is a long, long, and long way to go for the Japanese people to have “Japanese Barack Obama.”
After growing up and studying in China and Japan, Dr. Suganuma went to the U.S. for graduate studies, earning master’s degrees at both St. John's University (in Chinese studies) and Syracuse University (in international relations) as well as a Ph.D. (in geography) from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.