Global Link Round Up – Race Outside of the US

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Note: All of these blogs and articles were found through the excellent organization Global Voices.

JAPAN

Little Black Sambo is still a hot topic for debate in Japan, with Japan Probe weighing in on the latest manifestation of the controversy:

Over at Debito.org, there is a post today containing an e-mail from a foreigner in Japan who was shocked to find that a Rainforest Cafe in Chiba Prefecture was selling “Little Black Sambo” dolls. After explaining to the staff of the store that “sambo” was racial slur for black people and that the book “Little Black Sambo” was offensive, he succeeded in getting the dolls removed from the store’s shelves.

I found the fact that the store removed the dolls to be rather surprising, given the popularity of “Little Black Sambo” in Japan. I would guess that Sambo goods are being sold at hundreds of stores throughout Japan, and the children’s picture book is available at almost any bookstore of significant size.

[...]

If one were to tell the average Japanese person that “sambo” was a racial slur similar to “nigger” and that the book “Little Black Sambo” was an offensive book full of racially insensitive imagery, one would probably be met with a response of surprise or confusion. To many Sambo is just a cute little character in a cute children’s book, and it is hard to understand what could be so offensive about it.

The post finishes with a poll:

“Little Black Sambo” is:

An racially insensitive book that should not be popular 250 – 50% of all votes
A harmless little book about a cute dark-skinned boy 255 – 50% of all votes
Total Votes: 505

Started: December 4, 2007

Mutant Frog Travelouge writes on the gross mischaracterizations of Japanese culture by Americans, specifically in reference to the Washington Post article on blogging in Japan:

The overview is essentially a series of variations on the theme “Unlike Americans, who often times blog to stand out, the Japanese blog to fit in.”
[...]
I can appreciate that this “Tokyo Stories” feature is an attempt to provide easy-to-understand vignettes about Japanese culture for an American audience. There is a lot of misunderstanding about Japan, so for readers and visitors to the Washington Post to take an interest in what’s going on on the other side of the world is extremely important. Unfortunately, the blanket generalizations and shallow analysis in this piece undermine that mission.

RUSSIA

Over in Russia, Daily EM writes about the spread of fascism and racism through Web 2.0:

Now, all those guys featured in the post study at very good universities in Russia and it’s almost obvious they are heading for a good career afterwards. This is the theme that the author of the post plays up: “those are our future lawyers, economists, politicians, entrepreneurs– and there are thousands of them”. So, the message is obvious: if you care about Russia’s future, you should make sure that these people from the Caucasus are not anywhere in the top ranks of the country– this is the basic point of the post.

What’s worse, the post’s author linked to a video that was supposedly featured on one of the profiles of these young men. The video is a clip mashed up entirely of user-generated videos of darkly skinned men (again, supposedly from the Caucasus) beating up ethnic Russians. The soundtrack is a rap song (in Russian) by a band called “The Caucasian Brotherhood”, which basically says that the nations of the Caucasus are going to unite and dominate Russia.

[Aside: I love how you can hate on dark people, yet use hip-hop as your soundtrack. Irony, anyone?]

EGYPT

Bloggers in Egypt are having a fascinating discussion about YouTube’s decision to remove videos of police sanctioned brutality uploaded by users:

A storm is brewing in the Egyptian blogosphere after video hosting site YouTube removed several videos featuring policemen torturing victims from their site.

“This is by far the biggest blow to the anti-torture movement in Egypt,” writes Wael Abbas, an award winning blogger, whose videos capturing the torture of victims at the hands of police were removed from YouTube.

[...]

Others are however not satisfied, and The Big Pharaoh is calling on supporters to campaign against the closure of the Abbas’ account. He pleads with his readers:

I’m breaking my blogging siesta to report this and ask you to please e-mail YouTube. YouTube has suspended Wael Abbas’ account for reasons that no one can understand. Wael Abbas is an anti-torture activist who posts videos of Egypt’s police brutality. These videos are the only mean to expose what happens in our police stations, without them the cry of people who were subjected to torture will go unheard. I really don’t understand why YouTube took this decision. I am counting on you.

LIBERIA

A Liberian blog run by an expat from the US critiques Time Magazine’s coverage of African issues:

This story is annoying. It’s supposed to be a scary warning about the West African country of Guinea-Bissau as the newest narco-state.

Interesting premise, but even as it mentions Liberia only once in a list of countries, somehow more than half of the pictures they used (I’m talking about the print version) were taken in Monrovia. Are they suggesting that Liberia is some kind of narco-state as well? Or were they just too lazy to find a photographer in Guinea-Bissau?

Imagine if Time Magazine did a story about New Jersey being the car theft capital of the USA, and then half of the pics were taken in Massachusetts. Would that make sense? No. Would people in Massachusetts have the right to be offended? Yes. Time’s editors are just assuming there’s little chance that their audience will notice or draw the distinction between the various countries in deep, dark, scary Africa.

EGYPT/SAUDI ARABIA

In light of the discussion we had two weeks ago, I found this link of interest. Arabist.net has an indictment of Saudi policy in regards to women:

I can’t find it online, so I am republishing below this fine op-ed by Mona al-Tahawy where she makes the obvious yet crucial point that Saudi Arabia’s medieval practices (only one manifestation of its backwards ideology) have been tolerated far too long: [...]

Today in a country called Saudi Arabia it is gender rather than racial apartheid that is the evil but the international community watches quietly and does nothing.

Saudi women cannot vote, cannot drive, cannot be treated in a hospital or travel without the written permission of a male guardian, cannot study the same things men do, and are barred from certain professions. Saudi women are denied many of the same rights that “Blacks” and “Coloreds” were denied in apartheid South Africa and yet the kingdom still belongs to the very same international community that kicked Pretoria out of its club.

[...]

I am a Muslim who is constantly wondering how it is that I worship the same God as the Saudis. Islam may have been born in Mecca — in what is today Saudi Arabia — but the warped interpretation of my religion prevalent in that country is like a perverse attempt to undo any good that Muslims believe was revealed in Prophet Mohammed’s message in 7th century Arabia.

What kind of God would punish a woman for rape? That is a question that Muslims must ask of Saudi Arabia because unless it is we who challenge the determinedly anti-women teachings of Islam in Saudi Arabia, that kingdom will always get a free pass.

It is easy to dismantle the Saudi clerical claim that it is Islam that justifies their outrageous treatment of girls and women. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, a place where women enjoy rights a Saudi woman could only dream of, where they recite the verses of the Quran on television for all to see and hear. In Saudi Arabia, a woman’s voice is considered sinful.

More interesting still is the second comment to the post:

Noor Hammad
Nov 26th, 2007 at 11:41 pm
Great article.

Unfortunately any condemnation of Saudi’s ridiculous practices comes, more often than not, in the form of bigoted attacks on Islam.

It is the fact that Saudi Arabia has “… succeeded in pulling a fast one on the world by claiming their religion is the reason they treat women so badly”, that little opposition is heard from other Muslim nations for fear of the Saudi atrocities, such as the recent rape case, being framed as ‘Islamic’ atrocities rather than the actions of an oppressive government (and the male population it rules) who has used its perverted interpretation of Islam to justify its chauvinistic practices and secure its grip on power.

The same tactics are at play when the Saudi’s deny that democracy is compatible with Islam.

Noor Hammad