Blackface in Japan / ブラックフェイス・イン・ジャパン



[in English/英語版]

    Masatoshi Hamada(浜田雅功), a Japanese comedian, weared blackface makeup in a Japanese TV program. He impersonated Eddie Murphy in a Beverly Hills Cop skit. After its broadcasting, a discussion began. Some people critisized it as a racial discrimination, others defended. Defenders are majority.
    Today, I take up my pen to explain what a Japanese feel and think about this problem. This is long. I hope you read it through to reach its conclusion.


[For a black person and everyone who has been hurt by blackface in Japan: I apologize in advance. In this writing, I tell everything honestly that takes a long time to write because of my hesitation. So unintentionally my ignorant words, poor command in English and logics would hurt you because I trace the thought of Japanese defenders. But I think, to be honest is the most important thing on this topic, then I wrote it. I need your voice. I want to understand your way of feeling.]


[For Japanese: I apologize in advance. In this writing, I wrote some dark sides of Japan or Japanese. I think it's the truth and that I should refer to it. Someone might be hurt by my self-righteous words, or others would accuse me as a self-assertive liar or a selfish racist. Yes, I'm not a expert but I am a Japanese sharing a sense of Japanese.]

1. I want to understand the problem of blackface.

    I was born and raised in Japan. My parents are both Japanese. All of my friends are also Japanese. I have no experience of studying abroad. I have just a little knowledge of racial discrimination in foreign countries. This is a typical Japanese. And I cannot understand why his blackface makeup caused offense. Some say I'm and most Japanese are ignorant about this kind of problem. Yes. It's true. I know, most of Japanese are in monocultural society. So for these Japanese to understand blackface is a real cross-cultural communication. And this cross-cultural communication is necessary. I don't want to miss this chance.
    I want to understand the reason why people get anger at his blackface makeup and what blackface is. In fact, Japanese can obey this kind of political correctness blindly, just like players obey the rules of a game, without any understanding or empathy. Japanese did that way so far. But I don't think it is right. I want to understand. I want to understand the logic that painting face a dark color can be a racial discrimination.
    This is not a debate. Not an excuse. Not a defense. I'm just asking a question. I want to find out what this cultural gap is. I will never want to act like racist. And I want to show you what a conflict between the two cultures is. I believe that you know all cultures and societies are on a par and respect for cultural diversity.

2. Transformation in Japanese culture.

    People who are familiar with Japanese subculture can recognize a key in common. It's transformation. "Power Rangers", "Dragon Ball", "Sailor Moon", etc. So many characters transform into another different looks to be more powerful or energetic. In this style, his or her looks after transformation gives some power or energy to him or her by itself. It's the concept close to a powered suit. These characters wear the power itself. So many Japanese kids have enjoyed wearing a mask of anime-characters which is sold in Japanese festivals. These kids wear masks to be given the power of characters, not to conceal their identity or not to impersonate these characters. This is an easy transformation. This is the reason why Japanese affirm the innocence of Japanese blackface musicians. Japanese think these musicans try to wear the power of African-Americans culture. So Japanese defend it and say "This is a representation of respect." Of course, its style itself stems from sinful blackface. I cannot defend this. Ignorance is sin.
    Painting face a color is a common way of transformation in Japan. In the first place, Japanese culture has a lot of examlpe of "whiteface" makeup. Geisha(芸者) and Maiko(舞妓), the Kumadori(隈取) makeup of the Kabuki(歌舞伎) and the makeup of bride in Japanese traditional wedding style. Of course, these makeups are not represent a racial characteristic of a white person. In Kyoto every tourist can experience this Geisha(芸者) and Maiko(舞妓) whiteface makeups despite her color of skin by nature. And today we have another painting color style that is called Ganguro. Then I mean, painting face a color is a common way to change their original color of skin in Japan, and there is no racial implication.
    In Japan, impersonating another person is one of popular style of comedy. It is called "Monomane(ものまね)." Japanese enjoy these TV programs and sometimes they broadcast the contest format program of impersonating. Some with its imitation on behavior, others without any imitation on behavior. This style of impersonating is different from that of a celebrity lookalike. In this impersonating, comedians personate a person who has completely different looks because it's a kind of transformation, and they amuse audiences by its degree of perfection or its catastrophically failure of transformation. Japanese cosplay culture follow this sense of humor.
    Japanese comedians did wear all manner of makeup to impersonate a person who has different race, sex and age. Blackface makeup is not the only makeup that they weared. Everyone is comedian's target impartially. But there is some taboo, of course. For instance, to insult people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against is a taboo. Then you would have a question. Why did Japanese comedians impersonating a black person? The answer is simple. Black people are not regarded as people who are socially disadvantaged in Japan. They don't have history of being discriminated against in Japanese society as a whole. So Japanese cannot regard a black person as a taboo to impersonate. Or, is Japanese viewpoint wrong? Should we Japanese import the concept of regarding black people as a group who different from us with one worldwide viewpoint?
    Comedy is one of the most high-context cultures. How many foreign people can understand why Japanese audiences laughed at Masatoshi Hamada in blackface makeup? That was not a impersonating. It was a kind of transformation into Axel Foley. And audiences laught at his failure of transformation. I don't know the person who can be provoked laughter only by watching a person having black skin. If such a person existed, Japanese TV programs would be filled with black people. Some people protested that TV programs should get a black actor when a black character is needed. I think he was misunderstanding. TV programs often get black actors when black characters are needed. They did it in reality. You can find black actors on Japanese TV. But this time Masatoshi Hamada was needed. Japanese audiences want to see his transformation, not a person just having black colored skin. If the black actor had the same level of sense of humor as Masatoshi Hamada, the actor would be a star no matter what color his or her skin is. But he or she is another person, not a person who was needed this time. A person who was needed is Masatoshi Hamada.

3. Why Japanese cannot understand this problem.

    Why some Japanese cannot understand blackface as racial discrimination? There is my answer. For Japanese, color of skin is just color of his or her skin. It has no implication. I know Martin Luther King, Jr. I know the history of segregation. I know that "color" implies "race" in the U.S. Yes. It's in the U.S. I mean, it's not in Japan.
    Japan has another history of racial discrimination. It is mainly discrimination against Korean or Chinese. Can you distinguish them from Japanese by color of their skin? No. It's impossible because we have same color. So color of skin did not become a sign to distinguish foreign people in Japan, which means that the color of skin cannot imply "race," especially with discriminatory sentiments.
    Honestry, Japanese did have uncomplimentary terms against different colored people. These terms were mainly against a white person and a black person. But still, in Japan, color of skin meant just one of external characteristics of a particular racial group. So Japanese think like this. Color of skin is just color of his or her skin, and "foreign people" is just "foreign people." Some foreign people have different looks from Japanese, which is easy to recognize "foreigners." Yes, this is Japanese. Insular and closed. But it's not different matter from racial discrimination. Japanese have an inferiority complex about speaking in foreign languages because they think they are not good at it so they easily accept giving up a communication with foreign people.
    Then "color" again. I'm talking about cultural code. I show you an example. Hot springs in Japan have a restriction for bathing of a tattooed person. And some foreign tourists wearing tattoo complained about this restriction. They're facing a Japanese cultural code. In Japan, tattoo is not just tattoo. It has an implication. By the way, Yakuza, Japanese gangster, is really threatening. And ordinary people want them go away from hot springs. Yakuza wears tattoo. Tattoo is a sign to distinguish a Yakuza from ordinary people. So the restriction is needed as a roundabout way to exile Yakuza from hot springs. In this case, "tattoo" implies "Yakuza." That's the reason why showing tattoo gives people some negative impression in Japan. Of course, I know, foreign tourists cannot understand this feeling which Japanese have. Foreign tourists might think that tattoo is just tattoo. Similarly, Japanese think that color of skin is just color of skin. There is no implication.
    Then, I have an example to prove it.

4. Just painting face black without any racial background.

    In Japan, there is blackface makeup to represent a non-black person.
    Shigeru Matsuzaki(松崎しげる) is a Japanese singer. He is famous for his dark colored skin. The color of his skin was dark by nature. And sunburn gave his skin darker and darker. Sometimes TV program makes a joke about his dark colored skin. It is like this. A scene at night, he is standing in front of camera. It's outdoor. So darkness obscure his dark colored face. A camera operator says "Mr. Matsuzaki, where are you?" then laughter all around. Shigeru Matsuzaki is also popular for being impersonated. Comedians paint their face black with exaggeration and sing Matsuzaki's songs. After singing songs, Matsuzaki reply "Is it me? Not so black!" then laughter all around. Is it a blackface?
    Then, I want to know your opinions about this kind of blackface. This is a case of wearing blackface makeup to impersonate a non-black person. Is it racist? If you say "it's not racist," I want to ask you another question. Of course, a black person looks black to Japanese. Eddie Murphy looks black too. A single way to represent his color of skin in impersonating is, I think, blackface makeup. When you paint a picture of a tall man, you would describe him as a tall man. When you paint a picture of a person having black colored skin, you would describe him as a person having black colored skin. When I impersonate a person having black colored skin, I would do the same thing....
    Yes. Let me focus on their racial background. Blackface makeup to impersonate non-black person like Shigeru Matsuzaki is not racist. On the other hand blackface makeup to impersonate a black person or foreign people with dark colored skin is racist. Okay. I see. Then, how about a half-blood? Or, everyone cannot impersonate a person with different colored skin? Or, our imagination can show us imaginary color without any makeup?

5. Is it racial characteristic or individual?

    How do you discribe the characteristics of your race? For Japanese in monocultural society like me, this question is too difficult to answer. Of course, I can have the loan of the viewpoint of foreign people like loanwords. Hair is black or brown. Slant eyes. Pale yellow skin. Flat face. Having bad teeth alignment. Not tall. Long-bodied. Bow legs. Yes. That's the racial characteristics of Japanese. And these characteristics are comparative to other races. I mean, these characteristics appear as clear and colorless to Japanese in monocultural society. Because Japanese believe that these characteristics are normal.
    By the way, Japanese anime-fans frequently encounter this kind of question by foreign people. "Why are most Japanese characters in anime white or European-looking, instead of Japanese?" Oh, he or she didn't know Ken Hirai(平井堅) and Hiroshi Abe(阿部寛). Anyway. My answer is "No, I mean, these Japanese characters are not white or European-looking." I usually recognize the character's racial background by his or her name. And actually I have never cared about character's race, except for some specific cases which represent the international context. I'm not a specialist in the design of anime-character but I know the one thing. Without a necessity, its designer omits its racial characteristics. It is needless to discribe Japanese racial characteristics because these characteristics are common factors in Japan, the monocultural society. To the contrary, some external characteristics are used to discribe individual variability among Japanese. "Detective CONAN(名探偵コナン)", a very popular Japanese anime, shows us an example. Heiji Hattori(服部平次) is a male-character having dark colored skin but he is a Japanese, not a black person. Japanese have a variation in their color of skin. Some Japanese have dark color and others have light color. And Heiji Hattori is a Japanese who has dark colored skin. Oops. His name was translated in the U.S. So, American call him Harley Hartwell. Then some American might recognize he is a black person but he is a Japanese man in the original. And no Japanese thinks he is a black person, or no one cares about his racial background because there are so many manga-anime-characters having dark colored skin without any racial background in Japan.
    But it is the truth that Shigeru Matsuzaki, Heiji Hattori and Eddie Murphy has dark colored skin. Is it a racial characteristic or individual characteristic in variability of one race? We cannot decide. Every genetic characteristics is a gift from our parents and ancestors. Color of hair, skin, everything is my and your personality. So, who decides whether it's a racial characteristic or individual? Who decides the meanings of the code on the character? It is put into hands of a person who receives information, a reader or an audience despite the sender's intention.
    Is it a blackface if Japanese paint face black to cosplay Heiji Hattori/ Harley Hartwell? What I mean is this. To separate exactly "a blackface makeup to impersonate a black person" from "another blackface makeup to impersonate a non-black person" is really difficult or nearly impossible. We know that dark colored skin is not the symbol which black peole monopolize.
    This is one Japanaese feeling.

6. Book-burning to kill a sinful form.

    Some actor wears a blond wig on the stage to represent a white person. Do you claim that is racist? A blond wig. Do you say, "That's not a problem because it's not about skin"? Why do you perceive the form of blackface makeup as special? That's a color of hair. Both indicate racial physical characteristics! Of course, I know that's matter of its history.
    "Cloud Atlas" is a Hollywood film in 2012. I love this. And we can find scenes in which actors wear some makeups to impersonate people who have different racial backgrounds. Hugo Weaving weared a makeup to represent slant eyes like Japanese or Chinese eyes. I don't care. It is just a makeup without any insulting implication, and this makeup form is needed. Without these makeups, the film couldn't have had its dynamic inter-racial message. And if we had accused this kind of makeups before this film had made, this outstanding film wouldn't have existed. "Cloud Atlas" won the Saturn Awards for Best Make-up.
    I want to ask you a question. Some Japanese say, "We should stop blackface because black people feel sad at it." Yes. I agree. But what is blackface? Should we regard every blackface makeup as minstrel show? We cannot paint our face black if it is not for representing a black person or insulting meanings?
    If the blackface form was sinful itself despite its intention, Japanese might abolish it from TV, Halloween party and cosplay events. Ganguro(ガングロ) fashion style or Jynx(ルージュラ), one of Pokemon characters which represents Ganguro culture, are not free from blame. We might claim everything in our sight by the international healthy standard.
    But I think, there is no viewpoint that has the absolute justice. Built at length but scrap in the blink, like the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan because of Islamic religious iconoclasm. We cannot decide which ideology is right. But we know one truth. There is an action that cannot be undone. Do you know Japanese swastika? It is called "Manji(まんじ)" in Japanese. It is completely different from sinful Hakenkreuz of the Nazis but it has the same looks. Of course, its history is another. How do you think of it?
    It is easy to kill a guiltless thing. We judge a target by its appearance alone. Every painting face black makeup is the same sinful blackface. Every swastika is the same sinful Hakenkreuz. This is the same way that we did. We judged a target by its appearance alone. "Every people with black skin is the same black people." or "Every people with different looks from ours is the same foreigner.", we did say so. Now we call it discrimination.
    If we erased the word "discrimination" from all dictionaries, however, discrimination itself would survive. Every culture has made from its history, and it includes the dark side. The most important thing is "not to ignore and never to forget and repeat." Now, Atomic Bomb Dome still stands in Hiroshima. Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo too. If we erased the word "discrimination" from all dictionaries, we would lose the way to remember what it is.

7. What Japanese need.

    Thank you for reading my long text.
    And I want explain my feeling honestly at last.
    I'm completely confused and I fear something. I feel that someone is pointing me saying "You are wrong." "Japanese are innocent." "Japanese society is immature and childish." "Japanese viewpoint is inferior to that of others." "You are behind. Be more international." "Forget that part of Japanese viewpoint and culture because it's different from ours."
    Culture is a part of personality. It is really important thing. Of course, I never say, "To be unchanging is the best." Yes, I never say so. I know that everything in culture is not stable. We should stop a bad thing if it's bad. But something inside of me resist this change and I feel a fear that we jumble up everything and delete something important.
    Some people accuse meanings of color words in Japanese. They claim like this. "The color word BLACK(黒/ブラック) in Japanese language are used as a negative meanings. So it helps racial discrimination. Stop it." That's a nonsense. There are so many meanings in colors. We can find the positive meanings of "black" and the negative meanings of "white" or "yellow". Someday they might discover something important when looking at a blank sheet of paper, and claim "This is white paper! It is WHITE!"
    I don't think they are right.
    But this time, Japanese was wrong. Some Japanese judged a person who claim by its appearance alone, like this "Oh, racial discrimination claimant again?"
    There is a Japanese expression, "Fukinshin(不謹慎)." It is too difficult to translate this word into English. "Fukinshin" means that "doing something with a lack of respect or consideration for someone who suffer from it." For example, to laugh at a dead person. Or, to parody a matter resulting in injury or death. Or, to insult other's religion. Japanese think that those actions are "Fukinshin", one of the most shameful behaviors. Yes. This time we Japanese did it. If a person had claimed "Hey, Japanese. The blackface style is Fukinshin, it's lacking of respects for black people discriminated and killed in history. They are our ancestors. Eddie Murphy is an African‐American. He is not a Japanese.", most of Japanese could have understood. But he or she said "it's discrimination!" So most Japanese were feeling like being prosecuted for others' misdeed. Some people recognized it as an attack, then they objected. Me too. I apologize for it. There was a misunderstanding.
    The most biggest misfortune is, the appearance of the sinful blackface overlaps partly that of common way of Japanese cultural expression. To stop blackface in Japan is really difficult. I make an allegory to show you Japanese defenders' feelings. It is like this. You have a box of crayons. So many colors are there. You enjoy drawing. One day a man come to you and say "This is discrimination." Then the man point at one of your crayons, and claim "Don't use this color to draw people. This color means skin of black people." You get confused because it is your crayons. You drew everything as you like. But now you cannot use that color to draw a person. You cannot use every colors impartially anymore. Then another day you come across an unbelievable scene. The man enjoy drawing people by the crayon which he pointed. You ask the man. "You said it is discrimination." The man replies. "There is no problem. I am a black person. And I have a white crayon and yellow one to draw people. Of course I can use them." Do you feel something unfair?
    The worst scenario is this. Japanese recognize representation of black people in public as a risk to be accused as racist, then avoid black people. That means the beginning of real discrimination. I want to stop it. Japanese need communication with black people to share the feelings which black people have, and understand what black people recognize as racial discrimination in Japan.
    Now, Japanese remembered a sin of blackface and noticed a voice of people who were hurt by "blackface in Japan". Time to stay ignore is over. We need more voices to tell us why it is sinful, which blackface makeup is sinful, what is a difference between them and how to separate them, in an expression and logic that Japanese can understand. We can stop a bad thing if it's bad. Please don't say "Just stop it because it is an international standard". Japanese can obey the rules of a game but we need to understand to stop and never to repeat it.

    All that most Japanese can do is listening to black people. Because black people are the only people who knows the real sense of having dark colored skin.



[日本語版/in Japanese]



[黒人の方、日本におけるブラックフェイス表現に傷付いたすべての方へ: この文書には書くのに躊躇してしまうような内容も率直に書かれています。意図せず、無知な言葉や拙い英語、考え方があなたを傷つけてしまうはずです。それにブラックフェイス擁護派の思考をなぞってもいます。ですが、この話題に関しては正直になることが最も重要であると考えました。あらかじめ謝罪いたします。今あなたの声と感覚が必要なのです。]


[日本人の方へ: この文書には日本あるいは日本人の善くない側面についても書かれています。私はそれが真実だと考え、言及するに至りました。私の身勝手な言葉に傷付く人がいるかもしれませんし、私のことを出しゃばりな嘘つき、あるいは身勝手な差別主義者だと非難する声もあるでしょう。事実、私は専門家ではありません。ですが、同じ日本人的な感覚を共有する一人の日本人でもあるのです。あらかじめ謝罪いたします。]





 日本のお笑い芸人はありとあらゆる相手をものまねで表現します。人種や性別が違っていても、年齢に差があっても関係ありません。ブラックフェイスだけがレパートリーではないのです。すべてがネタ候補なわけです。ですが、やってはいけないネタもあります。例えば、社会的に虐げられている人々や差別の対象になっている人を馬鹿にするようなものは御法度です。これを聞いて、この文章を読んでいるあなたは疑問に思うはずです。「それならどうして、日本のお笑い芸人は黒人をものまねのネタに選んだの?」って。答えは簡単です。日本では、黒人は差別の対象になっていないからです。日本社会全体として差別してきた歴史もありません。だから、日本人には、黒人が触れてはいけない領域に思えないのです。この日本人的な物の見方は間違えているのでしょうか? 国際的な視点に立って、黒人は自分たちとは違う、分けて考えなくてはいけない相手なんだという発想を、新たに学ばなければいけないのでしょうか?
 お笑いは、最も複雑な文化の一つだと思います。一体どれだけの外国人が、浜田雅功の黒塗りを面白がる日本人の思考を理解できているでしょうか? あれはものまねではなく、変身だったのです。浜田雅功が変身に失敗したことで視聴者が笑っているのです。肌の黒い人を見ただけで思わず笑ってしまう、そんな人は私の知り合いにはいません。もしそんな人が日本で暮らしているとしたら、日本のお笑い番組は黒人で溢れかえっているでしょう。テレビ局に対して、黒人の役が必要なら黒人の俳優を使うべきだと、そう主張する人もいますね。大きな誤解をしているように思います。テレビ局は、黒人の役が必要なときには黒人の俳優を使ってきました。実際にそれを実行しているんです。日本のテレビを見れば、黒人のタレントが映っているのを確認できるでしょう。ですが、問題となった今回の番組で必要とされていたのは他ではない浜田雅功なのです。日本の視聴者が見たがっていたのは浜田雅功による変身であって、ただ肌の色が黒いだけの人ではありません。でも、浜田雅功と同等のユーモア・センスを兼ね備えた黒人芸人がいたら、それはもう肌の色に関係なく、大人気でしょう。でも、そんな人がいたとしても、今回は出番がなかったのです。その人は浜田雅功ではないのですから。


 日本における人種差別は全く異なるものでした。差別されたのは、主に中国や朝鮮半島からやって来た人々でした。中国人や韓国人と、日本人を肌の色で区別することができるでしょうか? むりですよね。同じ色なので、肌の色では区別が付きません。ですから、日本では、肌の色は自分たちと外国人を見分ける明確なしるしにはならなかったのです。なので、肌の色に差別感情を込めることも難しい話でした。
 で、話を元に戻します。文化によって異なる、暗黙の了解というものがありますよね。具体例を出しましょう。日本の温泉には、入れ墨をしているお客さんを入浴させないようにする決まりがあります。外国からの観光客の人が、自分の身体に入れ墨があって、それでこの決まりに文句を言ったりしています。この人がぶつかっているのが、まさに日本特有の暗黙の了解です。日本では、入れ墨というものは、ただの入れ墨ではないのです。そこには別の意味が込められているのです。ところで、ヤクザってわかりますか? 日本のギャングで、とても恐い人達です。そんな恐いヤクザを温泉から追い出すにはどうしたら良いでしょう? ヤクザの身体には入れ墨があるものなんです。だから、入れ墨があるかないかでヤクザとそうでない人を分けることができます。つまり、入れ墨があると温泉に入らせてもらえないというのは、ヤクザを温泉から追い払うための方便だったわけです。このように、入れ墨には特別な意味が込められているんです。入れ墨を見せられた日本人があまり良い顔をしないのには、そういう理由があるんですね。もちろん、外国からの観光客の人がこの日本人の感覚を理解できないのはわかります。たぶん、ただの入れ墨に過ぎないのにと感じるでしょう。同様に、肌の色について日本人は、ただ肌の色が違うだけだと考えてしまうのです。肌の色に特別な意味を感じ取れないのです。


 松崎しげるという日本人の歌手がいます。松崎しげると言えば、褐色の肌。その色は生まれつきだそうで、さらに日焼けのせいで、ますます黒さに磨きがかかってしまいました。日本のテレビ番組でジョークに使われることもしばしばです。例えば、こんな風に。時間帯は夜、カメラの前に立つ松崎しげる。そこは屋外で、あたりは暗くて、松崎しげるのただでさえ黒い肌がよく見えません。そこでカメラマンが一言。「松崎さん。写ってません」どっと笑いが起こります。 松崎しげるは、ものまねのネタとしても人気があるんです。お笑い芸人が顔を黒く塗って、ちょっと塗りすぎて、その格好で松崎しげるの歌を歌うわけです。歌い終わって、松崎しげる本人がこうコメントします。「俺そんなに黒くないぞ!」どっと笑いが起こります。これもブラックフェイスでしょうか?
 人種的背景の有無に焦点を絞ってみましょう。松崎しげるような黒人ではない相手を扮装でやる黒塗りは、人種差別にはならない。その一方で、黒人や外国人を相手に選んでやる黒塗りは、人種差別である。これはわかります。でもそれなら、ハーフの人を相手に扮装する場合はどうなるのでしょうか? それとも、肌の色が違う相手の扮装をすること自体がだめなのでしょうか? ひょっとしたらメイクなんてしなくても、見る人の想像力で補えるということなのでしょうか?


 あなたは、あなた自身の人種的な特徴について聞かれたら、どう答えますか? 日本人ばかりの社会で暮らしている私のような日本人にとって、これは答えるのが難しい質問です。もちろん、母国語にない言葉を外国語から取り入れるように、外国の人々の物の見方を使って答えることならできます。髪は黒か茶色。つり目。肌は薄い黄色で、平面的な顔つき。歯並びが悪くて、背も低く、胴長で、がに股。まぁ、日本人の人種的な特徴と言ったら、こんな感じでしょうか。しかし、これらの人種的特徴は他の人種と見比べて、初めてわかるものなのです。つまり、日本人ばかりの日本で暮らしている日本人にとって、日本人の人種的特徴なんて無色透明なもののように目に映りません。だって、日本人はそれらの特徴を普通のことだと見なしているからです。
 ところで、日本のアニメファンは頻繁にこの類いの質問を外国人から投げかけられるそうです。「なぜ、日本のアニメに登場する日本人は、日本人風ではなく、白人つまりヨーロッパ人風の外見をしているのですか?」おやおや、この質問者は平井堅阿部寛をご存知なかったのでしょうね。まあ、それはともかく。私の答えはこうです。「ええっ、白人やヨーロッパ人には見えないのですが」キャラクターの人種的な設定に関して、わたしはいつも名前で判別していました。そもそも、国際的な事情がストーリーに絡んでこない限り、キャラクターの人種がどう設定されているかなんて気にもしません。私はアニメの専門家ではありませんが、それでもわかることが一つあります。アニメを作っている人達は、その必要がなければ、キャラクターに人種的な特徴を描き込もうとはしていないということです。日本では、日本人の人種的特徴を描き込む意味がそもそもないのです。だって、日本人ばかりの日本では、日本人の人種的特徴なんて一つの共通項に過ぎませんから。その一方で、外見的な特徴を担う要素は、日本人の中での個性を描写するのに用いられます。日本の人気アニメ『名探偵コナン』は良い具体例です。服部平次という色黒の青年が登場するのですが、彼は黒人ではなく日本人という設定です。日本人の中でも肌の色にばらつきがあって、濃い色をした人もいれば薄い色をした人もいるんです。ちなみに、アメリカで放送されている『名探偵コナン』では、服部平次ではなく、ハーレイ・ハートウェル(Harley Hartwell)と名前が変えられていますね。ですから、アメリカの視聴者は彼のことを黒人のキャラクターだと認識しているかもしれませんが、でも彼は日本人なんです。服部平次を黒人のキャラクターだと認識している日本人は多分いないでしょうし、大半は人種的な背景を気にもしていないでしょう。日本には人種的な関連性もなく色黒なキャラクターがたくさんいるので。
 ですが、間違いないのは、松崎しげる服部平次エディ・マーフィの肌は色黒だということ。それが人種的な特徴なのか、個人の特徴なのか、分けて考えることなんてできません。あらゆる遺伝的な特徴は両親そして先祖から受け継がれたもの。髪や肌の色にしたって実際にその人を形作っている大事な要素の一つです。では、それを人種的な特徴、あるいは個人の特徴と見なすように決めるのは誰でしょうか? 誰がそのキャラクターの外見の意味合いを定めるのでしょうか? その判断は受け手に委ねられています。作り手がどんな意図を込めようと、読者や聴衆が勝手に判断するのです。
 もし、日本人が服部平次/ハーレイ・ハートウェルのコスプレをしようと顔を黒く塗ったとしたら、それもブラックフェイスでしょうか? 私が言いたいのは、つまりこういうことです。黒人を相手に行うブラックフェイスと、黒人ではない存在を相手に行うブラックフェイスを分けて考えるのは、本当に困難で、もしかしたら不可能だということです。色黒の肌というものは黒人だけが独占しているシンボルではないのですから。


 俳優は白人の役をするためにブロンドのかつらを被ったりします。それが人種差別だと声を上げたりしますか? ブロンドのかつらですよ?「肌ではなく髪だから平気だよ」とでも言うのでしょうか? なぜブラックフェイスという表現方法だけを特別視してしまうのでしょうか? だって、髪の色ですよ? どちらも人種の身体的特徴を扱っていると思うのですが。もちろん、歴史の違いだってことは私も知っていますよ。
 質問があります。日本人の中には、「ブラックフェイスはやめるべきだ。それを見て、悲しくなる人がいるんだから」と主張する人がいます。私はその意見に賛成です。ですが、どこまでをブラックフェイスと見なせば良いのでしょうか? すべてのブラックフェイスのようなメイクが、人種差別的なミンストレルショーと同じ存在だと、そう見なすべきなのでしょうか? 黒人を表現するつもりがなくても、侮辱的な文脈でなくとも、顔を黒く塗ってはいけないのでしょうか?
 しかし、これは私の考えですが、絶対的に正しい物の見方なんてこの世にはないと思います。やっと築き上げたものでも、崩すのはほんの一瞬。タリバンの人々が、イスラム教における偶像崇拝の禁止を理由に、バーミヤンの石仏を破壊したときもそうでした。どの考え方が正しいかなんて、私たちには決められないのです。でも、一つだけ間違いのないことがあります。取り返しの付かない行為が存在するという事実です。日本版の鍵十字を知っていますか? 日本語で「まんじ」と読みます。ナチ党のあの罪深いハーケンクロイツとは別物なのですが、見た目は同じです。もちろん、歴史的な経緯が異なる代物です。あなたはどう考えますか?