Do you know what to do when an earthquake occurs? According to an earthquake preparadness publication being distributed throughout the Tokyo Metropolitan area, you shouldn't listen to a panic-stricken black man with gigantic pink taking up at least half of his face.
Thanks to Zurui of BlackTokyo.com, I recently learned of an earthquake preparation publication containing cartoon images of a black man with highly exagerated features. While the information is especially helpful to everyone-- even those of us outside of Tokyo, the illustrations displaying a fictional black man with grossly exagerated features and behaving in a stupid and entertaining manner are enough to make anyone question why such illustrations were approved for this publication?
Why do some artists feel that such depictions are okay? Why do people feel that rules for respecting others should be disregarded when creating cartoon illustrations?
I am always amazed at the people who come to the defense of such depictions- exclaiming such things as "It's only a cartoon! Lighten up!" or "It's Japan and they don't know. They even exaggerated the noses of the white people-- so it's no big deal." Indeed, it is a cartoon and it was created to send a message to the reader. The question is aside from the information quotes printed in the publication, what other messages are being sent when one views these illustrations? You know they say pictures are worth a thousand words. Here are a few messages that I hear when reading the publication... (Click Pictures to Enlarge)
1) Quote From the Publication (pg 9): "Whenever a big earthquake occurs, dissemination of false information misleads us." Message from the Yellow Picture: This big-lipped black man is hysterical is making me hysterical by spreading rumors! Message from the Blue Picture: Stop IT you silly and stupid child! Because you didn't listen to the radio you could have caused serious damage to others!
3) Quote From the Publication (pg 7): "Stay inside the train unless it is absolutely necessary to leave. Otherwise you may be electrocuted or hit by another train. Hold on to a strap, handrail, or anything that is firmly inside the train. Follow the instructions of a member of the train crew or station staff. Message From the Top Picture: This black man is doing exactly what you are NOT supposed to do. He is NOT following directions like the Caucasians spectators around him. Message from the Bottom Picture: When you don't follow directions properly like the other foreigners on the train then you will fall on your face and look stupid! Oh how silly those black foreigners are! They just don't like to follow instructions.
Here are additional pictures:
Yep I find the illustrations to be highly offensive. Not only do they display a complete disregard for black foreigners in Japan, the packaging is done in such an entertaining way that people are encouraged to simply disregard such things a playful and harmless.
I don't agree with that. Often foreigners are encouraged to turn a blind eye to such images in Japan because you are a 'visitor'. However, I don't feel that ignorance and disrespect should not be eradicated with silence and simply ignoring things. And apparently, I am not alone in this sentiment. Black Tokyo and The Community will be forwarding the following letter to the Japanese Government in protest of such horrible illustrations:
"This letter is to express our concerns with a series of illustrations featured in an on-line earthquake safety brochure entitled, "What to do in case of an earthquake in Tokyo" (http://www.keishicho.metro.tokyo.jp/foreign/quake/quake2.htm).
While the Tokyo Metropolitan Government should be commended for the effort in making this important information accessible to English-language speakers, some of the images used for illustration –particularly the ones of a large black man with thick pink lips – are problematic.
First, the physical features of the black man – particularly the size and color of the black man's lips – are highly exaggerated, making itreminiscent of the stereotypical and racist images of blacks that have a long history in many parts of the world. Such images were a means of objectifying blacks, and had the effect of making them look more likeanimals rather than human beings.
Some examples are available at the Ferris State University archives at: http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow....ttp
The images of the black man featured in the earthquake safety cartoon bears a striking resemblance to these earlier racist depictions, and could cause unfortunate misunderstanding among the readership.
Another concern is the image of a black man with very large pink lipsrunning frantically with his arms in the air. He is later scolded by awhite man for spreading false rumors and not acting in a responsible manner. In addition to the exaggerated physical features (his mouth isso large that it covers the entire width of his face), he is portrayedas unintelligent and irresponsible – another stereotypical portrayalof black men.
We understand that the Tokyo Government and the illustrator probablymeant no harm in its depiction. However, we feel that these images areinappropriate for a publication produced by one of the world's largest and most cosmopolitan cities.
Due to the above concerns, we respectfully request that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government modify the current illustration to be more respectful to black residents of Japan.
While we applaud the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for making the effort to portray the rich ethnic diversity of the foreign-born community in Japan, it should be done in a dignified manner which does not promote stereotypical or racially insensitive depictions of Japan's foreign-born residents."
Though it may seem to be a small and insignificant issue, if such things are not met with opposition then who's to say the next publication won't be worse? Further, others MUST know that such images are considered highly offensive.
I am planning to express my opposition to this via e-mail. If you would like to express your concerns and/or speak out about these images here's what you can do:
E-Mail the Tokyo Metropolitan Government at: koe[at]metro.tokyo.jp (remember [at] is @)
View the Entire Earthquake Precautions Publication: (Click Here)
Visit the Metropolitan Police Department Homepage: (Click Here)