The message that my professorship was announced at the university faculty meeting today filtered through to my office at about four o’clock today. I knew about the promotion earlier from an announcement at a faculty meeting here, but I didn’t want to get excited enough about it until it was more certain. This is certain enough.
The reason that this professorship is significant to me is not because I worked hard for it, which I did, or that I feel especially empowered by it. I don’t. It will mean a little more in my paycheck and a few more meetings every month, but that isn’t what it’s about for me. What it is about is that here, in Japan, I have been treated as an equal among my colleagues. There are precious few places in this country where a non-national can be treated in this way. As Doudou Diene, United Nations Special Rapporteur who visited Japan in July 2005 in his report on discrimination and xenophobia, details:
a) Racial discrimination occurs in many forms in Japan,
b) It is effectively unrestrained by the current legal and legislative system.
You can find the complete document here under Mission to Japan.
“Wait a minute, you’re getting racial discrimination and immigration issues confused here,” you may posit. And you would be correct, only the subject in your assertion would be wrong. I’m not confused. The country is, as you can see in the post on the woman who was wrongly arrested for being a foreigner. Another piece of evidence of this confusion is a bit of history. As I and my fellow union members sat across the negotiating table from Prefectural University of Kumamoto’s management, discussing our inferior working conditions, we were asking about the reasons for the discriminatory nature of our posts. We were told that it was because we were foreigners. When we asked how he knew we were foreigners, because we had never shown him a single document concerning some of our nationalities, he said, “well, you can tell you are foreign just by looking at you.” This was clearly a race issue, not one of immigration.
In the legal and public world, race and nationality are badly confused, and either or both become reasons to discriminate, especially in the world of academics as you can read in Ivan Hall’s, Cartels of the Mind. Fortunately, I am in one of those little oases of reason, where my colleagues have accepted me as a member of the academic community, have rewarded me with a promotion, and have seen fit to confer the responsibilities of the post on me, despite my nationality/race. If you would like to know about how rare places like this are, please look at Debito Arudou’s Green List and Black Lists. There are 96 schools listed in the Black List, and only 30 on the Green List.
I am thankful to Yokkaichi University for the promotion, but most of all for judging me fairly.