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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Discrimination has no place in Japan

Rika Kayama

The so-called anti-hate speech law has come into force.

    When I first saw a hate speech demonstration, with marchers barking vicious slogans aimed primarily at Japan's Korean residents, I could barely believe my eyes. On the internet, too, people toss out discriminatory comments against other foreign citizens, against Japan's Ainu and Okinawan peoples, against those receiving welfare benefits and the disabled. There are those who spread false rumors that these people are getting unfair financial aid.

    The new hate speech law is what you might call a "principle law," as it has no provisions for punishing violators. Furthermore, it only protects "those originally from nations outside this country" who are "living legally in Japan." As such, it does not outlaw discrimination against Japanese citizens or foreigners applying for refugee status, among other groups. However, the supplementary resolution that accompanied passage of the law states, "It would be a mistake to believe that discrimination against groups not specifically mentioned in the law is forgivable." I suppose we can say that the Diet essentially stated, "Discrimination is unforgiveable in Japan."

    In fact, I have a lot of people struggling with discrimination come to my practice; people discriminated against because they are foreigners, because they are ill, because they are single mothers. Some are treated unfairly at work or in the areas where they live, are looked upon with frigid eyes that seem to say, "You are not like us," all for some aspect of themselves that they cannot change.

    What's more, the reasons given for this prejudice are usually untrue. For example, the romantic partner of one of my patients didn't want to get married "because depression is inherited." This is simply not true, and in the end I had the couple come in together to explain things. When the session was done, the reluctant party was reluctant no more, leaving with a smile and promising to "explain this to my parents as well." Arbitrary "those people are all so-and-so" labels are very often founded on basic errors of fact.

    I have read a paper based on research conducted outside Japan that showed that ethnically diverse workplaces produce more creative ideas than those dominated by a single race or nationality. In contrast to working with people who understand one another from the get-go, getting people with wildly varying perspectives and ways of thinking together in one place apparently sparks the easy flow of groundbreaking ideas.

    So, talk to someone different than yourself. Even if that's impossible right away, you will come to understand one another somehow. It's time to put an end to knee-jerk hatreds, to discrimination and pushing away our fellow human beings. With the new hate speech law, Japan has finally become a country where we can say, "We will not tolerate discrimination." (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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