Gen Z students seeking to change Japanese society unconsciously tolerating discrimination
TOKYO -- Surprised by how Japanese society unconsciously tolerates discrimination, a university student here has created an organization that fights against various forms of prejudice directed at foreigners, people with disabilities and other minorities.
The student organization Moving Beyond Hate has been working to solve the problem by undertaking consultations on discrimination cases while supporting those who suffer from inhumane treatment.
Tommy Hasegawa, 22, a senior at the University of Tokyo who founded the organization, has a British father and a Japanese mother. After living in the United Kingdom from the age of 7 to 18, he entered the University of Tokyo and immediately felt a strong sense of unease.
"I was uncomfortable in an environment where my Japanese classmates, influenced by the vibes at the time, used discriminatory language against people with disabilities while laughing," said Hasegawa.
He felt distressed that some students were speaking such words without fully understanding their discriminatory meaning, and that no one was pointing out that it was wrong.
Hasegawa added, "In the U.K., racists repeat bigoted remarks with obvious malice, but there is also a strong rejection (of them) in society. In Japan, on the other hand, there are few people who discriminate with malicious intent, but I feel that there are many who use discriminatory words innocently and for fun, and a lot of people tolerate them."
Based on these encounters and his belief, Hasegawa founded Moving Beyond Hate in 2019 at the university's Komaba Campus to engage in anti-discrimination activities. One of the main pillars of the group's activities is the planning and implementation of various workshops to learn about and fight against discrimination. At the October study session held on the campus, participants learned about and discussed "organizing," a methodology that plays a major role in bringing citizens together in solidarity and building a broad-based social movement.
The organization became widely recognized in Japan following racist remarks against Black and Chinese people by a male part-time lecturer at Nihon University, which came to light in June 2020. After being consulted by a student who was concerned about the discriminatory comments made repeatedly in online classes, the group strongly condemned the incident and made it widely known to the public.
A face-to-face meeting with a representative of Nihon University was arranged, and the group demanded that the institution work on recurrence prevention measures. In September 2020, the university acknowledged the discriminatory comments made by the lecturer and issued an apology.
Moving Beyond Hate's current focus is on issues related to Japan's immigration agency, where the practice of detaining foreigners without proper status of residence for a long time has been called out by human rights organizations at home and abroad.
Hasegawa said, "The problem with the immigration authorities is that no information is disclosed, and there are no clear rules regarding the length of detention or access to medical care."
He and other members visit the Tokyo Regional Immigration Services Bureau in the capital's Minato Ward every Friday to support detainees by listening to them talk about their physical condition and any problems they may be experiencing while having casual conversations. They intend to continue such activities to appeal for the need for medical treatment and to encourage procedures for provisional release as a third-party.
"We want to change society that accepts discrimination because of the atmosphere around it," said Hasegawa. "We want younger generations to resist the discriminatory climate and realize that they are building a new movement to fight discrimination on their own."
(Japanese original by Pak Taeu, Chuo University and Campal reporter)
A portmanteau of "campus" and "pal." The official name is "Mainichi Shimbun Campal Editorial Department." The first article from Campal was published on Feb. 4, 1989, and appeared every Tuesday in the Mainichi Shimbun evening edition in the area covered by the paper's Tokyo headquarters. About 20 student reporters, mainly from Tokyo metropolitan area universities, are engaged in its activities. The department's mission is "to convey things students want to know." Students do everything from planning to reporting and writing. It has expanded to nine areas nationwide.
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