To kick off the New Year, Japan’s most popular comedy duo donned blackface in a comedy sketch broadcasted nationwide.
In an attempt to portray Eddie Murphy’s character in Beverly Hills Cop, Masatoshi Hamada appropriated the jacket, hair and even the skin color of Murphy. All the while onlookers laughed and clapped at the actor’s transformation into blackface, without concern for the malicious connotation that comes with it.
Sure, Japan doesn’t have the same racial history as we do in the United States; however, and I hate to throw this down so early in the year, but it’s 2018 and we NEED to do better. The internet has made connecting with other cultures so simple the excuse of not having the same racial history has become a nonfactor. Besides that, even without the history, altering skin to use another race or culture as the punchline of a joke is unequivocally bad.
Baye McNeil, a Black writer for The Japan Times took to Twitter to explain his feelings regarding the event, “I love Japan My home of 13 years. I want the best for her. The nightmare scenario is: Opening Ceremony #2020TokyoOlympics, Japan naively sends a #Blackface doowop group out to pay homage to black athletes. What a fiasco that’ll be! So I implore you please #stopblackfaceJapan now.”
In an interview with the Japanese edition of The Huffington Post, McNeil later goes on to explain the effects that come with blackface even when used with “harmless” intent.
“Blackness is being treated as a tool for comedy, for laughs, and that impacts how I’m perceived and treated on a daily basis here,” explains McNeil. “Do you think these comedians care about that? I doubt it. They should. The quality of my life is affected by them.”
If you’re looking for more information on the history of blackface in Japan check out this essay by John G. Russell over at The Japan Times.