Prejudice towards White Hāfus and Non-white Hāfus

Minami Hosokawa

Japan has always been thought as a nation of mono-ethnic, though there are numerous minority groups within Japan, making it a quite diverse society in reality. People of ha-fu, who are born from a parent of Japanese and a parent of another nationality, are included in one of these minority groups. I would like to discuss how Japanese people treat and feel about the hāfus, especially putting my focus on the differences of their treatment and attitude depending on the types of the hāfus.

Japanese people tend to indicate people who are half Japanese and half white as “hāfu” for the most part. On the other hand, the Japanese sometimes do not consider those of half Japanese and half black or latino as “hāfu” but “gaijin”. This is an awkward situation since they are all same “hāfus” according to the definition. Furthermore, Japanese people have fairly positive and favorable images towards people whom they call the “hāfu”, while there are times when they have negative images towards those who are the “hāfu” of blacks or latinos. (Let me make my point clear that this situation does not fit into every occasion).

For example, I saw a difference in treatment the doctor had made towards two hāfu children at my workplace, an orthodontic dentist. There are couple patients who are hāfu at the dentist I work, mostly children under 15. I would like to give an example of Katie, a mix of Japanese and French, and Tiffany, a mix of Japanese and Brazilian (both pseudonyms). The doctor likes Katie very much and treats her with goodwill saying “you are such a sweet girl”. On the other hand, he treats Tiffany quite differently. Although he does not show his attitude too openly in front of Tiffany, when she is gone from the clinic, he complains how she is loud or how she is uneducated.

I believe the media has a lot to do with making this situation of prejudice and image gap against ha-fus. As is obvious, there are many namely hāfu models, commentators or singers showing up on Japanese media, especially on TV. The point I want to make here is that Japanese media only puts spot-lights on to white hāfus only such as Becky, Laura, and Rosa Kato. They are popular among Japanese people and are being called by adjectives like “kawaii!” or “beautiful!”. On the other hand, hāfus of blacks or latinos rarely show up on TV shows. Thus, in order to eradicate the image gap towards hāfu within Japanese people, changing the policy of media would be the prior settlement.

2 thoughts on “Prejudice towards White Hāfus and Non-white Hāfus

  1. As a Hafu myself, I never really faced discrimination but as a child, going to a Japanese elementary school, I used to be pointed at and called “gaijin” from other kids. However, as the exposure of hafu on the media increased, I was more envied and people will say “I wish I was a hafu too.” The exposure of hafu on the media has made Japanese familiar with the existence of hafu. However, as you said I’ve heard from friends who are half Japanese, half non-white still feel isolated by the Japanese society. In order for them to adapt to the Japanese society, they need to be more exposed in the society and make Japanese familiar with different types of hafu living in Japan.

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