The Links between Skin Tone and Self-Esteem

Gordon Parks' American Gothic. Portrait of gov...

Gordon Parks’ American Gothic. Portrait of government cleaning woman Ella Watson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Mikaella Hahn

As I was reading Verna Keith’s “A Colorstruck World: Skin Tone, Achievement, and Self-Esteem among African American Women,” I started to wonder if myself as a Korean American being able to distinguish amongst Asians is similar to what was mentioned regarding African Americans being more sensitive to different shades of among African Americans—a distinction that is not significant to the dominant majority.

Well frankly, a Korean person would be insulted if they were asked whether they were Chinese. To the dominant majority in America (which is white), these distinctions probably do not matter, because the main distinction to the majority is whether the person is White or Asian. In general the dominant group doesn’t realize the importance of intra-differentiation is to the minority groups. They don’t have to be able to differentiate, so they don’t learn to, and this contributes to the continued frustration of minority groups in America.

My initial thought after reading the first paragraph was that, self-esteem of African Americans would be low when living in white dominant society due to the discrimination against them, however as opposed to my first thought, the reading revealed that African Americans rather tend to have lower self-esteem when they are living in black dominant society than living in white predominant society. The evidence from this paper provides that the light skin African Americans get better education with better job prospects with higher income.

According to the way I was educated about racism, the inherited, unacknowledged racism in a white dominant society is what I thought would lead to lower self-esteem for African Americans. To live in a society where the color black is associated with something negative, and to be portrayed as harmful to the society by media, it seems to me that people colloquially called “black” would evaluate themselves more poorly. Watching a number of videos about both white and black children favoring white dolls only reinforced my belief.

However the author says this is not the case because after the 1960s’ and 1970s’ racial activism inspired young African Americans to appreciate their natural beauty, which led them to have higher self-esteem.

On the other hand, after the hardships that African Americans have faced, it is hard for me to believe that this movement would do such widespread affect in such a short term. Compounding my disbelief is the number of empirically unproven theories presented by the author. Thus, while this chapter provided stimulating claims, it should be read with other evidence-based papers.

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Path Forward

JaPan kaNto

JaPan kaNto (Photo credit: ~Alia~)

by Jea Jeongmin

Modern Japanese society faces lots of difficulties. The decline in marriage and birth rates causes an aging society, and the rise of “hikikomori” and suicide have been recent social problems. If this goes on, the number of unattended deaths will be increasing. Also, the rate of working-age population who will have to support the Japanese economy will decrease and we will not be able to afford the social welfare expense and sustention of finance.

In addition, all people in Japan should have equal rights, such as right to vote or to get employed. For example, foreign people in Japan do not have the right to vote in elections. Also, historically, there has been some social discrimination against permanent Korean residents in Japan in terms of getting a job or housing. When Japanese people found out the fact that Korean people apply for a job or house, they reject Korean people for no reason. Nowadays, however, the situation has been getting better compared to the past. However, this historical evidence remains in Japanese society and they feel that they have been discriminated by Japanese society.

As mentioned above, there are so many social issues in Japan that must be solved to make the future better. When it comes to who will be able to solve these serious issues and change the darker Japanese society, it would be the Japanese government. As for aging society, the reason why Japanese society turned into aging is because percentage of unmarried people is increasing and birth rate is decreasing. What the government has to do to solve this problem is establish a social security system like a system of childcare leave. Japanese government must realize the fact that Japanese economy will fall into a decline if the aging society progresses. In order to stop the recession in the future, Japanese government needs money to establish the social system so that Japanese government should increase the tax more as they are doing right now. Then, Japanese government uses money in an appropriate way, that is, establishing great social welfare system to rebuilt the Japanese economy.

In addition, in terms of having equal rights, foreign people should have the right to vote so that a number of immigration will be increasing in the future in Japan. Foreign workers will be necessary in Japan because young population will be decreasing. If foreign people realize the fact that Japan is acceptable country without having to naturalize, there will be possibility that more foreign people will come to Japan to work.

In conclusion, in order to get economy better from these present problems in Japan, Japanese government leads from the front and take some actions.

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“Tsuruhashi Massacre” and a Call to Conscience

by Robert Moorehead

A video of a Japanese girl speaking at an anti-Korean rally in Tsuruhashi, Osaka, has recently gone viral. In the video, the girl calls for a “Tsuruhashi Massacre,” akin to the Nanking massacre by Japanese troops in World War 2. Yelling into her microphone, she tells Koreans to leave Japan before they are killed for their alleged arrogance.

The sight of a junior high school-age girl proudly proclaiming her hatred of an ethnic group and her desire to kill members of that group is chilling. The Zaitokukai and other right-wing groups have the support of a small portion of the Japanese population, but where is the outcry against such calls for violence? In times like this, quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr., fill my head. As Rev. King told us:

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

It’s depressing enough to see a young girl as one of the “bad people,” but we shouldn’t be surprised by open expressions of hate by groups like this. But how do we respond? Do we look the other way? Do we post a comment on a website, saying how terrible it is, and then move on? As Rev. King wrote:

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

So if we follow Dr. King’s call to action, how do we respond? Do we take up arms against our oppressor?

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Do we organize our own rallies? In my case, I will be making this a topic of conversation in every one of my classes. Year after year I have Japanese students tell me they had no idea such protests were occurring in Japan—but now that they know, what will they do about it?

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Some have replied with the Japanese saying “Netta ko wo okosuna” (Don’t wake a sleeping baby). It’s similar to the English saying “Let sleeping dogs lie.” If we ignore the problem, it will go away. But will it?

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

My students sometimes think I’m pushing them to become radical activists (sometimes?), but I’d like to think that I’m pushing them to start living.

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