Balancing plans for work, travel, and family

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Arisa Kato

My future plan starts from now. My dream is to take a job at a travel agency because I love traveling and encountering foreign cultures. Therefore, I’ve been studying for a certification of travel consultant. It is one of national qualifications in Japan and this requirement would help me to get regular job in the tourist industry. I don’t want to be haken (contract worker) while I’m single because I desire to make my work place my ibasho. So I need something strong to win the job hunting. In addition to study for the qualification, I will go Spain and Mexico to study Spanish while I’m a university student. Not only studying the language, I’d like to learn culture and tourism of Spain and Latin America.

After I get a job successfully, I will work as a tour conductor. I will guide travelers in Japan and all over the world. Even more, I have been thinking of making a plan that participants can experience daily lives in the countries. So I’m also interested in organizing tours.

In my plan, I will get married around thirty. It is because I want at least two children. If I could, I will have three. I wish the first is a girl. This is because girls tend to take care their younger brothers and I hope for going shopping and a café with my daughter someday like me and my mother. While the children are little, I might take a rest from or quit my job to bring my sons and daughters. I think family must be the most comfortable ibasho for children and mothers have responsibility for making pleasant ibasho for their families. Therefore I’ll be concentrate on housework and mothering.

After children grow up, maybe when they go on to junior high school, I want to return to working. If there is a chance, perhaps I may return to a travel agency. However, it can be useful to be a haken. Although it is irregular working and insecure, part time jobs usually allow workers to choose the time when they work. So I can adjust a schedule to suit other private events and appointments. From this point, irregular work is good for people who have plans in their private lives.

After I get older, I’d like to live in countryside. If I may be allowed to wish so much, I desire to live abroad. Anyway, I would like to find good partner who apprehend me well because there are so many things I want to do.

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Colorism in Latin America; Not about Race

by Oscar Manzano

If you are reading this blog about colorism and you already have prior knowledge on the subject, chances are that you don’t agree with the title of this piece. This may be because Latin America’s preference, or more specifically the preference in México and Brazil, to talk more freely about a person’s skin color as opposed to race may seem like a contradiction to you. Why? I suppose it is because many believe that skin color or other characteristics that we attach to race, in order to be able to identify and categorize people, are indicators of race. It is this idea that I believe is incorrect, which leads me to believe that when Mexicans or Brazilians talk about skin color they are not talking about race as an American might see it. In this context I believe that color talk in México and Brazil is not the equivalent of race talk in America.

My reasoning for questioning color talks being the same as race talks draws upon human history and humans themselves. Humans have always had a history of migration and settlement. This alone prevents us from applying skin color or other characteristics to a certain racial group. So, unless we believe that Whites with certain characteristics grew out of the ground in Europe, and Blacks in Africa and Browns in Latin America and they all remained stationary, then can one possibly make a correlation with race and physical characteristics. However this is not so, and when we hear Mexicans and Brazilians talking about skin colors so nonchalantly, we believe that they what they are really talking about is race.

So if Mexicans and Brazilians are not talking about race, then what are they talking about when they refer to skin color? I believe that when Mexicans and Brazilians refer to skin color, they are acknowledging the great diversity and mixture of physical characteristics that have been as a result of human migration. Not physical characteristics of race but characteristics of human diversity. In saying that color talk is not a talk about race does not mean that colorism is preferred or more desirable over race talks, or that it is immune to social and moral problems that race deals with. On the contrary, the problems that color ideology faces are similar to those that race ideology faces. But the problems are not similar because racism and colorism are the same thing; rather, the problems stem from the fact that we have been socially trained to see physical differences and categorize them under a racial stereotype, confusing color and race.

A second reason as to why racism and colorism share similar social problems is because both are the result of global inequality. This brings up the issues of colonization. Why were White European countries the ones able to colonize? It would be difficult to say that Europeans were able to be the colonizers simply because their skin was white or their race was a certain specific one. It goes beyond that, and the ‘why was Europe the colonizer’ question involves a multi-sided understanding to find the answer to. Possible reasons include the amount of wealth, resources or strength those countries had and as a result, once colonization was achieved, the aggressors implanted various forms of discrimination based on race and color. In this sense it is possible that racism or colorism didn’t create inequality but inequality created racism and colorism.

From racism to colorism

Anonymous student post

In today’s society, anti-racist movements have been gaining support, to the extent that in most Western countries racism is punishable by law. Discriminating by race is starting to be acknowledged as a social taboo and discriminative actions such as declining  applicants a job opportunity due to race will not only bring negative image but can even lead to jail time. With such improvements in racial equality, one might expect that we are going towards a world without discrimination. Even though this would be truly wonderful if it were to be true, there still is room for improvement—as even in the most non-racist countries racism is still happening beneath the surface—not to mention the social phenomena (or, in other words, social problems) that are replacing racism.

One of the most widespread occurrences is racism changing to “colorism”. Colorism, is a term originally coined by Alice Walker in her 1983 book “In search of our mothers’ gardens” as she used the term to describe discrimination by color excluding factors such as bloodlines or ancestry. Even though racism also includes skin color, in colorism skin color is the sole factor behind discrimination. Especially present in Latin America, Africa, East and Southeast Asia and India however recent trend among various scholars are studies about how colorism has started to replace racism in most parts of the globe.

One could argue that change to colorism has brought several positive effects. Before it might have been impossible to break out of your “racial class”, for example if you were born to a black parent but had very light skin, you would have been deemed black nevertheless and thus discriminated against because of the bloodline. Even if you would not look that different from people around you, the race alone was enough to justify discrimination. Therefore the withdrawal of racism and change to colorism arguably brought some positive effects, as your birth would no longer decide your position in the social hierarchy.

However, when it comes down to comparing racism and colorism, rather than colorism being the cure, it is more like a “pick your poison” kind of a situation. In the 2009 book Shades of Difference, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and David R. Dietrich depict that colorism causes there to be competition even within the race while there still is competition between different races. For example, in the past blacks have been discriminated against because of their “race”, but now they are being discriminated because of the color of their skin. Not only that, but they also are discriminated among what used to be their “race”, depending on whether their skin color is lighter or darker, not to mention that colorism might take out the vocabulary to describe discrimination (Bonilla-Silva and Dietrich 2009).

So, is colorism the right direction? With colorism replacing racism and racism becoming a widespread social taboo, are we heading towards a less discriminating world? We can see that there is movement towards removing discrimination, as colorism is proof of that; however it is disturbing to see that discrimination still has its place strongly rooted in our everyday lives. It is hard to say if colorism is a proof of improvement, or if it’s just a way to sweep the problem under the mattress. Time will tell, is what I’d like to say, but then again just waiting patiently to see whether the situation gets better or not is a bad excuse not to take action.


Walker, Alice. (1983). In search of our mothers’ gardens: womanist prose. San Diego: Harcourt Brave Jovanovich

Glenn, Evelyn Nakano (Ed.). (2009). Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Mestizaje, Racism and Blackness in Veracruz, Mexico

by Isabel Cabañas Rojas

“Latin America is a region of mixture”. Many cultures, religions and races are gathered; all condensed in one major community, unified under one idea: we are mestizos. Every country has their own particular characteristics though, but despite historical or regional small differences, we are all mestizos, latinos, sons of a common history and memory derived from the presence of Spaniards and Native Americans. At least this is what we are told since childhood.

This assumption is probably one of the most powerful discourses still present nowadays, that defines our identities, nationally and as Americanos, even transcending internal boundaries within the region. A very powerful and, yet, dangerous discourse, for it hides a latent reality that has enabled discrimination and the suffering of many, a big ‘minority’, who does not enter in this category, as are the descendants of African slaves.

This has happened in many countries of Latin America; however, the case of Mexico is very emblematic: its historical trajectory of mixture has only accepted the presence of Spaniards and Indigenous populations, and has denied and silenced a whole history of sub-Saharan African migration and its role on the Mexican society. Because of Mestizaje, and its strong presence as a national ideology since the nineteenth century, the presence of Africans started to blur, for economic and social reasons. Until today being ‘black’ escapes the limits of being Mexican, and Mestizaje has come to hidden the phenotypic features that is better to erase, by a process of whitening, in order to belong.

As Sue (2009) explains, Mestizaje has become a national ideology category, dynamic and diverse, which makes really hard the analysis of color in the Mexican society, as almost everybody can be included on it (Sue, 2009, pp. 114-115). Thus, in a practical level, Mestizaje is a denial and elimination of any difference, as “we are all mestizos”.

Veracruz–along with the localities of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Tabasco–is one of the historical settlements of African people in Mexico, since the fifteenth century. Therefore, their descendants today, even though very mixed with the local population of Indigenous and Spaniards, have a skin and background of African features, which they try to hide so as to be part of a society that also has segregated them socially and economically (Velásquez & Iturralde Nieto, 2012, pp. 110-113). In a Survey made by the National Council to Prevent Discrimination (2011) around 15% of the interviewees think that their rights have not been respected because of skin color (National Council to Prevent Discrimination, 2011, p. 41).

This case of Afro-Mexicans in Veracruz, and the outcomes of their skin-colors for their daily life, challenges the notion of mestizaje, which not only has shaped the history and culture of Mexico, but of all the countries of Ibero-America; and sheds new light on other issues, such as Racism and Discrimination. Any discussion on Race and discrimination is, in paper, not pertinent, because Mexico became a race-blind country. How, then, can we address racial minority needs if they theoretically do not exist?


Martínez-Echazabal, L. (1998). Mestizaje and the Discourse of National/Cultural Identity in Latin America, 1845-1959. Latin American Perspectives, 25 (3), 21-42.

National Council to Prevent Discrimination. (2011). National Survey on Discrimination in Mexico, Overall Results [ENADIS, 2010]. Mexico.

Sue, C. (2009). The Dynamics of Color. Mestizaje, Racism, and Blackness in Veracruz, Mexico. In E. Nakano Glenn (Ed.), Shades of Difference. Why Skin Color Matters (pp. 114-128). Stanford University Press.

Velásquez, M. E., & Iturralde Nieto, G. (2012). Afrodescendientes en México. Una historia de silencio y discriminación [Afrodescendants in Mexico. A history of silence and discrimination]. Consejo Nacional para Prevenir la Discriminación.