Thursday, July 2, 2020

Nippo-Brazilians, new target of name-calling from President Jair Bolsonaro

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After the Indians, the gays, the blacks, the refugees, the women, the Nordestins… Jair Bolsonaro found a new target with his insults. Namely: the Japanese diaspora of Brazil. Mid-January, journalist Thais Oyama then publishes her book tormenta (Companhia das Letras, untranslated), narrative punch of "Crises, intrigues and secrets" of the chaotic first year in office of the far-right president. The book did not please the interested party, who made it known. "This is this Japanese girl’s book, I don’t know what she’s doing in Brazil", said Bolsonaro, adding that "Over there in Japan", Mme Oyama "Would starve while writing this kind of books".

Read our interview with Hamilton Mourao: "We made Bolsonaro a stereotype"

Thais Oyama is nonetheless Brazilian. This seasoned investigator, born in Sao Paulo, granddaughter of Japanese immigrants, has only a distant connection to the homeland of her ancestors. This is not the first time that Mr. Bolsonaro has displayed his racism against Japanese-Brazilians, Japanese and Asians in general. On occasion, the president mimics slanted eyes in public by pulling his eyelids with his fingers and is particularly obsessed with the size issue – "Over there, everything is miniature", he said about Japan.

Jair Bolsonaro does not hesitate to walk the talk: posing in May 2019 for a photo at Manaus airport (Amazon) with a foreign visitor from Asia, the Head of State has makes an explicit gesture, bringing his thumb closer to his index finger, and asking his interlocutor: " Very small, yours, right? "

Far from being an accident, these insults are in reality the expression of the many racist prejudices and stereotypes endured on a daily basis by the Nikkei, the Japanese community in Brazil, with 1.5 million people, or the largest diaspora outside of Archipelago.

Racist stereotypes die hard

Arrived en masse in the 1920s, to work in the coffee fields of Sao Paulo, they suffered years of insults, mockery and state discrimination, before finally succeeding in integrating, both economically, education and athletic. "It has become an extremely "Brazilian" ", says Jeffrey Lesser, community specialist and teacher at Emory University in Atlanta.

But racist cliches die hard. The majority of Brazilians "Still think that the Japanese is good at math and not very masculine and that the Japanese is a geisha, with not a lot of brain and an exacerbated sexuality, sums up Mr. Lesser. Here, even if your family has been Brazilian for several generations, you will still be qualified as "Japanese" and never "Japanese-Brazilian" ".

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