Buckaroo Banzai & Brothas From 8th Dimension - An Analysis of the Imported Hip-Hop based identity of Blacks in Japan

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JENNINGS  |   1     Dudley  Jennings  Jr.     Professor  Justine  Van  Meter     HUM289CS   December  14,  2013  


      “Buckaroo  Banzai2  -­‐  The  Brothers  From  the  8th  Dimension”   SEEING  MYSELF  IN  A  MIRROR  OF  SOMEONE  ELSE’S  MAKING:   An  analysis  of  the  imported  hip-­‐hop  based  identity  of  Blacks  in  Japan  


JENNINGS  |   2  

  INTRODUCTION     “Culture  is  not  your  friend.  It  insults  you,  it  disempowers  you,  it  uses  and  abuses   you.  None  of  us  are  well  treated  by  culture”  -­‐  Terence  McKenna,  “Valley  Of  Novelty”       The  struggle  to  create,  and  more  importantly,  implement  a  true  version  of   oneself  is  the  Gordian  Knot  that  all  colonized  people  endeavor  to  untie.  The  British   were  known  for  introducing  various  foreign  populations  into  their  colonies  to  do   administrative  work,  and  subconsciously  add  another  layer  of  cultural  complexity   and  subjugation.  These  secondary  ‘Other’  populations,  utilizing  the  colonizer’s   loaned  tools,  installed  themselves  above  the  natives.  The  ‘Third  Space’  of  Homi   Bhabha  arguably  isn’t  large  enough.  There  are  so  many  levels  of  interaction  and   outward  ‘cultural’  expression  in  the  modern  era  that  a  hyper  quality  has  been   injected  into  our  daily  proceedings.  The  concept  of  hybridity  as  a  reality  for  the   colonized  psyche  must  under  go  a  epistemological  transformation  as  the  colonized   person  moves  through  time  and  space.  The  various  ‘classes’  of  colonized  now   interact  with  each  other  in  a  variety  of  both  spaces,  and  locations.  Take  London  or   New  York  for  instance,  the  integration  and  separation  of  a  wide  range  of  formerly  

JENNINGS  |   3   colonized  peoples  are  overwhelming.  From  living  arrangements,  to  usage  of  types  of   travel  and  entertainment  venues,  to  the  artistic  expression,  everything  is  now   hyper-­‐cultural.  The  advent  of  the  Internet,  and  the  ease  of  use  of  YouTube,  has   allowed  for  unprecedented  audio-­‐visual  assaults  of  cultural  transmissions  across   the  globe.     In  the  case  of  the  “Black”  image,  I  ‘d  argue  that  while  there  has  been  a  victory   for  “Hip  Hop”  on  the  whole,  the  victory  might  be  pyrrhic  in  nature.  Hip  Hop,  as  an   analog  for,  dress,  verbiage,  and  attitude,  has  ascended  the  American  cultural  ladder   to  the  pinnacle.  Events  such  as  Anderson  Cooper  being  able  to  say  “Baby  Mamma”   on  CNN  with  a  straight  face,  to  Ryan  Lochte  receiving  medal  wearing  a  ‘grill,’  to  the   president  ‘dapping’  the  First  Lady  on  T.V.,  all  go  towards  showing  that  Hip  Hop  has   won.  Just  for  good  measure  we  were  treated  to  Serena  Williams  performing  the   notorious  ‘Crip  Walk’  after  winning  a  gold  medal,  at  the  All-­‐England  Club  in  2012.  All   for  the  love.     Sadly,  in  the  analysis  of  the  Black  image,  as  represented  through  the  choice  of   appearance  and  art  of  Hip  Hop  artists,  we  find  one  that  is  unbalanced  at  best.  In  his   brilliant  polemic  “Eminem:  The  New  White  Negro,”  Carl  Rux  simply  states:  “The  final   incarnation  of  the  black  male  figure  in  a  century  that  began  with  sharecroppers  and   first  generation  free  peoples  trying  to  avoid  the  hanging  tree  are  their  gun-­‐toting,  

JENNINGS  |   4   dick  slinging  capitalist  descendants.  The  black  male  outlaw  identity  is  a   commodifiable  character  open  to  all  that  would  like  to  perform  it.”  The  battle  for   identity  that  shaped  the  lives  and  works  of  Fanon,  Foucault,  Bhabha  and  many   others,  now  has  become  an  online  game  in  which  the  world  is  awash  in   manufactured  facsimiles  of  cultural  ‘ideas’,  which  at  some  point  crash  into  reality.      

HYPER-­‐CULTURAL  IDENTITY  –  V.IRTUAL  E.THNIC  S.ELF     The  reality  of  the  existence  of  these  hyper-­‐cultural  identities,  or  roles,  the   more  fruitful  method  of  addressing  identity  and  hybridity  would  be  to  acknowledge   these  spaces  as  concrete  manifolds  of  expression  and  apprehension.  Hybridity  as  a   concept  at  this  point  is  far  too  constricting.  In  step  with  the  human  mind’s   movement  into  hyperspaces,  the  human  cultural  apparatus  has  also  taken  on  a  more   frantic,  and  layered  hyper  dimension  of  it’s  own.    By  simply  practicing  your  culture   full  of  the  signatory  modes  of  language,  dress  and  disposition,  knowing  or   unknowingly,  you  are  presenting  a  virtual  ethnic  representation  of  your  self.  That   image  can  be  touched,  felt,  critiqued  and  at  times  pulled  part  by  anyone.     In  this  paper  I  will  examine  the  concept  of  digital-­‐colonialism  of  the  “Black”   image  into  Japan  and  it’s  effects  upon  the  people,  and  visitors.  I  spent  2  years  in  

JENNINGS  |   5   Fukuoka,  Kyushu,  the  southern  most  island  of  the  archipelago  teaching  English.   While  living  in  the  deeply  rural  farming  community  of  Amagi-­‐shi  (translated  as   “Sweet  Tree  City”),  known  for  the  cherry  blossom  park  in  the  center  of  town,  I  was   first  introduced  to  collisions  of  culture  that  would  fascinate  me  during  my  entire   trip.  Seeing  a  teenager  wearing  oversized  Sean  John  shirt  and  jeans,  hundred  dollar   Air  Jordan’s  and  a  long  fake  Cuban  Link  chain  on  a  bicycle  roll  past  me  was  a  shock   for  us  both.  Neither  of  us  expected  to  see  the  each  other.  His  reality  must  have  been   altered  to  see  the  person  he  was  ‘being’  appear  in  the  flesh.  I  was  surprised  and   amused  to  see  ‘this’  version  of  me  riding  a  bike  in  a  farming  town  of  10,000  people.   For  a  while  we  just  eyed  each  Other.     During  my  time  in  Japan,  I  taught  English  in  an  area  where  no  Blacks  had   ever  lived  or  been  seen,  I  worked  and  performed  with  Japanese  Hip  Hop  artists  and   dancers,  and  attained  conversational  fluency  in  a  few  dialects.  In  addition,  I  am  the   first-­‐born  son  of  a  family  that  immigrated  to  the  United  States  from  the  US  Virgin   Islands  in  the  1970s.  The  diverse  nature  of  faces  and  languages  on  offer  in  the   Caribbean  opened  my  eyes  to  many  things.    In  the  early  1990s  I  learned  some   decent  Spanish  just  by  practicing  with  my  friends  at  the  bus  stop.  Amazingly  I  used   Spanish,  Japanese,  some  words  I  knew  in  Tagalog,  and  Caribbean  slang  to  open  

JENNINGS  |   6   doors  to  me  while  in  Japan.  My  Caribbean  upbringing  contributed  by  ingratiated  me   with  Black  Africans,  as  well  as  non-­‐black  Islanders,  East  Indians,  and  Brazilians.     I’ve  always  believed  that  language  was  the  key  to  culture  and  nowhere  in  my   life  was  this  more  real  than  in  Japan.  Humans  however,  are  firstly  and  primarily   visual  and  physical  animals.  The  phenomenon  of  speech  and  its  effects  on  thought   come  later  in  the  progression  of  the  human  zoology.  We  see,  and  then  we  think.   Through  the  act  of  thinking,  meaning  is  injected  into  the  image.  Vis-­‐à-­‐vis,  culture  is   still  something  that  is  seen  first  and  most  deeply.  Visual  cues  antecede  the  thoughts,   and  neither  is  any  good  without  each  other.  In  his  interesting  work,  The  Archaic   Revival,  Terence  McKenna  makes  light  of  speech  by  saying:  “My  voice  speaking  is  a   monkey's  mouth  making  little  mouth  noises  that  are  carrying  agree-­‐upon  meaning,   and  it  is  meaning  that  matters.  Without  the  meaning  one  has  only  little  mouth   noises.”  The  meaning  of  most  images  is  something  that  the  hegemony  of  the   colonizer  strives  to  control.  Our  thoughts  on  culture,  race  and  appearance  have  a   culture  of  their  own.  For  most  of  us  it  is  a  culture  with  a  history  of  lack  of  agency   over  our  image.  That  lack  of  agency  over  the  image  is  held  in  place  by  a  hegemonic   ideology  in  which  the  self-­‐image  of  the  colonized  is  not  his  to  determine.  Culture  is   not  your  friend.      

JENNINGS  |   7  

    Stages  of  Triple  Darkness:  Africans,  the  Diaspora  &  African-­‐ Americans   “The  black  man  has  two  dimensions.  One  with  his  fellows,  the  other  with  the  white   man.  A  Negro  behaves  differently  with  a  white  man  and  with  another  Negro.”  (17)   -­‐

Franz  Fanon  “Black  Skins,  White  Masks”    

  Introducing  oneself  as  Caribbean-­‐American  induces  a  subset  of  deep  seated   imagery  and  mythology  about  what  that  term  means.  In  non-­‐Blacks  it  is  an   immediate  vocal  hyperlink  to  parts  of  their  subconscious  programmed  with   imagery,  and  back  up  for  a  mythology  of  assumed  knowledge.  It  Others  me  twice   over.  Never  to  be  removed  from  being  the  Ultimate  Other,  a  man  black  in  skin,  the   Caribbean-­‐American  is  not  a  Black  American.  He  or  she  is  different.     Blacks  are  usually  treated  as  a  monolith,  without  regard   to  ancestry  or  ethnicity.  Yet,  between  1991  and  2000   alone,  nearly  400,000  immigrants  arrived  in  the  United  

JENNINGS  |   8   States  from  Africa,  and  another  1  million  arrived  from   the  Caribbean  (U.S.  Department  of  Homeland  Security,   2003).  (659)     -­‐  Baton,  Qian  and  Lichter     However,  in  the  midst  of  Blacks  this  mode  of  self-­‐nomenclature  brings  with  it  an   immediate  set  of  reactionary  factors.  The  listener  begins  to  run  through  their  gambit   of  ethno-­‐social  avatars  in  their  head.  Based  upon  their  context,  or  lack  there  of,  their   responses  are  all  subtly  filled  with  almost  Orientalist  views  towards  the  Islands.  The   base  level  assumptions  and  misconceptions  drift  toward  the  mundane  tropes  of   grass-­‐huts,  questions  of  how  much  dancing,  drinking  and  weed  smoking  you  do  with   your  grand-­‐mother,  and  what  language  do  YOU  ALL  speak  over  THERE?  Many  times   someone  assumes  that  I  am  from  Jamaica.  Assume  is  too  light  of  a  word,  I  have  told   people  that  my  parents  are  from  Antigua  and  Tortola,  in  the  British  West  Indies,  and   they  have  said  “you  all  from  Jamaica”  within  the  next  5  minutes.  The  metaphysical   ‘divide’  between  even  African-­‐American  Blacks  and  Caribbean  or  Caribbean   American  Blacks  is  wide.  Baton,  Qian  and  Lichter  wrote  a  paper,  “Interracial  and   Intraracial  Patterns  of  Mate  Selection  Among  America’s  Diverse  Black  Populations,  

JENNINGS  |   9   “which  takes  a  critical  look  at  census  data  to  draw  it’s  conclusions.  When  discussing   this  subject  the  authors  wrote:       West  Indians  often  kept  their  accent  and  emphasized   other  cultural  cues  that  distinguished  them  from  African   Americans  (Model  &  Fisher,  2002).  Like  West  Indians,   African  Blacks  emphasized  their  foreign  origins  in  their   daily  interactions  with  other  minorities  and  Whites;   they  sought  to  separate  themselves  culturally  from  their   native-­‐born  counterparts  (Waters,  1994).  (660)     This  is  pronounced  if  the  Caribbean  Black  engages  in  what  is  interpreted  as   uppity  or  know-­‐it-­‐all  behavior.  Franz  Fanon  brilliantly  noted  this  concept  in  Black   Skins,  White  Masks,  “I  have  known  –  and  unfortunately  I  still  know  –  people  born  in   Dahomey  or  the  Congo  who  pretend  to  be  natives  of  the  Antilles;  I  have  known,  and  I   still  know,  Antilles  Negros  who  are  annoyed  when  they  are  suspected  of  being   Senegalese.  This  is  because  the  Antilles  Negro  is  more  “civilized”  than  the  African,   that  is,  he  is  closer  to  the  white  man;  and  this  difference  prevails  not  only  in  back   streets  and  on  boulevards  but  also  in  public  service  and  the  army.  “  (25-­‐26)  The   separation  of  the  Middle  Passage  can  arguably  be  seen  as  a  two  or  three  staged  

JENNINGS  |   10   process.  There  are  those  who  went  to  South  America,  those  who  ‘stayed’  in  the   Islands  and  those  who  arrived  on  the  mainland.  The  undeniable  and  indelible   Negritude,  of  Fanon  and  his  cohort  sits  as  the  base  of  all  Black  relations  in  this   region.  Nonetheless,  the  physical  and  metaphysical  ‘gaps’  and  distance  are  present   today  as  transmitted  through  cultural  interactions  and  idealism.          

HYPER-­‐CULTURAL  IDENTITY  –   HOW  TO  PROPERLY  WEAR  YOUR  V.E.S.   Blackness  is  constructed  as  both  sacred  and  profane,  allowing  its  practitioners  to   climb  to  heights  of  spiritual  release  and  to  explore  the  depths  of  unrestrained   sensuality  and  physicality.  It  is  constructed  as  a  venue  through  which  non-­‐blacks  are   able  somehow  to  “find”  and  “realize”  their  “true”  selves.       -­‐John  Russell    

  Early  Hip-­‐Hop  had  a  pronounced  Pan-­‐African  feel,  artists  and  fans  wore   dashikis,  medallions  and  apparel  emblazoned  with  images  of  Africa  and  Malcolm  X.   There  were  references  to  Africa,  Egypt  and  slavery  in  the  lyrics  and  snippets  of  Civil  

JENNINGS  |   11   Rights  speeches  interspersed  throughout  videos.  Later  as  Dancehall  broke  on  to  the   scene  there  was  an  infusion  of  this  energy  into  Hip  Hop,  and  rap  artists  began  to   incorporate  Caribbean/Latino  rhythms  and  cadence  into  their  songs.  Features   including  Shabba  Ranks,  Super  Cat  and  many  others  signaled  yet  another  cultural   pastiche  of  Black  folks.  Old  things  resurrected  and  made  new,  while  paying   reverential/referential  homage  to  the  origins.  This  was  a  phase  however,  increased   importance  of  first  African  and  then  Caribbean  themes,  only  to  recede  to  a  previous   baseline  is  indicative  of  something  more  subtle.  Within  communities  of  an  ethnic   disposition  there  is  internal  mimicry  and  internal  wearing  of  the  vest  that  changes   in  its  value  and  reactionary  power  over  time.  Japanese  people,  and  literally  any   other  non-­‐black  race,  has  historical  license  to  use  Blackness  to  achieve  these  ends.   Blackness  express  with  purpose  makes  available  to  the  user,  rebellion,  immaturity   and  freedom,  simultaneously.       To  perform  blackness  is  not  simply  a  matter  of  the   appropriation  of  musical  styles  identified  and  marketed   as  black.  Blackness  is  identified  as  an  attitude,  a   repertoire  of  gestures  and  movements,  codes,   salutations,  and  postures  that  signal—indeed,   telegraph—difference  and  defiance.  (23)  

JENNINGS  |   12     -­‐

John  Russell  

  MTV  went  from  boycotting  rap,  to  embracing  it  with  ground  breaking  shows,   then  being  one  of  the  first  music  video  channels  to  push  rap  entirely  off  of  its  air   waves.  White  artists  frequently  have  a  video,  song,  or  even  an  album  where  they   wore  vest  of  the  most  recent  and  relevant  cultural  fad.  But  they  go  back,  to  some   baseplate  of  Whiteness  at  some  later  date.  The  Black  ‘button’  can  be  pressed  by  any   non-­‐black  for  an  instant  surge  of  cool,  danger,  and  rebellious  sexuality.  Acting  black   in  America  has  become  an  EASY  button  for  making  a  statement.  What  that  statement   is,  or  means  in  reality  is  highly  debatable.                    

JENNINGS  |   13    


  The  history  of  several  Asian  and  African  nations  attests  to  the  effects  of  industrial   colonialism  and  highlights  the  potential  for  information  to  become  a  tool  in  spawning   a  new  breed  of  colonialism.  Many  nations,  despite  having  a  high  level  of  education  and   culture,  did  not  recognise  the  growth  of  industrial  colonialism.  Likewise,  the   emergence  of  e-­‐colonialism  may  not  be  initially  perceivable  thus  making  researchers   in  this  area  complacent.       -­‐  Neetha  Nambiar  and  L  V.  S.  Venkatesan,  “E-­‐Colonialism  -­‐  The  New  Challenge  of  the  21st   Century”    

  Japan  has  the  curious  distinction  of  being  a  country  that  has  not  been  victim   to  colonization  in  the  traditional  sense,  but  that  have  been  influenced  by  two   different  versions.  Let’s  call  them  Analog  and  Digital.  In  the  Analog  colonization,  you   have  two  steps  separated  by  many  decades.    First,  when  Admiral  Perry  and  his  fleet   forced  their  way  into  Japan,  bringing  foreign  ideology,  weapons,  food  and  an   immediate  destruction  of  the  mythical  sense  of  self.  Suzoko  Morikawa  in,  “The  

JENNINGS  |   14   Significance  of  Afrocentricity  for  Non-­‐Africans  –  Examination  of  the  Relationship   between  African-­‐Americans  and  the  Japanese”  lends  some  historical  context  by   saying:     During  the  influx  of  the  Portuguese,  Dutch,  and  other   Europeans  into  Japan,  the  Japanese  were  told  by  these   Europeans  that  "the  Black  ones"  are  by  nature  stupid,   uncivilized,  and  vicious,  and  they  began  to  be   predisposed  to  the  acquisition  of  negative  views  of   people  of  African  descent  (Thornton,  1983,  pp.  29-­‐33).   (425)     Next,  the  actual  military/colonial  rule  as  imposed  by  the  United  States  after  WWII.   The  image  of  MacArthur  standing  next  to  Hirohito  can  not  be  over  estimated  in  it’s   effect  on  the  psyche  of  the  people.  The  image  of  Eurocentric,  i.e.  White  supremacy  in   the  minds  of  the  Japanese  may  be  considered  a  form  of  soft,  or  cerebral  colonization.     Morikawa  expounds:  “The  Japanese  perception  of  African  Americans  and  all  the   people  of  African  descent  at  that  time  was  well  connected  with  European   chauvinism  of  the  world.”  (426)  Following  these  jarring  encounters,  Japan’s  policy   of  Sakoku  鎖国  (1)  was  obliterated.  Having  been  closed  to  Western  influence  for   centuries,  Japan  was  now  at  the  mercy  of  an  impending  socio-­‐economic  onslaught.   The  Meiji  Restoration  can  undoubtedly  been  seen  as  an  attempt  to  restructure  itself   as  a  modern  nation  in  order  to  abscond  from  a  certain  colonial  death  as  had  been  

JENNINGS  |   15   suffered  by  fellow  Asian  nations.  Embracing  the  West  including  an  altering  of  their   self  image.  In  “The  Social  Perception  Of  Skin  Color,”  Hiroshi  Wagatsuma  explains:       In  the  early  Meiji  period,  the  Japanese  began  their  self-­‐ conscious  imitation  of  the  technology  of  the  West.  Less   consciously,  they  also  began  to  alter  their  perception  of   feminine  beauty.  In  their  writings,  they  referred  with   admiration  to  the  white  skin  of  Westerners,  but  noted   with  disapproval  the  hair  color  and  the  hairiness  of   Westerners.  (415)         The  effect  of  the  Meiji  ‘redrawing’  of  history  is  an  extended  as  well  into  the  Black   image.  Caricatures  dominate,  and  subservient  position  and  postures  are  more   exaggerated.  Negative  images  of  Blacks  had  persisted  in  some  form  as  early  as  the   16th  and  17th  centuries,  yet  there  is  some  debate  on  whether  or  not  Japanese  had  an   inherently  negative  image  of  Blacks,  or  if  Europeans  were  responsible  for  it.  (Russell   1991,  Morikawa  2001).  I’d  argue  that  regardless  of  where  the  image  stood  before   their  arrival,  the  Europeans  would  have  exacerbated  in  a  negative  way.        

JENNINGS  |   16  

  CULTURAL  COLLISIONS  IN  HYPER  SPACE   “Hip  hop  style,  which  is  marked  in  Japan  with  black  skin,  is  interwoven  with  the  phallus   as  a  signifier  of  a  subtext  of  masculine,  heterosexual  body  power.  Young  men  seek  to   incorporate  this  power  by  remodeling  them-­‐  selves  in  hip  hop  style.  The  doubled   perception  of  threat  and  desire  produced  through  the  fetishization  of  blackness  is  a   product  of  contemporary  Japanese  representations  of  self  and  mechanisms  of  othering,   nuanced  by  reforming  gender  and  power  distribution.  (115)     -­‐  Nina  Cornyetz,“Fetishized  Blackness  –  Hip  Hop  and  Racial  Desire  In  Contemporary   Japan”     Upon  arrival  to  Japan,  most  likely  through  Tokyo,  the  average  person  will   undoubtedly  be  struck  by  the  diverse  scenery  and  immediate  impact  of  being  in  a   foreign  place.  Tokyo,  Japan  is  a  literal  playground  for  the  senses  to  be  bathed  in   absolute  human  alien  extravagance.  The  neon  lighting  is  comparable  to  Las  Vegas,   the  people  watching  is  top  notch  and  the  just  the  constant  movement  of  bodies  and   machines  and  sounds  creates  a  cacophony  of  experience.  You  see  Tokyo  for  the   large  part,  but  you  also  felt  it’s  current.     Going  abroad  has  always  been  a  metaphysical  journey  for  African-­‐Americans.   There  is  the  unsaid  physic  pull  that  is  felt  as  you  cross  the  Atlantic  ocean,  in  reverse,  

JENNINGS  |   17   and  more  the  surface  is  the  desire  to  experience  your  Blackness  outside  of  America.   There  is  a  natural  aversion  that  can  be  instilled  in  you  growing  up  in  America  that   makes  you  slightly  apprehensive  about  European  or  Asian  racism,  yet  the  Japanese   have    a  well  defined  idea  of  what  a  Black  man  is  supposed  to  be:  a  ‘Hip  Hop’,  flashy   dressing,  slightly  menacing  and  sexually  virile  man.  From  New  York  City.  Nina   Cornyetz  opines  on  the  use  of  the  ‘Black  Look’  by  Japanese  people  in  her  article  by   saying:  “Japanese  black  face,  on  the  other  hand,  emulates  hair  and  clothing  styles   (akin  to  the  "white  Negro"  phenomenon  in  the  United  States)  but  also  fetishizes  skin   color  in  an  attempt  to  mask  the  Japanese  self  with  a  realistic  black  visage.”  (114)   In  a  magnificent  feat  of  digital  colonialism  running  headlong  into  a  culture   incubated  though  self-­‐exile,  you  get  the  distinctly  Japanese  version  of  cultural   appropriation.  Within  the  desire  to  gain  familiarity  with  any  form  of  outside  culture,   there  is  also  a  inherent  need  to  get  further  away  from  the  Japanese  culture  itself.   The  homogeneity  of  the  country  over  centuries  of  time  can  not  be  denied,  it’s  affects   are  debated  but  the  intensive  manner  in  which  Japanese  people  ‘wear’  Black  culture   can  certainly  be  used  to  examine  it.        

JENNINGS  |   18  

THE  GAZE  AND  ITS  IMPICATIONS  FOR  SINO-­‐BLACK  RELATIONS   One  of  the  things  apparent  to  my  young  mind  was  that  there  seemed  to  be  a   lot  of  foreigners  living  and  working  in  Japan,  and  Asia  with  little  to  no  real  reason.  I   mean  teachers,  who  still  to  this  day,  can  charge  about  $60-­‐$100  USD  per  hour,  and   basically  hold  a  conversation  with  a  group  of  10-­‐12  people.  There  are  athletes  to  be   sure,  but  there  are  band  members  and  performers,  singing  in  English  to  all-­‐Japanese   crowds,  and  making  a  living.  I’ve  met  an  unsigned  rapper  from  New  York,  who   moved  to  Japan  to  ‘make  it’  and  had  been  there  for  4  years  when  I  met  him.  I  was   never  able  to  figure  out  exactly  how  he  made  his  living,  but  I  salute  him.  Saxophone   players,  dance  choreographers,  and  instructors  of  anything  not  invented  in  Japan.   There  is  an  aspect  of  hero-­‐worshipping  of  outside  cultures,  but  it’s  not  without   deeper  action.  Japanese  people  are  also  respectful  of  arts  and  tradition.  So  when   some  new  meme  comes  on  the  scene,  they  search  for  authentic  people  to  teach  it.   Many  times  you  can  easily  identify  the  ‘artists’  who  are  selling  some  form  of  ‘gaijin’   culture  to  the  Japanese.  The  workmanship  is  shoddy,  but  they  don’t  care,  and  their   customers  usually  can’t  tell.  (Remember,  my  friends  were  told  they  didn’t  sound  like   they  were  from  NY,  compared  to  the  Africans  with  thick  accents.)  The  Black   experience  is  boxed  within  the  entertainer,  loud,  comedian,  and  sexual  tropes.    

JENNINGS  |   19   How  much  of  Hollywood’s  clear  hidden  desire  to  place  black  men  in  dresses  is  about   a  fetish,  or  a  poor  response  to  the  institutional  lack  of  black  actresses?  It  is  a  point   worth  considering.  As  these  images  and  their  production  make  up  a  colored  world,   there  forms  are  quite  black  and  white.  You  seem  to  either  get  a  warped  self,  or  no   self.  Asians  traditionally  have  struggled  to  get  some  sort  of  reasonable   representation  they  agree  with  in  the  public  space.  Just  like  Hip  Hop  can’t   encompass  Black  people,  ideas  like  docile,  small,  lotus  blossoms  and  gong  sounds   aren’t  nearly  enough  to  describe  and  represent  the  all  of  Asiatic  peoples.  The   current  state  is  absurd  considering  how  much  we  can  no  longer  ignore  in  terms  of   what  man  truly  knows  about  one  another.  Imagery  unquestioned  becomes  reality.      

CLUB  VIBE,  FUKUOKA   Similarly, the rapper Candle said that “You may not be able to understand exactly what they’re saying, or even what they’re doing, but you can tell when someone’s a real MC. It’s a feeling you get from what they’re doing.” (101) -­‐

  David  Morris,  “Minzoku  Madness  –  Hip  Hop  and  Japanese  National  Subjectivity”         Within  the  Black  Japanese  community  in  Fukuoka,  there  was  a  deeper  sense  of   knowledge,  a  better  grasp  on  expression  and  dare  I  say  it,  a  more  legitimate  

JENNINGS  |   20   closeness  to  Blackness.  Sasebo  is  a  military  base  that  is  within  a  3-­‐hour  train  ride   from  Fukuoka  prefecture.  Having  been  in  operation  since  1946,  there  has  been  some   sort  of  consistent  American  military;  black,  presence  in  Fukuoka  since  then.  This   undoubtedly  contributed  to  the  culture  and  atmosphere  present  upon  my  arrival  in   July  of  2000.  Shouts  of  ‘gaijin’  and  ‘Blackman’  are  sure  to  follow  anyone  of  my   complexion,  but  Fukuoka  residents  in  the  ‘know’  where  aware  of  the  different   ethnicities  with  Blackness  and  they  played  them  off  of  each  other.  There  was  a   flourishing  reggae  scene  populated  by  women  of  all  types  in  their  30s,  grooving  to   the  latest  reggae  and  the  classics.  Many  of  these  women  spoke  English,  which  is   nearly  a  female  only  skill  at  the  average  level.  In  my  time  I  came  across  a  large   number  of  women  who  had  learned  English  in  order  to  travel  and  meet  different   men.  (Kind  of  impressive  if  you  think  about  it.  Imagine  a  girl  in  LA  learning  Arabic  or   Russian  to  meet  men.)  In  contrast  to  the  Caribbean  club  owners,  I  met  brothers  from   Guyana,  and  Jamaica,  there  were  the  Africans  who  ran  the  Hip  Hop  industry.   Brothers  from  Nigeria,  Ghana,  Senegal  and  one  crazy  Angolan  ran  the  apparel  and   clubs.  For  the  most  part  American  Blacks  in  Japan  were  soldiers.  Interspersed  with   the  soldiers  were  teachers  like  myself,  travelling  performers,  athletes  and  the  


occasional  ‘real’  tourist.

JENNINGS  |   21   Found  on  a  prime  spot  just  off  of  Oyafuko-­‐dori,  a  strip  of  late  night  clubs  and   restaurants,  is  club  VIBE.    Within  the  club  you  had  the  expected  image  of  Blackman,   rappers  from  New  York  City.  Then  you  had  Ghanaian  and  Nigerian  brothers,  shop   owners  and  hustlers  holding  down  their  regular  booths  and  tables.  Joe  Wood  sheds   some  more  light  on  the  issue  by  writing:  “The  clubs  are  owned  by  Africans,  although   the  businesses  are  recorded  in  their  Japanese  wives'  names,  in  compliance  with   Japanese  law.  The  Africans  actually  cause  American  blacks  considerable  discomfort,   in  part  because  they  can  "pass"  for  American.”  (53)     The  majority  of  the  crowds  are  filled  out  with  various  groups  from  the  base.   Sasebo  shore  leave  is  a  weekly  event  to  some  extent  and  when  the  ‘ship  is  out’  the   club  is  quitter  and  the  girls  move  around  more  slowly  in  the  streets.  (I’m  not   exaggerating)  The  brothers  on  the  ship  are  largely  from  the  deep  South,  Louisiana,   Tennessee,  “FlooridaH”,  Atlanta  and  Mississippi.  At  least  during  my  time  there  the   contingent  from  below  the  Mason  Dixon  was  deep  and  what  was  amazing  was  that   not  only  did  local  Japanese  girls  speak  English,  and  understand  some  Caribbean   slang,  more  and  more  of  them  were  getting  a  grasp  on  Southern  Drawl  fresh  off  the   boat.     This  was  a  mixed  Hip  Hop  crowd;  versus  say  a  Reggae  crowd  and  club,  which   would  never  waver  from  that  genre  of  music.  In  this  club  you’d  get  mostly  Rap  and  

JENNINGS  |   22   R&B  and  then  an  occasional  dancehall  tune  from  the  time  in  which  NYC  and  LA   brothers  would  dance,  and  some  Japanese  girls  would  do  their  best  impression  of   whining  and  grinding.  Conversations  with  female  friends  hinted  at  a  preference  for   Black  guys  from  New  York  if  you  were  looking  for  “kakoii,”  and  men  from  “Down   South”  if  you  were  looking  for  more  traditional.  Many  times  I  was  absolutely   staggered  by  the  depth  of  the  racial  and  ethnic  interplay  in  that  city.     The  city  of  Fukuoka,  being  place  of  first  resort  to  this  base  led  to  it  having  a   relatively  long  and  involved  history  with  Black  people.  This  lead  to  a  more  nuanced   and  diverse  interaction.  They  were  aware  of  the  differences  in  region  in  America,   dialects,  assumptions  and  some  times  even  delicate  racial  issues  such  as  ‘passing’.   (1)  This  could  be  measured,  through  anecdotes  and  conversations  I  had,  by  learning   the  way  that  the  Japanese  in  Fukuoka  viewed  Black  as  an  ethnicity.      

It  must  be  said  that  the  men  generally  veered  to  celebrity  interaction,  or  a  

real  legitimate  and  equal  friendship.  Japanese  culture  naturally  tends  toward   defined  lines  of  interaction  in  all  cases.  So  in  dealing  with  the  Other,  you  seem  to  get   a  shallow,  awe  filled,  wild  question  asking  person,  who  occasionally  takes  you  places   to  display  you  like  an  item.  On  the  other  hand  through  chance  of  character,  or  past   experiences  with  foreigners,  you’ll  meet  Japanese  people  who  will  cut  through   barriers  and  get  to  know  you.    It  must  be  said  that  the  effort  on  my  part  to  gain  

JENNINGS  |   23   fluency  and  semi-­‐mastery  of  the  language  was  invaluable  in  my  research  and   results.  Many  times  it  was  the  only  way  to  get  some  of  the  better  data.  One  night   after  about  10  minutes  of  conversation  an  older  lady  asked  me  if  I  was  African.  Her   question  came  from  the  fact  that  I  spoke  completely  in  Japanese  and  that  the  only   Black  foreigners  who  tried  to  speak  all  in  Japanese  were  African.  She  admitted  that   my  accent  sounded  funny,  but  the  fluent  Japanese  was  an  indicator  for  her  that  I   must  be  from  the  continent.     However,  they  are  all  correct  from  the  perspective  of  the  Blackman  as  digital   colonizer.  Even  as  colonizer  he  is  trapped,  and  enslaved  not  only  from  the  outside   but  from  within.  Fanon,  guides  us  down  this  tenuous  path  in,  Wretched  Of  The  Earth,   by  stating:  “  He  sets  a  high  value  on  the  customs,  traditions  and  the  appearances  of   his  people  but  his  inevitable,  painful  experience  only  seems  to  be  a  banal  search  for   exoticism.  The  sari  becomes  sacred,  and  shoes  that  come  from  Paris  or  Italy  are  left   off  in  favour  of  paxnpootiea,  while  suddenly  the  language  of  the  ruling  power  is  felt   to  burn  your  lips.”  (Ch.  4)  The  results  of  European  colonization  are  apparent.  Many   of  the  original  vestiges  of  colonizer  culture,  idealism,  religion  and  visions  of  beauty   are  nearly  intact.  The  spoils  of  digital  colonization  of  Asia  and  the  World,  by  the  neo-­‐ Black  image  are  still  relatively  lukewarm.    

JENNINGS  |   24   The  Japanese  culture  won’t  budge  in  any  manner  from  its  First  Space.   Japanese  and  Japanese  and  not  even  Koreans  born  there  can  ever  be  considered  real   Nihonjin.  I  could  tell  even  then  that  given  30  years,  perfect  Edo-­‐era  language  skills,  a   wife  and  bunch  of  Happu  kids  with  dreads,  and  someone  would  still  point  at  me  and   call  me,  “gaijin!”  Imagine,  I’d  probably  have  been  living  there  longer  than  that  kid   would  have  been  alive,  but  guess  what,  he’d  be  right.  I’m  a  foreigner.  I’m  not  from   there,  and  never  will  be.  Yet,  they  can  ‘wear’  and  even  ‘be’  me  for  a  period,  of  time,   and  then  simply  take  me  off.  Bhabha  and  Rushdie,  Fanon  are  correct  that  once  the   act  of  colonization  takes  place,  neither  member  will  be  the  same.  The  image  of   Blackness,  made  into  an  eternal  scarlet  letter,  has  seeped  into  any  medium  of   transmission  of  the  Black  image.  It  probably  will  never  be  removed  from  the   negatives.  Fanon’s  fixation  on  white  and  black  seems  both  small  and  overblown  to  a   person  living  today.  His  comments  on  the  varieties  of  Black  would  hit  closer  to   home.            

JENNINGS  |   25  

CONCLUSION   FROM  THE  3RD  SPACE  TO  THE  8TH  DIMENSION  THERE  IS  NO  ESCAPE     It  could  be  argued  that  Fanon’s  concept  of  race,  identity  and  hybridity  could   do  with  a  re-­‐analysis.  He  can  not  be  blamed  for  the  monolithic  view  of  Black/White   relations  that  he  created  and  espoused  for  it  was  credible  and  ground  breaking  at   the  time.     As  Blacks  have  moved  from  free,  to  chattel,  to  minstrels  and  low  class  helpers   to  finally,  re-­‐integrated  members  of  society  at  large,  our  self  image  has  been  slightly   altered  and  augmented  as  well.    The  journey  through  social  and  cultural  hell   endured  by  Blacks  has  left  them  marked  both  in  metaphorical  physical  and   psychological  ways.     Modern  Japan  is  almost  the  real  life  equivalent  of  a  video  game  world  created   for  people  to  fashion  and  utilize  various  social-­‐cultural  tableaus.  Imagine  Second   Life,  in  real  life.  There  is  already  more  of  a  freeness  with  culture  as  expressed  by   Japanese,  especially  the  young.  The  collision  between  the  always  contentious  Black   body  and  image,  and  the  self  reflexive  battle  against  Japanese  hegemony  is  yet   another  one  in  which  Black  loses.  There  is  no  real  control  of  our  image  in  the  

JENNINGS  |   26   Japanese  people’s  eyes.  It  was  established  by  the  original  invaders.  Admiral  Perry’s   famous  expedition  to  open  the  country  was  bolstered  by  a  large  retinue  of  military   and  cilivans,  notably  a  minstrel  team.       From  the  moment  he  first  stepped  on  Japanese  soil  in   1853  to  present  the  letter  from  President  Fillmore,   Perry  also  sought  to  impress  the  Japanese  with   authentic  black  men.  “On  either  side  of  the   Commodore,”  the  Narrative  tells  us,     “marched  a  tall,  well-­‐formed  negro,  who,  armed  to  the   teeth,  acted  as  his  personal  guard.  “     This  influence  was  entirely  along  the  line  of  the  existing  Eurocentric  hegemony.   Manufacturing  a  color  scale  in  which  they  are  above  Black,  but  below  White,  the   Japanese  have  a  long  defined  ‘space’  in  which  they  and  Blacks  interact.       There  is  no  solace  or  place  to  hide,  for  both  sides  of  the  coin.  The  Blackman   however  is  dealt  a  final  reminding  blow  due  to  psychic  circumstances  that  exist.   Black  is  not  just  an  other,  it  is  The  Other.  The  paradox  of  science  pointing  to  the   origins  of  all  mankind  coming  from  a  locale  populated  by  dark  peoples,  the  entire   world  model  has  dark  skin  tones  at  the  bottom  of  its  arbitrary  social  ladders.  The  

JENNINGS  |   27   struggle  for  self-­‐definition  is  constant  and  many  Blacks  exiled  themselves  in  Europe   both  before  and  after  the  war  due  to  better  treatment.  Inevitable,  and  invariably   they’d  all  be  reminded  of  their  foreigner  status  inherited  by  either  the  Blackness  or   American-­‐ness.     The  hegemony’s  effect  was  to  infect,  incept  or  entirely  reprogram  the  world  a   new  way  of  thinking.  Stripped  bare  and  left  to  bake  it  sun  the  doctrines  most   essential  communicated  by  the  prolonged  effect  of  European  colonization  are,  White   is  right,  Black  is  bad,  but  bad  as  in  good.  In  conclusion  Blacks  not  only  have  to   inhabit  and  navigate  this  immensely  difficult  space  of  their  visual  image,  but   interlopers  have  free  reign  to  damn  rivers  and  burn  libraries.  From  Al  Jolson,  to   Elvis,  to  Miley,  the  degree  of  acting  Black  may  vary,  but  there  is  money  and  fame  in   presenting  the  perceived  view  of  Black  people  that  non-­‐blacks  have,  right  back  to   them.  Image  is  everything  and  the  lack  of  the  control  the  Blacks  are  allowed  to  have   of  their  image,  seems  to  have  crossed  over  into  the  internet  realm  as  well.  New   strategies  for  how  to  temper  and  guide  this  process  are  underway,  but  like  most   things  involving  the  post-­‐colonial  paradigm,  we  are  far  behind  the  head  start  of  the   colonizers  image  making  machines.        


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