I’ve been checking out the YouTubeiverse, mostly checking out Jvloggers in Japan. It’s pretty cool how many voices are out there. When I hear them talk about Japan, I recognize truth in lots of their remarks about cultural differences. It’s interesting stuff. It’s particularly interesting to hear from jvloggers who have spent years in Japan and have decided to live there permanently. I always wondered what life would be like if I stayed. There was no YouTube when I lived in Japan, so I didn’t get the benefit of hearing all this.
Anyway, Jake Nalton, a mid-20 something British jvlogger in Tokyo, linked the video above, which was created by a Vietnamese Australian (I’m assuming) vlogger named Troy Nguyen. In Troy’s video, Troy says that ALL White guy expats in Asia are losers, people who can’t find work and can’t get women in their own countries. Jake defends himself in the way that one would expect: he uses himself as an example and says that he himself is not a loser. I looked around the web, and it looks like a lot of other White-guy-vloggers in Asia have similarly defended themselves from Troy’s opinion.
To address Troy’s condemnation of ALL White guys in Asia, I can understand what Jake might feel. One can’t say that ALL white guy expats in Asia are losers. To make such a statement, one would have to travel to all countries in Asia, something which few people have done. Then one would have to meet every single White guy in every one of those countries. If there was one who wasn’t a loser, the statement would be inaccurate. In that sense, I agree with Jake. I also must say that I’ve met White guys in Japan who weren’t losers, so I know this to be unfair on a personal level.
On the other hand, Jake’s defense of White guys in Asia doesn’t adequately address the reasons behind Troy’s statement, many of which are legitimate complaints about racism and colonialism. If you watch some of Troy’s other videos, it’s clear that this is where he’s coming from. Jake acknowledges that it’s easier to get sex as a White guy in Japan, but he doesn’t say much beyond that or even question why that might be. If being of a certain race gets you more sex, wouldn’t it be natural to question why? That’s a benefit of Whiteness–not having to question racial patterns that give preference to Whiteness. Nor does Jake address other potent and overwhelming forms of White privilege and akogare in Japan, many of which are social and economic and therefore life-altering both for those it benefits and for those it excludes. Like all forms of racism, it’s easy to ignore racism if you’re the beneficiary of race preferences. It’s harder to ignore it if you aren’t.
I’ve worked in Portland, LA, San Francisco, New York City, and Japan. While I only worked in the eikaiwa system in Tokyo and never outside of that, I can personally vouch for the fact that White privilege is FAR greater in the Tokyo eikaiwa world than in any other industry in which I’ve ever worked in the U.S. That’s not to say that it’s impossible for an Asian American to work in the eikaiwa system, but to do so requires a certain level of professional acceptance of the racial hierarchy (you can be against racism, but not on company time!). White guys run the eikaiwa world in Japan. They drop racist statements that would cause lawsuits in the U.S., and they do so with abandon. I remember one job interview where my interviewer was telling me how many Japanese women he slept with–during the job interview, which was for a position as an English teacher, not for a position as a porn star or a gigolo or a host in a host bar, which would presumably have more relevance to one’s number of sex partners. I don’t think he was doing it to insult me; I think he was doing it simply because he saw me as another young “Western” dude with whom he could share his good fortune of being in an cultural ecosystem that has accepted notions of White supremacy to the point where it goes unchallenged. It’s really quite bizarre if you think about it. One would think that a White majority country like the United States would be far more accepting of ideas of White supremacy than a country like Japan where Whites are only a tiny minority, but it’s exactly the opposite, although I guess one could argue that White guys are not a minority in the eikaiwa world.
Then there’s the social world. I can’t really say that I experienced any racial prejudice from Japanese people while I was in Japan. But among many Japanese people who are part of the eikaiwa system–not everyone, of course, but a fair number of people–White people get better treatment. A White guy can be a complete loser, and there are enough Japanese within the system whose minds are so colonized that they’ll worship him like he’s Albert Einstein with a body like Arnold. After a (very short) while, it gets annoying–both the White worship and the attitude of the White guys who get the God treatment. The problem is not just White individuals in Asia. Rather it’s the confluence of history and society, along with the behavior of a significant number of White individuals.
Now things are even more complicated than that since there’s a world outside of the eikaiwa ecosystem in Japan. These are Japanese Japanese people, people who rarely see foreigners and don’t care about white privilege or any other kind of privilege since they rarely see foreigners or have any reason to see foreigners. But White guys–and Asian American guys, to be fair–rarely get much exposure to this world. I would guess that if a White guy ever found acceptance among this group, he’d most likely be a non-loser.
So in short, if you asked me to focus on the technicalities of Troy’s statement, I’d have to agree that not ALL White guys in Asia are losers. Some of them are genuine people, and some of them have interesting insights to share, which is why I watch their YouTube videos. But when a video like Troy’s comes out, people need to look beneath the surface of what someone like Troy says and instead think about why he said it. It’s a teachable moment. If you’re a White guy in Japan, it’s easy to sweep White privilege under the rug or pretend it doesn’t exist (and to be clear, I don’t think Jake is doing this), but it’s not going to make the problem disappear. Ignoring the problem simply causes it to fester. Sooner or later–whether you’re in Japan, Britain, or the U.S.–the problem will come back. It simply isn’t possible to maintain an unequal racial or cultural hierarchy without having repercussions. Sooner or later someone is going to have to fix this problem. Otherwise we’ll all continue to deal with the consequences of a racial hierarchy that has existed for far too long.