What is impressive for me through this program is the racial problem. I knew that race had been one of the biggest concerns in America, but until I went there actually, I expected the problem was now solved. However, it still remains as a certain issue today. In every lecture, there was the word of “black.” Every lecture was more or less related to race. Even when we talked about feminism, we had to think about racial discrimination. Black women couldn’t join in the movement because it was only for white women. Always there was discrimination. I thought racial relation has much more effect in America than I imagined.
I had some difficulty in understanding the sense of racial difference or discrimination because in Japan, race is not recognized so much. Japan also has different people, but the portion of them is tiny. America has diversity much more than Japan. I think one of the reasons of this is in the history of each country. Japan has long history as one “Japanese people” though there are a few exceptions. Meanwhile, America is the comparatively new country. There is no long history as one people. From the beginning, America have had some kinds of people in one country, such as brown, black and white, and the idea of race have existed in the center of American culture.
However, when American says “history,” the word means “history of white people.” It doesn’t include people of color. We learned from lecture that history can be made or changed by people because the event that was not described in any document can’t be known. In this term, I think the same phenomena happen in Japan too. For example, most of Japanese people tend to think there have been only one people and no native people except for Japanese. But, Ainu people in Hokkaido prefecture have been native people. Japanese people often forget about them and regard Japan as the nation which composed by only one people.
And I think the ignorance against black people leads to disparity in America. I read a book about American disparity between white and black before I left Japan to America. The book said black people are more poor than white people and that government don’t deal seriously with this poverty of black people. In fact, when we went to Smithsonian museums, I noticed most of those who sold drinks or souvenirs were people of color. I think salespersons are comparatively low-wage labor. I don’t mean the salesperson isn’t good job, but I received impression that there is disparity. I thought the government should focus more on the weak people and minorities, such as people of color.
But it is also true that the discrimination is weakening today compared with decades ago. This change is because people’s movement. I found another difference in this term. In the past, Japan also had big social movements. For example, people fight with government in order to gain the right to vote. But today, Japanese people tend to keep silence because they don’t like to stand out in the society. I heard several news about women killed themselves because of harassment without saying anything to anyone until their death. On the contrary, in America, people claim their own opinion against their society. Black people continued engaging in movement for civil right and made discrimination small. And in these days, people still make movements, such as Me-Too movement. American women used social media to spread their idea and in fact that was shared with many people.
I thought this is related to the American cultural feature that people can talk to others easily. I felt strange at first when I was spoken to by a clerk at a supermarket, like “how are you,” because I’ve never experienced this in Japan. Japanese people seldom speak to strangers. I read an interesting article about this in my focus group work. According to the article, this was one of the reasons vending machines spread widely in Japan. Because they provided goods without any conversation, vending machines suited to Japanese culture. In America, people communicate without hesitation even if they meet for the first time and share their idea more easily. I thought because of this feature, social movements can happen more often.
In addition, I felt American people have more interest in social problem than Japanese people. I was surprised when I heard that “Green Book” is controversial in America. In Japan, there are few movies which theme is social problem and people seldom argue about that. Moreover, the reason I was surprised was because I didn’t notice what part of that movie could be wrong. But American people focus on the preposition that white man was a main character and claim that is problem of this movie. When I heard the reason why this movie is controversial, I understood it but at the same time, I thought American people is more sensitive against social problem.
And I think it is a part of American culture that people pay attention to social movement and stand up for what they think is right. This is good because people can recognize or share what the problem is more easily than when people keep silence. In Japan, instead of people, the government should pay attention to silent movement in the society.
I learned a lot of things through this program. In the lectures, I learned about the base of American culture. In dialogue classes, we could share what we learned from lecture. In focus group, we compared each culture deeply. And by writing journals, I could think twice about these things I learned and find differences and similarities between America and Japan. These differences and similarities showed me not only what American culture is, but also what Japanese culture is. I think learning foreign culture leads to recognizing something new about our own culture. So, I want to continue learning about foreign countries in order to know more about Japan.