Sunday, February 21, 2016

Senator Maruyama’s Remarks Draws Criticism

Senator Kazuya Maruyama has said that the U.S. President Obama is a Black man during a recent Japanese diet meeting. He has also said “a descendant of former slaves became the president of a country, which shows how dynamic the United States is” (YouTube,, Feb. 21, 2016).

His remarks have been criticized in the Japanese media possibly for two reasons. The first criticism is against the open use of “kokujin” or “Black man,” which is a term often avoided in Japan. However, kokujin does not have any negative connotation but is avoided to avoid racial profiling. The second criticism is possibly against the remark of “a descendant of former slaves becoming the president of a country,” which by the way is a mistake. CNN news says on Feb. 19, 2016, that Obama is not a descendant of former slaves but “the son of Black father from Kenya and White mother from Kansas. (

Maruyama did not say, “Obama? A Blackman? Can you imagine a former slave becoming a president?” However, the senator was too casual about the ways to discuss issues that he does not know well.

Racial issues are always touchy and how to address Black persons is still not discussed well in Japan. In American English, however, there is an answer to the question. The American Psychological Association recommends the capitalized use of Black and White instead of black and white (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2008, p. 68).

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