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The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo criticized Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, on Tuesday for airing an “offensive and insensitive” anime video that attempted to explain the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing protests against police brutality that have swept the United States.
The short animation, which first aired during one of NHK’s regular current affairs shows, featured a muscular black man in a tank top holding a woman’s purse, “explaining” that the Black Lives Matter protests were motivated by economic disparity between black and white people, and because the coronavirus pandemic has affected black communities disproportionately.
The video makes no mention of police brutality or George Floyd, whose death while in Minneapolis police custody sparked the protests.
Critics on social media have pointed out the barrage of stereotypical imagery in the clip, including the depiction of its star, as well as a second musclebound Black man who carries what appears to be a looted electrical appliance on fire. Yet another, also showing off his ripped arms, sits on a fire hydrant strumming a guitar. In the background, Black men and women stand on a burnt out street with their fists raised.
Joseph Young, the most senior diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, tweeted: “While we understand @NHK’s intent to address complex racial issues in the United States, it’s unfortunate that more thought and care didn’t go into this video. The caricatures used are offensive and insensitive.”
NHK later pulled the clip from its website — but not before it had received more than 1.2 million views — and apologized, acknowledging that it had received “lots of criticism and other opinions on Twitter.”
“The clip was posted after a lack of consideration, and we would like to apologize to anyone who was made to feel uncomfortable,” the broadcaster said.
Japanese historian Masahiro Yamazaki was among the local critics who voiced outrage over the video. “It has not at all covered the nature of the issue, of long, repeated, unjustified violence and murders of black citizens by white police officers,” he tweeted. “It has trivialized the issue as if violent black people rioted amid economic stress and the coronavirus-driven resentment. It is stunning that it completely lacks the viewpoint of discrimination.”
Black Lives Matter protests were held in Tokyo and Osaka over the past two weekends. Hundreds of protestors hit local streets to express support for the U.S. movement, as well as to criticize alleged instances of Japanese police harassment of non-ethnically Japanese residents and visitors.
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