The Tokyo Bar Association needs our help to understand racial profiling in Japan

Last month, the US Embassy issued a warning to its citizens over alleged “racial profiling incidents”. However, there had already been heated discussions on the subject within the international community for years.

In fact, Black Eye spoke to Jesse Freeman, a native of Baltimore, filmmaker and ikebana (flower arrangement), about his experience of being regularly stopped and searched by the police because of what he believed to be his skin color. So what took the community by surprise was that the Embassy issued a statement about such profiling, not that it was happening.

The Tokyo Bar Association’s Foreigners’ Human Rights Protection Committee wants to better understand the situation regarding racial profiling by police in Japan. It has launched a survey and is asking those who believe they have been the target of profiling – or their family or friends – to take a moment and complete the survey so they can get a clearer picture of what is going on.

“The investigation into racial profiling by police in Japan is an encouraging step towards resolving long-standing issues regarding how police perceive and interact with people from international and multicultural communities in Japan,” says Tina Saunders , director and associate professor of instruction. in law from Beasley School of Law, Temple University, Japan Campus. “Capturing and sharing people’s experiences with the police gives us a powerful tool to push for change in police policies and training to better engage with these communities.”

The stress of the pandemic era has manifested in some Western countries in the form of xenophobia and violence directed against people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, prompting the need for movements such as #StopAsianHate.

Xenophobia also continues to be a concern for many in Japan’s foreign community, a topic that has only been exacerbated amid the COVID-19 pandemic due to border policies adopted to prevent the spread of the virus and a perception among Japanese people that non- Japanese people are more likely to carry it. The arrival of the omicron variant has made matters worse, causing a surge in new cases and continued border restrictions that have full public support.

“We received 773 responses in the first 24 hours of the investigation,” says lawyer Junko Hayashi, who is coordinating the investigation. “We are surprised at the number we have received in such a short time. It shows how much of a problem it is. We hope to have as many answers as possible in order to better understand the extent of this problem. I believe this is a critically important initiative.

Saunders hopes the project will lead to meaningful action.

“I hope we can use this information to spark important and broader conversations about the pervasive issue of stereotyping and ‘otherness’ that is happening in Japan,” she says, adding that the goal should be ” fair treatment of everyone, regardless of status or identity”.

Access the Tokyo Bar Association’s survey at bit.ly/racialprofilingJapan through February 10. It is available in Japanese (with and without kanji), English and Vietnamese.

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