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Online furor condemns NHK’s African-American depictions as racist

TOKYO (TR) – A promotional clip for a weekly children’s program for public broadcaster NHK is drawing harsh criticism online for what they view as overly racist depictions of African-Americans.

The animated clip was posted on Sunday on Twitter for the program for “This Makes Me Understand! The World Now.” The full 37-minute program, which aired the same day, provided background on the ongoing protests in the U.S.

However, the 85-second clip is very narrow in scope and filled with stereotypes, focusing on angry African-Americans rioting in a street, with one person with an afro carrying a television set. This was met with an online backlash.

Jason Coskrey, an African-American sportswriter for the Japan Times, took to Twitter to write, “What in the actual F is this?”

Tennis star Naomi Osaka, born to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, simply tweeted a video of comedian Steve Harvey staring in disbelief.

The clip does not mention the spark for the protests — police brutality — and the diversity of the protestors. Instead, it focuses on other elements.

“One of the reasons behind our anger is the income gap between whites and blacks. Yes, whites have seven times the assets of blacks!” screams an awkwardly gesticulating man in a white t-shirt.

It then goes on to say that the novel coronavirus pandemic is another factor. After the man grips what appears to be a wallet with green arms, he asks, “How many blacks lost their jobs or suffered a reduction in work hours?” The Statute of Liberty emerges and looks down at her tablet. She says, “Well…”

The oversimplification also drew fire. Baye McNeil, an activist for black rights in Japan, expressed his extreme dissatisfaction by writing: “So, #NHK has clearly lost their effin’ minds! I dunno, is this how they see us? These gross caricatures? Are our issues so simple, poor black people. rich white people, corona makes us poorer, we’re so angry, let’s protest! Can they really be this clueless, this obtuse?” In another tweet, he described the clip as “offensive racist commentary.”

Police brutality

The full episode of “This Makes Me Understand!” focused on the widening divide between the political left and right in the U.S. In between, the episode did in fact cover police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. The aforementioned promotional clip was merely one segment within the episode.

The program, however, did not specifically mention George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapolis last month — the incident that sparked the current protests.

Prior to the content featured in the clip, a female commentator asks why police brutality continues unabated in the U.S. “White police officers fear blacks,” says an expert on the program, who cited his experience of speaking with police in Los Angeles. The expert added that blacks are killed by police at a rate 2.5 times higher than whites due to this “fear.”

NHK did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment on the clip and the criticism it is receiving.

African-American screenwriter Darryl Wharton-Rigby, who lives in Japan, implored NHK to seek out better sources in the future.

“Do better #NHK Please bring on people like
@BayeMcneil or @blacktokyo or any of the organizers of the #BlackLiveMatter marches in Osaka and Tokyo to speak in the topic. Please….”

Update: NHK on Tuesday removed the clip from Twitter and apologized.