As protests against centuries of systematic racism continue around the world, Japan’s national broadcaster has found itself a target for outrage and condemnation after releasing an anime-inflected video that trafficked in offensive racist imagery, even as it sought to offer a sympathetic—albeit hamfisted—explanation of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Japanese broadcaster NHK released the one-minute, 21-second animated clip on Sunday evening on its program Sekai No Ima (The World Now) and on Twitter. The video depicts a street ravaged by unrest, complete with burning cars and an afro-wearing looter, as a muscular Black man in a white tank top angrily explains the wealth gap between Black and white Americans, and the disproportionate effects of the coronavirus epidemic on the Black population.
However, the video immediately drew criticism not only for the bizarre and offensive stereotypes on display, but also for failing to mention the case of George Floyd, the unarmed Black man whose death—along with countless others—at the hands of U.S. police galvanized the latest protest movement.
Some critics online went so far as to claim that the video had in fact promoted racism, rather than explain its roots.
“The problem isn’t causing the viewers discomfort or lack of consideration,” one Twitter user wrote in Japanese. “The problem is that you guys are promoting racism against Black people by providing false information and making it a small issue.”
The U.S. Embassy even felt the need to weigh in, with Chargé d’Affaires Joseph M. Young calling the video deeply misguided.
“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 removed its tweet containing the video two days after it was posted, and released an official apology explaining that the broadcast the clip had been a part of had touched on the killing of George Floyd, but that the clip itself had been flawed.
“The one-minute-21-second clip aimed to show the hardships, such as economic disparity, that many African Americans in the U.S. suffer,” the statement reads. “However, we have decided to take the clip offline after receiving criticism from viewers that it did not correctly express the realities of the problem.”
“We regret lacking proper consideration in carrying the clip, and apologize to everyone who was offended.”
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