The Freedom to Offend

What's in a name? Quite a lot, actually. NHK, the national Japanese
broadcasting company, has a constantly updated list of appropriate
words for minorities, including the socially discriminated outcasts
whose traditional occupations, such as butchering, slaughtering or
leather manufacturing, were considered polluted (Buddhism and Shinto
have strong views on purity and death). These outcasts, or burakumin,
still face many difficulties, and they are represented by
organizations, who define the precise terms in which the minority can
be spoken about. But these terms change so fast and for such
complicated reasons, and are often enforced with such
heavy-handedness, that NHK, and indeed most Japanese media, prefer not
to touch the subject at all. This cannot be good for the burakumin.
When a touchy subject can no longer be openly and rationally
discussed, it is left to the bigots to talk about it irrationally.
Ian Buruma
Adapted version of the essay from The New Republic at

Posted via email from Edu's posterous