Completely unacceptable.

On February 3, the “Beppu Oita Mainichi Marathon” was held in Oita Prefecure, part of Japan’s southern Kyushu region. One woman in her fifties, whose name has not been made public, volunteered as a translator for the overseas runners who’d been invited to compete.

The woman worked with several athletes from Africa, including Morocco, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Africa. After the marathon had ended, on February 10 she wrote of her experience on her blog: “It felt like communicating with cavemen,” and “They were shy chimpanzees at first, but little by little they opened up.” She also captioned a video of her and the athletes with: “Cute chimpanzees.”

Nonstop screaming now and until forever.

It wasn’t long before her blog post was noticed and reported to the office that had worked with the woman. Her blog has since been closed, but she admitted to making the post, claiming that: “I didn’t have any feelings of racism or malicious intent. I regret my thoughtless choice of words.”

The office has apologized on her behalf, saying: “The blog post was extremely inappropriate, and we deeply apologize to the athletes and all the people who saw it. We will strive from now on to stress the importance of responsibility to our volunteers, and to educate them.”

They have also contacted a representative for the athletes themselves, and are currently discussing the best way to apologize to them as well.

Here’s how Japanese netizens reacted to the news:

“Wow. I’m not sure if she’s evil or just stupid.”
“How does someone this small-minded become a translator?”
“And now the invited athletes probably won’t come back because of her.”
“I don’t understand how you can possibly call someone a ‘caveman’ or ‘chimpanzee’ and not have that be malicious intent.”
“She says she didn’t mean it, but that’s even worse. Unintentional discrimination is how racism perpetuates.”
“Now everyone in the world will think we Japanese people are like this.”

The vast majority of netizens were on the side of the athletes and against the woman, though many of them expressed concerns similar to the above, that they would be judged as a country because of the actions of one person.

Yes, Japan is a country that struggles with racism, but just as that woman was wrong in what she did, it’s important for us to not paint any culture or country in broad strokes ourselves either.

Here’s to hoping that Beppu can come up with an appropriate apology to the athletes, learn from the mistake, move on, and have a better marathon next year with even more international invitees.

Source: NHK News Web via Itai News, Hachima Kiko
Related: Beppu Oita Mainichi Marathon

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