Angry Gaijin

Cameron Ohara

10 Little Indians – Racism in Japan/Home

There’s something just a little off-putting about this song.

I’m not First Nations, nor am I a part of any minority (aside from the Ginger one), but when I turn the tables and start thinking, “What if  they were counting down Canadians?  Or white people?”  I feel even less at ease.

Ten little white boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Seven little Canadians chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in half and then there were six.
One little Ginger boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

Yeah, I dunno folks.  Just something not so zesty about this kinda song.

As a JET I came across teachers using the simplified “1 little, 2 little, 3 little Indians,” as per the Youtube video above.  Helpful teaching tool?  Well, I suppose.  I suppose just as helpful as a song counting down teddy bears or snowmen.

There was a point where I couldn’t take the awkwardness anymore, and I let the Sensei know, in my best persuasive and non-confrontational Japanese and body posture.  Not sure if she ever used the song again, but in her defense she had never thought of the song as racist – just cute.

What would you have done?

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9 responses to “10 Little Indians – Racism in Japan/Home

  1. Susie August 8, 2012 at 1:38 am

    I like the song. I have always liked it, I was taught the song when I was going to preschool back in 1984. I still find it catchy and cute; I never once thought it to be racist. But then again different times, I dunno. We also learned the 5 little monkey’s jumping on the bed song which may work better nowadays.

    Sometimes I think that everyone scrambling to be so PC ALL the time is really doing more harm than good. I dunno if I had kids I may teach them the Little Indians song because I learned it and never thought of it as offensive. But then I would hate to have my kids reprimanded, let alone be thought of as racist for an innocent song.

  2. Dustin Dye August 5, 2012 at 2:17 am

    Japanese aren’t very sensitive to racism, except for when they perceive it is directed at them. The “10 Little Indians” song we used at my elementary school said “10 Little Monkeys,” which was more PC, but the subtraction of a syllable threw off the rhythm.

  3. Kathrynryn August 5, 2012 at 1:20 am

    God imagine how those poor ducks feel – being sent over the hills and faraway and being abandoned by their mother!

    Was reading the other day that darama dolls are offensive to the blind, on account of them having no eyes and stuff.

  4. Tom August 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Just staggering how radically different their culture is compared to the west. Just the other day I read an article about how an asian group was offended by a t=shirt from a skate company that had asian stereotypes. The odd part was the shirt was designed by the skater whom the shirt was intended for that just so happened to be asian.

    Its so odd to see both sides of the spectrum where one side is overly sensitive, and the other side is not sensitive enough, and the only thing separating the two cultures is a body of water.

    Also, whats with all this hate for me and my red haired compatriots? Its not like we are albino and our voodoo is going to spoil the water supply by proxy.

    • angrygaijin August 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      I dunno! Speak for yourself, man. I’ve been trying to get my voodoo into the water supply for years! Haven’t quite honed it proper yet, is all. ;)

      Didn’t know you were a ginger too! Represent! :D

  5. kamo August 4, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Dunno exactly what I’d have done here, but something pretty similar, I reckon. As long as you make it clear that you’re not having a go, that it’s just about how you feel, then it’s fine.

    I’ve been on the other side, so I know how it can be done politely and effectively. Once it was pointed out that Hangman might not be so suitable because it still happens in Japan(!), then I was quite happy to use another spelling game.

    Then there was the time we watched the Disney Peter Pan at a culture festival. It’d been decades since I watched it and I’d forgotten all the other bits. If you thought ’10 Little Indians’ was bad, look at this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=JP&v=jRnhvu6T3bU

    Plus, Peter is a man whore of the first degree.

    • angrygaijin August 7, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      Hangings are still happening in Japan?? Wow, shoot. Or perhaps you mean the suicides… yeah, when you put it like that I can understand.

      Heh. Yup. That Peter Pan song is pretty horrible. I’ve been waiting to see if they try to approach it in the Kingdom Hearts games.

      Thanks for the vote of confidence. :) That situation had been really kinda bugging me. I wasn’t sure what I ought to have done.

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