Tuesday, July 19, 2011

World Cup, Twitter and Racial Slurs

You might have watched the US Women's team play Japan in the Women's World Cup Final on Sunday like I did. It was a well-played match with the Japanese team winning after coming from behind twice to win in penalty kicks. I watched with family and although we were disappointed (we were pulling for the US team even though we are Japanese American) we got over the tough loss and were happy for the Japanese team.

from the Palos Verdes News volume XIV
Later that night I checked into twitter to find "Jap" trending. What? I clicked on top tweets and found many posts by people as horrified as I was. But when clicking on all tweets I read tweet after tweet using the derogatory term Japs. This was upsetting but not as upsetting as the tweets asking how the term Jap was offensive. So, here is a lesson for the kids (since many of the tweets were authored by youngsters) or others who don't know.

Jap was used as a pejorative during World War II. It was used interchangablely for the people of Japan who America was at war with, as well as Japanese-Americans (many of whom were removed from the west coast and interned or served in the armed forces). According to both the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries, it is considered a racial slur. It is not the equivalent of Brit or Aussie. Unless you intend to come off as a racist, do not use this slur.

This link is to a discussion of the twitter phenomenon and here is a link to the Densho: The Japanese American Internment where you can learn more about the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II.


  1. Noriko, beautifully handled and well said. I'm curious to know where the people using the term are getting from. Surely, if the majority of them are younger people, they are even further removed from the time when this word would have been used regularly. SO is the word just hanging around in the ether, or is it still actually being used, and if so by who? Apart from today, I can't remember the last time I heard this word being used or read it anywhere. Cheers.

  2. I was curious about that too, Mick. Where are kids learning these slurs? I've only heard it a couple of times (on the basketball court during a pick-up game). Some academic somewhere should conduct a study.