白人 - Controversial or not?

I was recently doing Wanikani at school (I am an English teacher), and the above kanji showed up in my reviews. The Japanese language teacher that sits next to me was very shocked to see I was learning that kanji, and told me it is considered discriminative/derogatory. She told me the same applied to other potential combinations of the above, with different colours.

So my question is, is this a derogatory term or not? I must admit I was a little shocked to find it on Wanikani, but didntt think much of it at the time… I don`t want to use it or continue having that up on my screen if it is considered offensive in some way, especially at my place of work. Any thoughts?

EDIT: UPDATE BELOW

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I haven’t encountered anyone suggesting that it’s a sensitive term before. I’m not really sure there is a better term if you’re going to explicitly mention someone’s race.

The teacher in question seems like an outlier to me, in terms of their threshold for what terms are sensitive. Perhaps they experienced someone’s negative reaction to it in the past, or came to this feeling by having discussions about race relations in other countries. They might be uncomfortable explaining why they feel that way more, but it would be interesting to know.

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I see… I think I will ask her more about it then. We`re close enough that I feel comfortable asking. Thank you!

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I can’t speak for them, but I imagine they’re more or less surprised you would learn it. It can be seen as discriminatory if used that way, but I imagine its similar to how kids learn bad words, eventually you’ll learn it anyways or you’ll see it somewhere it a book/tv/etc. Its like the difference between “saying” a bad word vs “using” a word.

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I’m not sure it really is a “bad” word though. Typically if a word is sensitive, one of the leading places you’ll see it avoided is NHK.

Below is an article on NHK about a shooting in America, which uses the terms 白人 and 黒人 to discuss the shooter and victim, because it’s relevant to what happened and the situation in America. NHK would replace these terms with accurate counterparts if they were offensive and such counterparts existed, I feel.

米ジョージア州 黒人男性射殺 白人元警察官 息子ら有罪の評決 | アメリカ人種差別問題 | NHKニュース

In a situation like this, I’m not sure there is another way in Japanese to talk about something like the contents of that article.

It also would be interesting to get the teacher’s perspective on that, since you’re using WaniKani to learn how to read Japanese, and clearly here is a respected source using those words, which makes them worth learning.

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Right, I am not saying its a “bad word” I guess Im just aligning with the posters sentiment it was maybe interpreted as one. I never have seen those as bad words, just identifiers, but like any other one its all in the delivery and intent.

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Don’t think it has to do with the word itself but that using it is very confrontative and very direct.

Here comes Deo lmao

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That reminds me of what a Japanese friend asked me the other day. He’d been watching Indiana Jones or something with nazis and was wondering if “Jews” was a bad word.

I told him much the same, that it’s not a bad word but because of who’s saying it, they don’t mean it in a good way. I think the same kind of logic applies here too, so I agree with you.

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Dio is a Bad Guy but hes not a “Bad Guy” - Wreck it Ralph, probably.

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I guess it depends on the context in which the words are used, but I don’t believe the words themselves are derogatory. Adding んぼ to 黒 or 白 do make them derogatory words, but 赤んぼ is a perfectly fine alternative to 赤ちゃん.

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NSFW

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I’m not sure if you live in Japan or not, but generally Japanese people are much more direct about race than in America (or other western countries I am guessing but I have only spent a small amount of time in Europe). I’m sure if you go around saying stuff like 白人 are better than everyone or something like that than yeah thats going to be pretty offensive.

But talking about race doesn’t have all the negative connotations it does in other parts of the world here, and Japanese people talk a lot about if people are half race, or what race that person is, etc etc. It’s definitely something you should learn because it is used in Japanese (along with 黒人 and others).

I honestly have no idea what your friend was talking about because its not any more controversial than learning “white person” or “black person” in English. Those are pretty commonly used. Neither is a racial slur of any kind and is used as statements of fact. Words can always be twisted but wanikani is not teaching you anything taboo in this regard.

Edit: Also Japanese people are continuously shocked about kanji that you learn in wanikani (村人 for example had my girlfriend laughing because of how useless it is). So I’m doubting this will be the last time someone is asking you “why are you learning this word?”

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Filthy Frank is the only way to learn REAL Japanese.

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Nah, he’s trash. Stick him in the garbage, or better yet, the sun.

That’s it for shenanigans on my end though. I don’t want to derail

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NSFW

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I don’t see any reason that they should be offensive, they seem like neutral descriptive words to me. Japanese has a lot of words which are at very varying degrees of politeness, from very complimentary to heavily insulting depending on context tho (see きさま).

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I lived in Japan for six years. My husband is Japanese. We have both heard and used 白人 and 黒人 frequently in a variety of contexts. It is as common as saying “white person” or “black person” in English.

Also: The words 白人 and 黒人 in themselves seem to have no negative connotation… but of course, it all depends on what else you say in conjunction with those words, right?

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I can’t say for Japanese but in Chinese it’s the same: 白人 / 黑人 and it’s not racist.

I can’t see why it would be racist. It is not racist to say “white people” “black people” in English.

e.g.: Have you seen my friend? A tall white/black dude wearing glasses?

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