Is it objectively and unquestionably racist if a company does this...

Has an internal list of employees (like a list of contacts for emailing) and the employees are grouped by race?

I work in such a company. My co-worker says no.

What say you?

Probably unless they can come up with a really good justification.

What excuse does the company use?

That your coworker does not see the inherit racism kind of leads me to suspect it is motivativated by hate instead of some genuine business need.

There are only a few reasons it would be legit and even then maybe not. The most legit I can think of right now is cosmetology, because you’re more likely to know how things look on a certain complexion if you are used to working with it on yourself: even then, it would only be one of many deciding factors.

There’s also modelling and background actors, where how something looks is very important, but that is murky, as to whether to give the customers what they want or just let them deal with it.

Could it be that they’re required to keep track of such information by someone, as evidence that they are hiring a racially diverse workforce?

No It’s just me and my Japanese law firm. They have a hierarchy list of contact people, top is the boss, bottom is the lowest. I’m on the bottom. But I know I earn much more than most people on that list (earn for the company and earn for myself) Do I really need to be on the bottom? My coworker says its because my name in in English. Is that a valid factor? I am on the fence.

My coworker wants to have lunch with me tomorrow and explain why I am wrong. I want third party input.

This was my first thought. Showing workforce diversity is big these days and race is a large element of that. How can you know/show/track workforce diversity if you can’t record the race of the employees?

Are all the other folks there Japanese citizens, and you’re not a Japanese citizen?

The name thing in this case sounds a little more like nationalistic chauvinism than racism–but the additional information changes the question a fair amount.

Yes I am the only non Japanese full-time employee.

Are you an employee of the firm, or of the branch?

Because I can see an international company separating “core” employees from “local” workers, for HR purposes.

The difference between the two can be purely academic.

If the ordering is based on some metric of “importance”, but your coworker says they have overridden that to put people with English names at the bottom - then that’s not a justification, it’s an admission of racism.

Nationalistic chauvinism = Japanese people are superior
Racism = non-Japanese people are inferior

Is that about it?

How is your name displayed in the email list, in Japanese chara or English (Roman) chara? If so, that could very well be the difference, a technical one vs. any other reason.


How are Japanese-Americans treated on this list? If they’re treated the same as Japanese citizens, then maybe the difference is racism.

How are white people who are Japanese citizens treated on this list? If they’re treated the same as folks with millennia of ancestors in Japan, then maybe the difference is nationalism.

How would an Ainu citizen of Japan be treated? If they’re treated the same as those from the ethnic majority, then maybe the difference is nationalism.

And so on.

First of all, given your description, this is not an issue of racism. “English” and “Japanese” are not races, they are nationalities. Secondly, it’s impossible to tell from the limited information we have whether it is an issue of nationalism or not. You say the list is hierarchical, but give conflicting information on how the hierarchy is structured. You initially indicate that the list goes from highest position to lowest, as in an org chart, but then you say you should be higher on the list because you generate more income for the firm than others. It is possible to bring in more business than some others but still be in an entry level position on the org chart.

It would be easier to determine intent if there were more non-Japanese employees and they all were at the bottom of the list, but since it is just you it’s hard to say.

This is a very practical question actually aside from the unlikely cases of white Japanese citizens or Ainu employees of Japanese companies in the US. :slight_smile:

I worked for a Japanese company in the US. ‘Japanese staff’ meant people hired by the company in Japan (all of whom in practice were Japanese nationals of Japanese ethnicity). Their employment terms and compensation system were different than that of ‘local staff’, people hired in the US.

‘Local staff’ definitely included Japanese nationals hired in the US. I don’t recall any Japanese-Americans working there but it surely would have been the same.

I also worked at one time for a non-Japanese firm in Japan. There’s clannishness in modern Japan. It can be amusing stuff, sometimes less amusing. But it’s often exaggerated by Americans/westerners IMO. And that includes other people with direct experience there playing up those aspects, because it’s something amusing, shocking, interesting. I myself have told people funny/shocking stories about stuff like that, but that’s a funny story, not the totality of all my experiences on average.

Back to that example, just because there’s a legitimate reason (in the Japanese firm I worked for anyway there was) to distinguish ‘Japanese’ from ‘local’ staff didn’t mean there was no questionable preferences among staff by senior management. Although again Japanese nationals hired in the US were not on the long term career track any more than US nationals were, maybe less so. But the formal distinction had validity for certain purposes, and a cautious and bureaucratic HR dept staffed by Americans and in touch with all the latest laws and court cases was approving it.

If you’re Korean or Chinese and in Japan. It’s racist.

Just like if you’re black in Alabama and you’re the bottom of the list, it’s racist. Your white friends might invent some impressive casuistry to explain why it’s not, but don’t be stupid. It is.

That your name is in English may be the issue. Perhaps they separated your name because it doesn’t render easily or correctly in their alphabet (hiragana?)?

If it were a list ordered by name, that would make sense. But if it’s a list ordered by some metric of “importance” - with the CEO at the top, etc. - then it doesn’t.