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The video clip below provides excerpts from a conversation with author, columnist, and lecturer Baye McNeil.
In a candid interview conducted in the shadow of Yokohama Station, Baye McNeil recounts his journey as a writer in Japan, from initial challenges to society-changing successes. McNeil details how through writing he has addressed racial issues while considering the broader social context and his position as an international resident.
Baye McNeil was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Before departing for Japan in 2004, Baye had written for a local newspaper and completed a novel.
Upon arriving in Japan, McNeil began teaching and later began his blog, "Loco in Yokohama" which covered life in Japan from a Black New Yorker's perspective. The blog grew steadily in popularity, leading to a particular series of posts bringing Baye to the attention of readers worldwide. The series was a 42-part open discussion of race issues, later expanded into a critically acclaimed novel. The book, "Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist," was subsequently chosen by ExpatFinder as a Top 5 Expat Book.
In 2013, Baye released another book, "Loco in Yokohama," a collection of stories and anecdotes based on the goings-on at two Yokohama public schools, covering hot-button topics such as bullying in Japanese schools, parenting multi-racial children, and dealing with the sexual assault of youths on commuter trains. In 2014, McNeil was hired as a columnist for The Japan Times, the most widely-read English language newspaper in Japan. His column, "Black Eye" (wherein he focuses on the experiences of people of African descent living in Japan), has built a broad and growing readership internationally.
In 2015, Baye began his work as an activist is Japan by spearheading a successful protest to prevent the airing of a blackface minstrel show on Japanese TV. In 2017-18, in the wake of a blackface Eddie Murphy impersonation on a Japanese TV comedy show, Baye set off a global discussion and a national public discourse in Japan about the appropriateness of blackface. This incident brought Baye's activism in Japan to international attention, with coverage in the New York Times, BBC, Washington Post, Reuters and AP. As a result, Baye has been invited by major media conglomerates in Japan to talk about diversity and inclusivity in Japanese media.
In 2019, Baye's criticism of a major Japanese food company's "whitewashing" of tennis star Naomi Osaka also garnered global attention and firmly established McNeil's bona fides as a key influencer in Japanese media as it pertains to issues of race, diversity and inclusiveness. McNeil has since written Op-Eds for Washington Post and other major publications, and was featured in The New York Times Race/Related newsletter.
Baye also lectures at universities, including Waseda University in Tokyo, on topics such as the biracial experience in Japan, and the problems associated with stereotyping and presumptions. He does so with the hope of raising awareness of issues critical to Japan's future, the country he has come to love and calls home.
Baye McNeil <Set A>
Set A, Clip 1:
Baye McNeil on writing in Japan
Set A, Clip 2:
On his work as a newspaper columnist
In clip Set A, Baye McNeil recounts his original impetus and inspiration for writing in Japan, as well as his efforts to establish writing of a unique perspective that would resonate with readers. Posing key questions about racism, McNeil's blog "Loco in Yokohama" garnered significant popularity, paving the way for the books that followed.
McNeil describes his initial hesitation to accept a job as a newspaper columnist due to the desire to reach Japanese readers rather than foreigners, and the reasons why he ultimately took the position.
With the intention of eliminating misinformation about people of African descent in Japan, and with an aim to profile persons of African descent making a successful life in the country, McNeil's newspaper column continues today.