Former Japanese Abe cabinet minister Kozo Yamamoto has come under fire for making some racially motivated remarks about black people. The ex-minister made the controversial comments on Thursday at a meeting of the members of the ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party, in Kitakyushu, Japan.
In his address, Yamamoto wondered why Asahiko Mihara, a member of the Lower House representing Fukuoka Prefecture, has “such a black thing”, referring to Mihara’s passion for working with Africans.
His remarks triggered a public uproar with some people accusing him of racially profiling black people. But Mr. Yamamoto’s office issued a statement on Saturday denying claims that his remarks were racially motivated. He too denied claims that he’s a racist.
“I referred to the continent of Africa and wanted to indicate how hard he [Mihara] is working [for Africa]. I didn’t say it in the context of race or something of the sort,” Yamamoto was quoted by Japan Times.
Local reports also indicate that the legislator’s office attempted to justify his demeaning remarks by arguing that previously Africa used to be referred to as “the Dark Continent”, which Yamamoto had in mind when he made the comments.
“If my remark can cause misunderstanding, I would like to withdraw it,” the lawmaker told reporters on Saturday.
Yamamoto, a native of Yukuhashi, Fukuoka, is a popular advocate of reflation policies and a staunch proponent of the use of financial easing tools to prevent deflation in Japan. He served as the Minister of Regional Revitalization from August 2016 to October 2017, when he was fired in a cabinet reshuffle.
Six months before he was relieved of his ministerial post, the controversial lawmaker was embroiled in a major scandal after he referred to museum curators as a “cancer” that must be destroyed, according to Japan Times.
The statement sparked a nationwide uproar, forcing him to withdraw and apologize. His disparaging comments about Africa come less than two months after a museum in China caused a stir on social media after it hosted a photo exhibition comparing Africans to wild animals.
The public outcry forced the Museum in Hong Kong to pull down the photography exhibit, although no official apology was issued. These incidents only serve to show that racism is a global problem.