On my way to and from work I have been distracted by the televised ads for a certain English conversation school (which will remain nameless). There are a couple different versions, so it took a few views for it to finally hit me.
Basically, one of the ads shows a man going into a one-on-one eikaiwa session thinking: 'Me, alone with a foreigner?!' (and yes, it is written out exactly like that)
Sincerely, I find it rather annoying, bordering on the offensive.
1- I hate the term gaijin/gaikokujin. It still smacks of that 'everyone over there, who isn't us'. As if other countries are all the same, lumped together by their non-Japaneseness. I can deal with oubeijin,as I know it is very difficult for non-EU/US citizens to distinguish between Western countries. Nonetheless, I never use those terms, usually saying 'non-Japanese' or indicating someone's nationality specifically.
2- What is with this 'omg, I will be alone with someone from another country! What will I do? Will he/she try to eat me?!' mentality. Others have written extensively (and far more eloquently) on the subject of (especially non-Asian) 'gaijin' not truly being viewed as actual people.
And this is the problem. Because most people would not say 'Me, alone with another person?!', unless said person was a recognized axe-murderer, known flasher or other dangerous critter.
No matter what my boss says on the subject, it is subtle discrimination, from what I can imagine very similar to that African Americans face in the US. The constant 'oh, your Japanese is so good' comments. They are fully acceptable if you are a student. Not if you work full time for a Japanese company, and still occasionally get the keigo wrong in your frequent e-mails. The questions like 'are foreigners ever shy?'. Who? Everyone outside of Japan? 10 people, 10 colours ya'll.
Okay, enough from me. I shall go have a cup of tea and stop being crabby.