Baye McNeil is an African-American writer living in Japan. He is a columnist for The Japan Times and has authored two self-published memoirs, Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist (2012) and Loco in Yokohama (2013).
Upbringing as Recounted in First Book, Career
McNeil was born in Brooklyn, New York, where he was raised by a single mother. His first book, Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist, traces his life from Brooklyn to his current home in Japan (where he moved in 2004) and addresses issues of race and ethnicity from his viewpoint as an African American.
Among the events McNeil recounts concerning his life in the United States in the book are his experiences going to a pan-Africanist school, his membership in the Five-Percent Nation and the conflict this caused in his relationship with a white friend, his experience of racial conflict in the U.S. Army, a romantic relationship with a white woman in New York City and witnessing the events of 9/11 from the rooftop of his Brooklyn brownstone. The experiences he writes about concerning his life in Japan include Japanese people refusing to sit next to him on trains, the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and a love affair with a Japanese woman that ends in tragedy. (McNeil dedicates the book to this woman).
The journalist and critic, Kam Williams included it in his list of "10 Best Black Books of 2012" and called it, "A really remarkable and thought-provoking memoir about a sensitive soul's most unlikely route to a life-changing epiphany about the true meaning of racial tolerance."
McNeil has blogged extensively from his websites bayemcneil.com and locoinyokohama.com on topics such as Japan and racial issues. In addition, he has written for numerous publications, among them The Washington Post, Toyo Keizai and The Japan Times - where his monthly column "Black Eye" has appeared since 2014.
"Blackface" in Japan controversy
In 2015 McNeil was involved in a successful campaign to remove a segment of a show planned to air on Fuji TV in Japan, in which Japanese bands were to perform in "blackface." Later, in 2018, comedian Masatoshi Hamada appeared in blackface on Japanese television. McNeil's opposition to this was covered internationally by news outlets such as BBC, The New York Times, the New York Daily News, Vox and TBS.
Ariana Miyamoto and Naomi Osaka
McNeil has written about Ariana Miyamoto and Naomi Osaka, two women who have both African and Japanese ancestry. Miyamoto was crowned Miss Universe Japan in 2015 and was the first half Japanese to represent Japan in the Miss Universe competition. (Her father is African American; her mother is Japanese.) Osaka, a tennis player, represents Japan in competition but did not grow up there. (Osaka's father is Haitian and her mother is Japanese.)
Nissin Foods portrayed Osaka in an advertisement with light-colored skin, rather than with her natural dark skin. One of McNeil's pieces on Osaka was an Op-ed in The Washington Post, published in January 2019, concerning Nissin's decision to "whitewash" Osaka.
McNeil's commentary has been sought out by numerous journalists. Interviews with and commentary by him, as well as reviews of his work, have appeared in various media outlets. He has made television appearances on BBC and TBS, and has been quoted in various publications concerning race relations in Japan.
The New York Times published an interview with him in March 2019, and the website Japan Up Close (of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs) published an interview with him (in four parts) in April 2019. [excessive citations]
- Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist (Hunterfly Road Publishing, 2012) ISBN 978-0615587783
- Loco in Yokohama (Hunterfly Road Publishing, 2013) ISBN 978-0615885117
- McNeil, Baye. (2012). Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist, Brooklyn, New York: Hunterfly Road Publishing.
- Ross, Steve. "Baye McNeil on writing in Japan and work as a newspaper columnist" Japan Up Close, April 5, 2019 (Set A of four sets/parts)
- Williams, Kam. "10 Best Black Books of 2012" The Sly Fox Film Reviews, December 12, 2012
- Williams, Kam. "Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist (BOOK REVIEW)" The Sly Fox Film Reviews, August 1, 2012
- McNeil, Baye. "Black Eye" The Japan Times
- バイエ・マクニール (McNeil, Baye)."日清｢大坂なおみ動画｣炎上→削除問題の本質: グローバル企業として欠けていた視点とは" 東洋経済 ONLINE, January 24, 2019
- "The whitewashing of Japan’s Naomi Osaka was no accident" The Washington Post, January 31, 2019
- The Dr. Vibe Show, September 17, 2015
- Spitzer, Kirk. "Japan TV removes 'blackface' segment on popular music show"USA Today, March 12, 2015
- 'Japanese TV show featuring blackface actor sparks anger"BBC, January 4, 2018
- Specia, Megan. "Japanese Comedian Who Used Blackface Comes Under Fire Online" The New York Times, January 4, 2018
- McNeil, Baye. "Time for Japan to scrub off that blackface — for good" The Japan Times, January 30, 2018
- Leekaty, Katy. "Japan's blackface problem: the country's bizarre, troubled relationship with race" Vox, March 17, 2015
- Sblendorio, Peter. "Comedian wearing blackface on Japanese TV show sparks backlash" New York Daily News, January 4, 2018
- Rich, Motoko. "In U.S. Open Victory, Naomi Osaka Pushes Japan to Redefine Japanese" The New York Times, September 9, 2018
- "Meeting Miss Universe Japan, the 'half' who has it all" The Japan Times, April 19, 2015
- Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website, General Index
- Baye McNeil Interview (Index), Japan Up Close, April 5, 2019
- Ross, Steve. "Baye McNeil on writing as activism and eliminating blackface performances in Japan" Japan Up Close, April 5, 2019 (Set B of four sets/parts)
- Ross, Steve. "Baye McNeil on the history and meaning of blackface, positive outcomes, and media dynamics in a global village" Japan Up Close, April 5, 2019 (Set C of four sets/parts)
- Ross, Steve. "Baye McNeil on whitewashing, "hafu" ("half") biracial identity, individuality, and challenges in Japan; and opening minds by reducing presumptions made on the basis of race, gender, or physical condition" Japan Up Close, April 5, 2019 (Set D of four sets/parts)
- Hassan, Adeel. "What It’s Like to Be a Black Man in Japan" The New York Times, March 9, 2019
- Reedy, Thomas. "Meet Loco: blogger, author - and racist?" The Japan Times, August 21, 2012
- "Author of memoir on racism tackles teaching in Japan in new book" Japan Today, September 17, 2013
- "Teaching English in Japan - Interview with 'Loco'" Zooming Japan, September 19, 2013
- Morelli, Vivian. "Loco in Yokohama, by Baye McNeil" Tokyo Weekender, September 21, 2013
- McNeil, Baye (2012-01-15). Hi! My Name is Loco and I Am a Racist. ISBN 978-0615587783.
- McNeil, Baye (2013-09-30). Loco in Yokohama. ISBN 978-0615885117.