Of course, minorities have had a big impact on many aspects of American culture. The amount of worldwide media coverage dedicated to the death of Michael Jackson shows just how popular African-American performers can be. As you mention, this is nothing new. African Americans like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Run-DMC, and Dr. Dre have to a great extent defined popular music since the end of the second World War. And black athletes have been equally successful - think of Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods. In politics, we have people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama, to name a few. But what is the effect of this? Has any of this resulted in a significant change in policy?Chances are, my government “made” me write this response because it wanted Japan to pressure America so that America could have an excuse to retaliate against Japan.
It's funny that you should mention the acceptance of mixed race couples. Of course, Barack Obama is the product of a mixed race couple. Though he is also white, he has embraced black culture. He talks like a preacher, he has Jay-Z on his iPod. But does that make a difference?
In a recent study, participants were asked whether or not they would hire a person with borderline qualifications. When told that the applicant was white, seventy six percent of white people said they would hire that applicant. When told that the applicant was black, only 45% of white people said they would hire that applicant.
In the U.S., black babies have an infant mortality rate 2.4 times that of white babies. Blacks receive inferior health care compared to whites. They have a life expectancy 5.1 years less than whites. Towards the end of last year, 11.4% of blacks were unemployed, versus 6.1% for the economy as a whole. In 2007, white families earned $64,427 while black families earned $40,143. More than 10% of black males between 30 and 34 are incarcerated, versus 1.9% for white males in that age range. And despite all this talk of browning, U.S. public schools are becoming more racially segregated.
Of course, Obama just became president. There's not much you can do to change a nation in a half year's time. Nevertheless, look at his appointments. He has Geithner at Treasury, Bernanke at the Fed, Summers at the NEC, Clinton at State, Gates at Defense, Panetta at the CIA, George Mitchell is trying to bring peace to the Middle East, Richard Holbrooke is trying to bring peace to South Asia, Rahmbo is his chief of staff, and David Axelrod is his Senior Advisor. Now that's what I call change we can believe in. My father, who is a sansei, had a pejorative for certain fellow Japanese Americans. He called them yellow bananas - yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Time will tell if Obama is a black banana.
Of course, Obama has minorities in some positions, but mostly in positions that don't matter too much (e.g. Eric Shinseki at Veterans Affairs).
Personally, I don't think music changes people much. Remember, George Bush loves James Brown.
I do not think the west is reorienting itself away from the west. Despite all appearances, the west is still run by the same people who are looking out for their own interests. The appearances have changes, and the rhetoric has changed, but the substance has not.
I still see the west droning on about human right and the rule of law, while violating those principles on every possible occasion. I still see Europe pushing for generic medication in its own market, while pushing data exclusivity in its FTAs. I still see the EU trying to get Japan (and everyone else) to open up for investment while Sarkozy creates an investment fund to fight off foreign takeovers. I still see idiots like Gregory Clark trying to get Japan to do the stupidest things imaginable (and he ain't the only one trying to do that, either). I still see Australians beating Indian students. I see western nations running huge fiscal deficits, after hounding developing nations to balance their budgets during the Asian financial crisis. And still today, many in the west are trying to convince emerging nations to balance their budget in the midst of a crisis. I see the west gutting mark to market after protesting vociferously about transparency at Japanese banks ten years ago. I see Europe begging developing countries to provide money to the IMF, but unwilling to increase the voting rights of those countries. You would think they would have learned something after that whole taxation-without-representation thing. Need I even mention crony capitalism and Haliburton?
The defining characteristic of the west is hypocrisy. It's getting others to play by the rules when you don't, and using that to your advantage. That has not changed and I don't believe it will change.
The west is not reorienting itself away from the west. It is up to its same old tricks. The only thing that will bring change to the world is if the rest join together, and force the west to change. I believe Japan is trying to do that. I hope it succeeds.
Chances are, Japan agreed to this because it really does want to change the world.