A volunteer translator at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in Oita Prefecture, Japan caused outrage after describing her experience with African athletes and calling them “cute chimpanzees.”
The unnamed woman, believed to be in her 50s and who has worked with athletes from Africa including Morocco, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa, made the comment in her now-deleted blog, according to NHK News Web
In her entry, which she wrote on February 10 — seven days after the marathon ended — the woman wrote: “It felt like communicating with cavemen,” adding, “They were shy chimpanzees at first, but little by little they opened up.”
Then, in a video, she added a caption of her and the athletes saying “cute chimpanzees.”
Her blog post was eventually discovered and later reported to the office she worked with.
She then closed down the blog and admitted to creating the post: “I didn’t have any feelings of racism or malicious intent. I regret my thoughtless choice of words.”
“The blog post was extremely inappropriate, and we deeply apologize to the athletes and all the people who saw it,” the office wrote in its apology letter. “We will strive from now on to stress the importance of responsibility to our volunteers, and to educate them.”
Japanese netizens reacted negatively to the woman’s comments:
“Wow. I’m not sure if she’s evil or just stupid.”
“How does someone this small-minded become a translator?”
“And now the invited athletes probably won’t come back because of her.”
“I don’t understand how you can possibly call someone a ‘caveman’ or ‘chimpanzee’ and not have that be malicious intent.”
“She says she didn’t mean it, but that’s even worse. Unintentional discrimination is how racism perpetuates.”
“Now everyone in the world will think we Japanese people are like this.”
Others also feared that the country would be judged because of the actions of one person.