From Sociological Images: Why do the Japanese draw themselves as white?
Why do the Japanese draw themselves as white? You see that especially in manga and anime.
As it turns out, that is an American opinion, not a Japanese one. The Japanese see anime characters as being Japanese. It is Americans who think they are white. Why? Because to them white is the Default Human Being.
If I draw a stick figure, most Americans will assume that it is a white man. Because to them that is the Default Human Being. For them to think it is a woman I have to add a dress or long hair; for Asian, I have to add slanted eyes; for black, I add kinky hair or brown skin. Etc.
The Other has to be marked. If there are no stereotyped markings of otherness, then white is assumed.
I came across this in the context of people not understanding the dissatisfaction with the whitewashing of Ghost in the Shell with Scarlett Johanssen being cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi, but I believe it’s important in a lot of other contexts as well: we need to realize that our concept of the “default human being” is highly dependent upon our own culture and ingrained biases.