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Hi Blog. I found this experience online a few days ago from someone I trust, who has extensive Japanese experience and knowledge. The author had an interesting experience with a traffic accident (which wasn’t the author’s fault) and it resulted in being racially profiled.
But what makes this a Debito.org Issue is that the Japanese police are now apparently dedicating a special unit just to investigate “bad foreigners”, even those involved in traffic fender benders!
(Making the story even more authentic is the part about the cop afterward asking for further cooperation in the racial profiling. It happened too me to on the day I naturalized!)
Read on. Reproduced with the permission of the author. Debito Arudou Ph.D.
XY: I had a bitter but enlightening experience today.
Returned to a supermarket parking lot this morning to find my car surrounded by a small group of Japanese police and onlookers. Apparently a lady backed into my car when I wasn’t there and had called the police to file a report. I think they were all quite surprised to learn that the car was driven there by an American and even more surprised that the American could speak Japanese. Everyone was very kind and both the cops and the woman who hit my car took the time to speak over the phone to my boss and apologize for the incident.
Things got strange when the regular uniformed police called in their racial profiling specialist unit for backup. This was a man wearing a plain white polo shirt who told me I needed to stick around after letting the woman who had hit my car go, did not present a badge, and introduced himself only when I asked him who he was as a man whose job it is to catch “bad foreigners.” He explained that he wanted to check if my visa card and drivers license were fake because “it’s very easy to make fakes these days.”
If the prevalence of fakes was the only issue at hand, one would wonder why he let the woman who had hit my car go without also checking to see whether her license was also a fake, but I didn’t bother pointing this out because it was obviously taken for granted that only “bad foreigners” would make fake IDs and conduct whatever nefarious activities they were potentially looking for beyond the ID pretext.
I stood around for 30 minutes in the heat batting around irrelevant questions until I was cleared to go. The racial profiling unit explained to me without a smile that catching “bad foreigners” is hard work and told me to keep an eye out and let him know if I saw anything in the future. I told him I’d do my best.
Altogether, the issue was resolved without any incident, other than the bullshit that I went over the meter time in the parking lot because my car was hit, and that they made me pay this out of my own money. I left with only a small dent and a learning experience.
Coming from the U.S., it’s an interesting experience as a white person with blonde hair to become an ethnic minority in another country, and to get a few molecules of a taste of the kind of shit ethnic minorities in the U.S. and other countries have to put up with on a regular basis.
It also adds a bit of perspective to experience firsthand that racial profiling and mistrust of “foreigners” isn’t a uniquely American concept, but that human beings do the same shit the whole world over, even in countries like Japan that are often stereotyped as nations grounded in respect for others.
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