Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Racially Profiled

I was pulled over by a cop yesterday. On my bike. It was a clear case of racial profiling.

I was biking between the post office and the grocery store. I crossed a busy street on a green light. Then I crossed a tiny, not at all busy, side street. Shortly thereafter a police officer rolled up next to me on his little moped. He asked if I spoke English. His was phenomenal for a Japanese person. He said I had failed to signal my turn.

Now, this was odd because a) I have never EVER seen anyone on a bike use hand signals in Japan. I was sure it wasn't even a thing here. and b) what I had done was run a red light--I'd give him that. I indicated that I was very sorry, didn't know I was to use hand signals and thought I'd be on my way. Apparently he wasn't done with his English practice though (when I gave him the obligatory compliment on it he replied that he'd spent a year in Australia). He proceeded to give me a warning card. It's a yellow card that says "yellow card" on it in English. He said I should be more careful and if I get caught breaking laws on my bike again I may have to go to the police station. For failing to signal on my bike? I know Japan is safe but surely there is something more pressing to prosecute.

The funny thing about all this is that the same cop pulled John and a friend of ours over a few months ago. They were on their bikes, doing nothing wrong and he asked to see their foreign registration cards. It's clear he's profiling us to practice his English. I wouldn't mind if he wasn't actually giving out warning cards for laws I see teenagers and old grannies violating all the time. I felt like inviting him to join the English for Travel class we're teaching at the town community center. There are ways he can practice his English without just pulling over every gaijin he sees.

In conclusion, racial profiling is the pits. I knew it before but now I know it firsthand. Now I have to be super careful on my bike. The one good thing is that my Japanese reading friend read my yellow card last night and I was actually warned for running a red light. So, I don't think I have to go around being the only one in Japan using hand signals while biking.


  1. They don't allow me to attend the morning meetings at Kanazawa Elementary. Like if I'm sitting at the desk minding my own business they kick me out and I have to wait outside. The Kyoto sensei is totally racist. They also make me park wayyyy in the back of the school. It's like they are trying to hide me or pretend I'm not there on Mondays.

  2. John has similar issues at his schools sometimes. I meant this post mostly sarcastically, but we really are second class citizens. I'm glad I'm just here for a few years. You never get used to being treated differently/worse but it's nice when there's an end in sight. It really makes you feel for the immigrants in Japan like the Brazilians, Chinese, Korean and Filipino folks who are more stuck here.

  3. So if they give you two yellow cards, does that equal a red card? And then do you have to sit at home the next time you want to ride your bike? Oh, Japan.

  4. Yeah, I may have to pay a fine or something next time I commit an infraction of a bike law. So, I'm biking on my best behavior. Crazy.