Racial Profiling

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My efforts at racial profiling began when a Chinese friend, who like many Chinese still harbor a great grudge against the Japanese, not only on account of Japanese brutality during their aggression into China beginning in 1937, but because of the continuing Japanese denial and historical revisionism…. Anyway, this friend said he could spot a Japanese “from across the room”, and I suppose he meant a room otherwise filled with Chinese. So I thought I must be awfully ethnically insensitive, and should work on it.

By now I had a pretty good baseline on the variations in the Chinese countenance, and even some applied practice in Vietnam. But, anticipating our trip to Japan, it was clear that this would be the real McCoy, and the perfect opportunity to train in physiogonometrics. Of course, as I started observing Japanese in trains and restaurants and on park benches, I realized that clothing and iPods and even mannerisms also provided cues. Any social scientist would have warned me of these confounding variables. In an attempt to neutralize them, I tried to “undress” my subjects, so to say, in the interests of scientific rigor, you understand. Even so, this business of racial discrimination is exacting, and it would have been nice to have had a set of calipers, like Himmler’s people had at their disposal.

After ten days, I had the defining characteristics of the Japanese down pat. Though I did have to consider several angles, which would be hard to implement across a room. Still, I felt pride of achievement. The amazing thing is that, after returning to Hangzhou, with my enhanced sensitivities, I began to realize how many Japanese there were living here in China. The few that I have approached, and addressed with my small vocabulary of Japanese greetings, pretended not to understand me. Of course, if I were a Japanese living in China, I too would dissemble, given all the Chinese observing me from across the room. Dissemblance, denial — they’re a devious race these Japs, the whole lot of them. What with their little gadgets and funny-sounding “r’s”, they’ve got a choke-collar on the whole Asian economy far out of proportion to their diminutive size, and that after we whipped their asses in ’45.

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