Tuesday, October 26, 2010
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.