Rewind to September 1986. Yasuhiro Nakasone, prime minister of a self-assured, economically powerful Japan, was taking swipes at American minorities -- especially African-Americans.

Japanese, he declared, were on average more intelligent than Americans because blacks and other nonwhites dragged down the U.S. score.

Skip to 1988 when, adding insult to injury, ruling-party heavyweight Michio Watanabe publicly remarked that African-Americans were by nature predisposed to reneging on debts.