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Regarding Brian Clacey’s Jan. 1 letter, “On the lookout for a slight“: I took up Clacey’s suggestion and asked myself why “Jap” is considered racist while “Brit” is not. While perhaps not answering his question completely, I think looking at who uses these labels offers a partial answer.

Simply put, Brits are known to refer to themselves as “Brits” in all manner of ways similar to how “British” is used, but obviously in a more informal manner. The same does not hold for “Jap” or for its derivative “Nip.” When used, it is usually by non-Japanese in contexts that are generally unflattering. Certainly it is not the benign label Clacey implies it is.

A similar analysis can be done with “rice-.” I have never heard a group of people anywhere in the world or the things they produce being complimentarily referred to by the main food they eat. I have heard these terms in contexts of jokes, slurs and put-downs by people not belonging to that group.

I do not really understand Clacey’s argument that “Jap” and the prefix “rice-” are not racist. Clearly it is impolite to refer to a people by terms they themselves do not use; to insist on using those terms does point to racism.

When asked, it took my wife a second to respond “That’s racist.” And to the question of whether the Japanese use “Jap,” she responded with a quick, “No way.” That is enough to tell me all I need to know about its usage and appropriateness.

michael iwane-salovaara

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