I’ve mentioned this to lots of people over the years, but I’m still not sure about the answer, so I’ll post it here.
I’ve noticed that it’s socially acceptable to mimic a French accent. If you attempt a Parisian accent while commenting on the wine, none of your peers will assume that you’re anti-French, or acting in bad taste. They’ll just think you’re corny.
The same is true for a German accent. Or an Italian one.
But try the same exercise with a Chinese or Japanese accent and see how fast the freezing looks come. You can perform a Gallic shrug or frown, but you’d better not squint your eyes to approximate an epicanthic fold.
People doing European accents are A-OK. Those doing East-Asian ones are KKK.
Why is this?
I have a few theories, but only enough time to ask the question.
Update: A Wilson’s Quarterly issue distills an article by a philosopher asking similar questions.