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Racism and the Chinese-American Experience: Contemporary Issues

This guide aims to contextualize the racism experienced by Chinese-Americans.

Books

Academic Text

Modern Yellow Peril and Racism

In January of 2018 an episode of The Steve Harvey Show aired in which the host, Steve Harvey, made offensive jokes at the expense of Asian men. The segment was related began with mocking ridiculous self-help books including the book How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men that came out in 2004. Harvey proceeds to go on a tear regarding how women don't want to date Asian men and then says, "I don't even like Chinese food. It don't stay with you no time... I don't eat what I can't pronounce." After the episode aired the AngryAsianMan blog published the first reaction to the segment which was then picked up by various major and minor new sources and debated on twitter. 

While Harvey's comments were racist and shameful it was his reaction after the story broke that is also deeply concerning. Harvey made a lukewarm apology on Twitter and was quoted as saying, "They’re kind of beating me up on the internet right now for no reason” to President Trump. Which is a clear indication he had no remorse for what he said or understood why it was problematic.

Check out the the Stereotypes and Gender Tab to learn more about the emasculation of Asian men.

You can watch the clip here.

It is easy for us to think that racism towards Chinese and Asian-Americans is a thing of the past. But racist stereotypes and harmful tropes still exist.

"In 1997, The National Review magazine published an illustrated cover of then President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. They were in stereotypical Oriental garb and featuring caricatured features, buck teeth and slanted eyes." Yellow-Face.com

Turning "Chinese" into a costume for Halloween is disrespectful and an example of cultural appropriation.

Chinese and Asian women have long been exoticised and fetishized in Western Culture as symbols of seduction and subservience. Costumes like these only further portray and reinforce these dangerous stereotypes.

Nicole Kidman in a stylized version of a Qipao while standing among paper lanterns in the movie Australia .

Modern movies often rely on Asian inspired imagery and fashions when trying to convey the main character as delicate or exotic. The audience picks up on these visual cues instantly. The heavy use of Chinese paper lanterns, fans, and fashions silently reinforces the stereotypes of Asian cultures as "other" to be used as a prop.

PBS: Becoming American: The Chinese American Experience

In March 2003 PBS released a documentary series called Becoming American: The Chinese Experience by Bill Moyers. The three part series chronicles the Chinese-American experience from immigration, to exclusion, to assimilation, to  modern culture clashes and navigating pervasive stereotyping.

The series is available to watch on Youtube but is of poor quality. They can be purchased directly from PBS as a three DVD set or purchased on Amazon or may potentially be available to rent from your local library.

The webpage created for the series is still active and provides episode overviews, first hand accounts from Chinese-Americans, and an excellent resource list. It is important to note that some of the links on the resource page are broken. However, page provides enough information that can be used to track down the source mentioned.

Keywords

  • Assimilation
  • Forced Assimilation
  • First-Generation
  • Second-Generation
  • Immigrant Experience
  • Personal Narrative
  • Appropriation

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