Stereotypes of East and Southeast Asians in the United States: Wikis

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Stereotypes of East Asians are ethnic stereotypes found in Western societies. Stereotypes of Asian people, specifically East Asians, like other ethnic stereotypes, are often manifest in a society's media, literature, theater and other creative expressions. In many instances, media portrayals of Asians often reflect a dominant Eurocentric perception of Asians rather than realistic and authentic depictions of true cultures, customs and behaviors.[1] However, these stereotypes have mainly negative repercussions for Asians and Asian immigrants in daily interactions, current events, and governmental legislation. Asians have experienced discrimination and have been victims of hate crimes related to their ethnic stereotypes, as it has been used to reinforce xenophobic sentiment.


Orientalism, mysticism and exoticism

According to Edward Said, orientalism refers to the manner in which the West [sic:Westerner] interprets or comes to terms with their experiences and encounters with the foreign or unfamiliar Orient, or the East. Said claimed that "the Orient" was a European invention to denote Asia as a place of exoticism, romance, and remarkable experiences and also as a concept to contrast (commonly negatively) against Western civilization.[2]

The effects of orientalism in Western cultures includes the "othering" of Asians and Asian Americans; their cultures and lifestyles perceived as "exotic", in stark contrast to "ordinary" Western customs.[2] While Western cultures are perceived or believed capable of change and modernization, Asian cultures are considered (in contrast) ancient. [3]

Stereotypes of exclusion

"Yellow Peril"

1899 editorial cartoon with caption: "The Yellow Terror in all his glory."

The term "Yellow Peril" refers to a Caucasian apprehension, peaking in the late 19th-century, that white inhabitants of Australia, Canada or the United States would be overwhelmed and swamped by a massive influx of Asians; who would fill the nation with a foreign culture and speech incomprehensible to those already there and "steal" jobs away from the white inhabitants. During this time, numerous anti-Asian sentiments were expressed by politicians and writers, especially on the West Coast, with headlines like "The 'Yellow Peril'" (Los Angeles Times, 1886) and "Conference Endorses Chinese Exclusion" (The New York Times, 1905) and the later Japanese Exclusion Act. The American Immigration Act of 1924 limited the number of Asians because they were considered an "undesirable" race.[4] Australia had similar fears and introduced a White Australia policy, restricting immigration between 1901 to 1973, with some elements of the policies persisting to the 1980s. On 12 February 2002, Helen Clark, then prime minister of New Zealand apologised "to those Chinese people who had paid the poll tax and suffered other discrimination, and to their descendants. She also stated that Cabinet had authorised her and the Minister for Ethnic Affairs to pursue with representatives of the families of the early settlers a form of reconciliation which would be appropriate to and of benefit to the Chinese community." [5] Similarly, Canada had in place a head tax on Asian immigrants to Canada in the early 20th century; a formal government apology was given in 2007 (with compensation to the surviving head tax payers and their descendants).

Perpetual foreigner

Throughout America's history, Asian Americans have been conceived, treated, and portrayed as perpetual foreigners who are unable to be assimilated and inherently foreign regardless of citizenship or duration of residence in America.[6]

Model minority stereotype

Asian Americans have also been stereotyped as a "model minority"; that is, positive traits are applied as a stereotype. Asians are seen as hardworking, politically inactive, studious, intelligent, productive, and inoffensive people who have elevated their social standing through merit and diligence. This label is given in contrast to other racial stereotypes which routinely accuse minorities of socially unwelcome traits: such as laziness or criminal tendencies.[7]

However, many Asian Americans believe the model minority stereotype to be damaging and inaccurate, and are acting to dispel this stereotype.[8] Scholars, activists, and most major American news sources have started to oppose this stereotype, calling it a misconception that exaggerates the success of Asian Americans.[9][10][11][12][13] According to those trying to debunk this belief, the model minority stereotype alienates Asian Americans from other minorities and covers up actual Asian American issues and needs that are still not properly addressed in America today.[14] For example, the widespread notion that Asian Americans earn higher-than-average income obscures issues such as the "glass ceiling"/"bamboo ceiling" phenomenon, where advancement into the highest-level managerial or executive positions is blocked,[15][16][17] and the fact that Asian Americans must acquire more education and work more hours than their white counterparts to earn the same amount of money.[18] The "model minority" image is also seen as being damaging to Asian American students because their assumed success makes it easy for educators to overlook Asian American students who are struggling academically.[19] Bhattacharyya, Srilata: From "Yellow Peril" to "Model Minority": The Transition of Asian Americans: Additional information about the document that does not fit in any of the other fields; not used after 2004. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Mid-South Educational Research Association (30th, Little Rock, AR, November 14-16, 2001): Full text available: [5][20]

For example, 25.2% of Asian Americans over age 25 hold a bachelor's degree compared to only 15.5% of the general American population, thus giving the impression of Asian American success. However, only 6.9% of Cambodians, and 6.2% of Laotians in this age group in America hold bachelor's degrees- albeit attributed by researchers due to poverty and severe mental health issues due to these nations' civil war.[21 ] [22] Despite this stereotype of supposed Asian American success, there is a high 80% unemployment rate among the Hmong Americans and other Asian Americans groups from refugee backgrounds.[18]

However, examples of criminal and unethical behavior are in contrast to the model minority construct.[23][24] In 2007, Asian Americans were implicated in cheating scandals, shooting sprees, and political corruption. Most notable is the Virginia Tech massacre by Seung-Hui Cho, which led to the deaths of 33 individuals, including Cho himself. The shooting spree, along with Cho's Korean ethnicity, stunned the Asian American community.[25] Other scandals which made headlines were the arrests of Norman Hsu, a former campaign donor to Hillary Clinton, Ed Jew, the former San Francisco Supervisor, and Kyung Joon Kim, a former Los Angeles City Commissioner who served as a business partner to current South Korean president Lee Myung-bak. Also in 2007, 34 MBA students, primarily of East Asian descent, were caught in a major cheating scandal at Fuqua School of Business of Duke University. Of those 34 students, 9 were permanently expelled, 15 were suspended for one year, and the rest received failing grades.[26]

Archetypal Asians in American fiction

Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan are two important and well-known fictional Asian characters in America's cultural history. Both were created by white authors, Sax Rohmer and Earl Derr Biggers respectively, in the early part of the 20th century. Fu Manchu is a sardonic, intelligent, yet evil Chinese murderer with plots of world domination, an embodiment of America's imagination of a threatening mysterious Asian people. Charlie Chan is an apologetic submissive Chinese-Hawaiian detective who solves cases while politely handling the many racist insults hurled at him by white American characters, and represents America's archetypal "good" Asian. Both characters found widespread popularity in numerous novels and films.[27]

Fu Manchu: "evil" Asian

Promotional poster for 1965 film The Face of Fu Manchu.

Thirteen novels, three short stories, and one novelette have been written about Fu Manchu and Sir Denis Nayland Smith, the British agent determined to stop him. Millions of copies have been sold in the United States with publication in British and American periodicals and adaptations to film, comics, radio, and television. Due to his enormous popularity, the "image of Fu Manchu has been absorbed into American consciousness as the archetypal Asian villain."[27] In The Insidious Doctor Fu-Manchu, Sax Rohmer introduces Fu Manchu as a cruel and cunning man, with a face like Satan, who is essentially the "Yellow Peril incarnate".[28]

Sax Rohmer inextricably tied the evil character of Fu Manchu to the entire Asian race as a physical representation of the Yellow Peril, attributing the villain's evil behavior to his race. Rohmer also adds an element of mysticism and exoticism to his portrayal of Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu contrives unnecessarily elaborately creative and cruel methods of murdering his victims, replete with allegedly Asian methods or elements in his murders such as: "death by silk rope"- none of which have any basis in reality. Despite Fu Manchu's specifically Manchu ethnicity, his evil and cunning are pan-Asian attributes again reinforcing Fu Manchu as representational of all Asian people.[27] Blatantly racist statements (note: not considered so at the time the novels were published) made by white protagonists such as: "the swamping of the white world by yellow hordes might well be the price of our failure" again add to Asian stereotypes of exclusion.[29] Fu Manchu's inventively sardonic methods of murder and white protagonist Denis Nayland Smith's grudging respect for his intellect reinforce stereotypes of Asian intelligence, exoticism/mysticism, and extreme cruelty.[27][30]

Charlie Chan: "good" Asian

Charlie Chan, a fictional character created by author Earl Derr Biggers loosely based on Chang Apana (1871-1933), a real-life Chinese-Hawaiian police officer, has been the subject of 10 novels (spanning from 1925 to as late as 1981), over 40 American films, a comic strip, a board game, a card game, and a 1970s animated television series. In the films, the role of Charlie Chan has usually been played by white actors (namely Warner Oland, Sidney Toler, and Roland Winters) in "yellowface."[31]

In stark contrast to the Chinese villain Fu Manchu, Asian American protagonist Charlie Chan represents the American archetype of the "good" Asian.[27] In The House Without a Key, Earl Derr Biggers describes Charlie Chan in the following manner: "He was very fat indeed, yet he walked with the light dainty step of a woman. His cheeks were chubby as a baby's, his skin ivory tinted, his black hair close-cropped, his amber eyes slanting."[32] Charlie Chan speaks English with a heavy accent and flawed grammar, and is exaggeratedly polite and apologetic. After one particular racist affront by a Bostonian woman, Chan responds with exaggerated submission, "Humbly asking pardon to mention it, I detect in your eyes slight flame of hostility. Quench it, if you will be so kind. Friendly co-operation are essential between us." Bowing deeply, he added, "Wishing you good morning."[32]

Because of Charlie Chan's emasculated, unassertive, and apologetic physical appearance and demeanor he is considered a non-threatening Asian man to mainstream audiences despite his considerable intellect and ability. Charlie Chan has none of the daring, assertive, or romantic traits generally attributed to white fictional detectives of the time. Instead, Charlie Chan's successes as a detective are in the context of proving himself to his white superiors or white racists who underestimate him early on in the various plots.[27] His character also perpetuates stereotypes as well, oft quoting supposed ancient Chinese wisdom at the end of each novel, saying things like: "The Emperor Shi Hwang-ti, who built the Great Wall of China, once said: 'He who squanders to-day talking of yesterday's triumph, will have nothing to boast of tomorrow.'"[33]

Stereotypes of Asian men


In the mid 1800 Chinese laboreres were given an emasculated image due to the physical appearance of these laborers and the fact that they did what Westerners considered to be "women's work." The Chinese workers sported long braids (a Queue (hairstyle)) and sometimes wore long silk gowns.[34] Because Chinese men were seen as an economic threat to the white workforce, laws were passed that barred the Chinese from many "male" labour intensive-industries, the only jobs available to the Chinese of the time were jobs that whites deemed "women's work" (i.e., laundry, cooking, and childcare).[34]

Predators of white women

Asian men have been portrayed as threats to white women[35] in many aspects of American media. Depictions of Asian men as "lascivious and predatory" were common at the turn of the 20th century.[36] Between 1850 and 1940, both U.S. popular media and pre-war and WWII propaganda portrayed Asian men as a military and security threat to the country, and therefore a sexual danger to white women[27] due to the perception of a woman's body traditionally symbolizing her "tribe's" house or country.[37] In the 1916 film Petria, a group of fanatical Japanese individuals invade the United States in an attempt to rape a white woman.[38]


Another stereotype of Asian men is that they are misogynistic, insensitive and disrespectful towards women. They are commonly portrayed as male chauvinists. [39]

Changing perceptions of Asian males

More recent media depictions of Asian males are at a seeming variance with traditional stereotypes. Study findings from an analysis of the TV show Lost suggest that increased globalization is responsible for providing a more multidimensional and complex portrayal of Asian males in televised media.[40] In addition, many of these sterotypes have either been proven false by scientific evidence, or shown to be untrue and extreme through experience in interactions with Asians in the daily life.

Stereotypes of Asian women


Asian women have been portrayed as aggressive or opportunistic sexual beings or predatory gold diggers using their feminine wiles.[41]. Western film and literature has continually portrayed such stereotypes of Asian women: depicting Asian women as cunning "Dragon Ladies, as servile "Lotus Blossom Babies", "China dolls", "Geisha girls", war brides, or prostitutes.[42] An iconic source of images of Asian women in the 20th century in the West is the 1957 novel and 1960 film, The World of Suzie Wong, about a Hong Kong woman.[43] UC Berkeley Professor of Asian American Studies Elaine Kim argued in the 1980s that the stereotype of Asian women as submissive has impeded Asian women's economic mobility.[44].

"China doll" stereotype

According to author Sheridan Prasso, the China [sic: porcelain] doll stereotype and other variations of this submissive stereotype exist in American movies. This includes the "Geisha Girl/Lotus Flower/Servant/China Doll: Submissive, docile, obedient, reverential; the Vixen/Sex Nymph: Sexy, coquettish, manipulative; tendency toward disloyalty or opportunism; the Prostitute/Victim of Sex Trade/War/Oppression: Helpless, in need of assistance or rescue; good-natured at heart." [34][41]

Stereotypes of physical attributes and traits

There exists a pervasive racialized discourse throughout Western society, especially as it is reproduced by network television and cinema.[45]

Physiological caricatures of East Asians include the epicanthic fold positively coined "almond-shaped" or negatively "slant eyes" and many worse are common portrayals of the East Asian population, yellow-toned or brown skin referencing colorism, negatively contrasting 'coloured' Asian-Americans against the white Europeans in North America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and a stereotypical hair-type: straight dark (or shiny "blue") hair, commonly in a "bowl cut" hair style.[45]

See also


  1. ^ Kashiwabara, Amy, Vanishing Son: The Appearance, Disappearance, and Assimilation of the Asian-American Man in American Mainstream Media, UC Berkeley Media Resources Center,  
  2. ^ a b Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1978, p. 1-2.
  3. ^ Rosen, Steven L.. Japan as Other: Orientalism and Cultural Conflict.  
  4. ^ History World: Asian Americans,  
  5. ^
  6. ^ Neil Gotanda, "Exclusion and Inclusion: Immigration and American orientalism"
  7. ^ Bhattacharyya, Srilata: From "Yellow Peril" to "Model Minority": The Transition of Asian Americans: Additional information about the document that does not fit in any of the other fields; not used after 2004. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Mid-South Educational Research Association (30th, Little Rock, AR, November 14-16, 2001): Full text available: [1]
  8. ^ ASIAN-AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: Silent No Longer: 'Model Minority' Mobilizes - Lawler 290 (5494): 1072 - Science
  9. ^ Stacey J. Lee, Unraveling the "Model Minority" Stereotypes: Listening to Asian American Youth, Teachers College Press, New York: 1996 ISBN 0807735094
  10. ^ Bill Sing, "'Model Minority' Resentments Spawn Anti-Asian-American Insults and Violence," Los Angeles Times 31 February 1989, p. 12.
  11. ^ Greg Toppo, "'Model' Asian student called a myth ; Middle-class status may be a better gauge of classroom success," USA Today, 10 December 2002, p. 11.
  12. ^ Benjamin Pimentel, "Model minority image is a hurdle, Asian Americans feel left out of mainstream," San Francisco Chronicle, 5 August 2001, p.25.
  13. ^ "What 'Model Minority' Doesn't Tell," Chicago Tribune, 3 January 1998, p.18.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Woo, Deborah, "The Glass Ceiling and Asian Americans," Key Workplace Documents: Federal Publications, (1994) [2]
  16. ^ "The Glass Ceiling for African, Hispanic (Latino), and Asian Americans," Ethnic Majority, [3]
  17. ^ Constable, Pamela, "A 'Glass Ceiling' of Misperceptions," WashingtonPost, 10 October 1995, Page A01 [4]
  18. ^ a b Ronald Takaki, "The Harmful Myth of Asian Superiority," The New York Times, 16 June 1990, p. 21.
  19. ^ Felicia R. Lee, "'Model Minority' Label Taxes Asian Youths," New York Times, 20 March 1990, pages B1 & B4.
  20. ^ ARONSON J. (1) ; LUSTINA M. J. (1) ; GOOD C. (1) ; KEOUGH K. (1) ; STEELE C. M. (2) ; BROWN J. (2) ; When white men can't do math : Necessary and sufficient factors in stereotype threat, Journal of experimental social psychology vol. 35, no1, pp. 29-46 (1 p.3/4): Elsevier, San Diego 1999
  21. ^ Kim, Angela; Yeh, Christine J, Stereotypes of Asian American Students, ERIC Educational Reports,  
  22. ^ Yang, KaYing (2004), "Southeast Asian American Children: Not the Model Minority", The Future of Children 14 No. 2: 127–133  
  23. ^ "Our big cultural heritage, our awful little secrets"
  24. ^ "Some Korean Americans fearful of racial backlash"
  25. ^ "Sadly, Cho is Most Newsworthy APA of 2007." Asianweek. January 1, 2008. Retrieved on December 21, 2009.
  26. ^ "Duke Cheating Case Hits Asian Students"
  27. ^ a b c d e f g William F. Wu, The Yellow Peril: Chinese Americans in American Fiction, 1850-1940, Archon Press, 1982.
  28. ^ Sax Rohmer, The Insidious Doctor Fu-Manchu (1913; reprint ed., New York: Pyramid, 1961), p. 17.
  29. ^ Rohmer, Sax, The Hand of Fu-Manchu (1917; reprint ed., New York: Pyramid, 1962), p.111.
  30. ^ Yen Le Espiritu Asian American Panethnicity: Bridging Institutions and Identity Temple University Press, 1992: ISBN 0877229554: 222 pages
  31. ^ Internet Movie Database - list of Charlie Chan movies, IMDB,  
  32. ^ a b Earl Derr Biggers, The House Without a Key (New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1925), p.76.
  33. ^ Biggers, Earl Derr, Charlie Chan Carries On (1930; reprint ed., New York: Bantam, 1975), p.233.
  34. ^ a b c Sheridan Prasso, The Asian Mystique: dragon ladies, geisha girls, & our fantasies of the exotic orient, PublicAffairs, 2005.
  35. ^ Espiritu, Y. E. (1997). Ideological Racism and Cultural Resistance: Constructing Our Own Images, Asian American Women and Men, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing.
  36. ^ Frankenberg, R. (1993). White women, race matters: The social construction of whiteness., University of Minnesota Press.
  37. ^ Rich, Adrienne. 1994. Blood, Bread and Poetry: Selected Prose 1979–1985. New York: Norton 1986: p. 212.
  38. ^ Quinsaat, J. (1976). Asians in the media, The shadows in the spotlight. Counterpoint: Perspectives on Asian America (pp 264-269). University of California at Los Angeles, Asian American Studies Center.
  39. ^ Big American Misconceptions about Asians, GoldSea,  
  40. ^ Biswas, Tulika., Kim, Taewoo., Lei, Wu. and Yang, Liuyan "Asian Stereotypes Lost or Found in the Television Series Lost?" All Academic Research "Asian Stereotypes Lost or Found in the Television Series Lost?"
  41. ^ a b Geert Hofstede, Gender Stereotypes and Partner Preferences of Asian Women in Masculine and Feminine Cultures: Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Vol. 27, No. 5, 533-546 (1996)
  42. ^ Tajima, R. (1989). Lotus blossoms don't bleed: Images of Asian women., Asian Women United of California's Making waves: An anthology of writings by and about Asian American women, (pp 308-317), Beacon Press
  43. ^ Sumi K. Cho. "Converging Stereotypes in Racialized Sexual Harassment: Where the Model Minority Meets Suzie Wong" in Richard Delgado, Jean Stefancic. Critical race theory: the cutting edge. p. 535. (calls Suzie Wong the "Hong Kong hooker with a heart of gold"); Asian Stereotypes in Film History (/; "Hong Kong as City/Imaginary in The World of Suzie Wong, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, and Chinese Box", by Thomas Y. T. Luk, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Asian American Cinema : Representations and Stereotypes; [Staci Ford and Geetanjali Singh Chanda. Portrayals of Gender and Generation,East and West: Suzie Wong in the Noble House. University of Hong Kong.
  44. ^ Kim, Elaine (1984). "Asian American writers: A bibliographical review". American Studies International 22 (2): 41–78..  
  45. ^ a b Darrell Y. Hamamoto, Monitored peril: Asian Americans and the politics of TV representation University of Minnesota Press, 1994: ISBN 0816623686: 311 pages

External links

  • Model Minority A forum for articles and discussion concerning Asians in aspects of culture.
  • Asian-Nation Anti-Asian Prejudice & Racism
  • Black Racism Article about blacks against Asians.
  • Hollywood Chinese Hollywood Chinese, a 2007 documentary film about the portrayals of Chinese men and women in Hollywood productions.
  • The Slanted Screen The Slanted Screen, a 2006 documentary film addressing the portrayals of Asian men in American television and film.
  • AllLookSame An educational online quiz which tests the taker's ability to differentiate persons of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean origin.

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