Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Dead Racist Blogging: The More Things Change Edition

Well, Edna, for a school with no Asian kids, I think we've achieved a grade-A science fair!

Principal Skinner, The Simpsons, "Duffless", episode 4x16

One of the interesting things when reading my dead racists is how stereotypes have changed over time. Today, Asians are stereotyped as the "model minority": studious, industrious, intelligent, successful (see the above quote from 1993). In 2006, Bryant Yang mentioned this in "Seeing Loving in Gay Marriages" (Amerasia, 32:1, pp. 39-40):
Asian Americans have long struggled with the model minority myth since the 1960s. It originated when the New York Times Magazine published a story called "Success Story: Japanese American Style." A few months later U.S. News and World Report published an article called "Success Story of One Minority Group in the United States" on Chinese Americans. The myth portrays Asian Americans as hardworking, intelligent and successful. Many who believe in the myth cites [sic] how Asian Americans have the highest household income of any racial group in the United States.

Yet, as I briefly mentioned last week, a hundred years ago or more Asians were often seen as... impaired, intellectually. They were smarter than Negroes, people would admit, but still below whites. From The Six Species of Men, by John Van Evrie, as reprinted in John David Smith, ed., Anti-Black Thought, 1863-1925 vol. 1, pages 132-33:
This race [Mongolian] is the one nearest to the Caucasian, and has shown a limited intellectual development, but its powers and attainments have been much exaggerated. The Chinese pretend to trace their history back to a period long anterior to our own, but this claim is itself sufficient proof of its own worthlessness. No one will suppose that the individual Chinaman has a larger brain or greater breadth of intellect than the individual Caucasian, and if not, what folly to suppose that the aggregate Chinese mind was capable of doing that which the aggregate Caucasian mind could not do! The truth is, what is supposed to be Chinese history is a mere collection of fables and impossibilities, and it may be doubted if they can trace their annals back even five hundred years with any degree of certainty.


One point seems to be settled in relation to the Mongol race. It cannot advance beyond a given point. It has been stationary for years and years. It can never become an element of modern civilization, and the trade carried on with China is not likely to vary to any considerable extent from what it is now. Its intellectual and moral grasp is limited, and in no exalted sense can the race reach the ideas or virtues of Caucasian civilization.

As you can see, part of this was simply white chauvinism and racism--whites must be better than any other race, and any claim otherwise is absurd prima facie. Similarly, several people decided that any Asian civilization cannot be what it looks like, because they knew that only white people create civilizations. Hence, Charles Carroll wrote in The Tempter of Eve:
When the whites are all destroyed, their country, with its national name, wealth, religion, their knowledge of the arts and sciences, is inherited by their mixed-blooded descendants; when the white blood largely predominates in them, they may, under favorable circumstances, retain more or less of their inherited civilization for an indefinite period, but they add nothing to it; and when they lose an art, or any part of their inherited knowledge, they never regain it; such was the case with the Mexicans, Peruvians, Chinese, Japanese, Hindoos, Greeks, Turks, Egyptians, etc.

Emphasis mine. Whites created the civilization in China and Japan, but now it's deteriorated and they're just clinging on to what was handed down to them--holding on, but never adding on. In fact, in Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro, the author approvingly quotes "The Aryan Race: its Origins and Achievements" to say:
The white race has great physical vigor, capacity and endurance. It has an intensity of will and desire which is controlled by intellectuality. Great things are undertaken, readily but not blindly. It manifests a strong utilitarianism, united with a powerful imagination which elevates, enobles and idealizes its practical ideas. The negro can only imitate, the Chinese only utilize, the work of the white; but the latter is abundantly able to produce new works. He has a keen sense of order as the yellow man, not form love of repose, however, but from the desire to protect and preserve his acquisitions. He has a love of liberty far more intense than exists in the black or yellow races, and clings to life more earnestly. His high sense of honor is a faculty unknown to other races, and springs from an exalted sentiment of which they show no indications. His sensations are less intense than in either black or yellow, but his mentality is far more developed and energetic.

Emphasis mine. So Asians cannot invent anything new, though they are clever enough to use white ideas.

This isn't to say that everyone believed that Asians were buffoons. Some were a bit more fair, respecting their cultural achievements. In fact, the Reverend Theodore Parker (cited in Josiah Nott's The Negro Race: Its Ethnology and History) listed almost every historical achievement as the accomplishment of Caucasians, and his sole exception (that he bothered mentioning, at any rate), was Confucius:
The Caucasian differs from all other races; he is humane, he is civilized, and progresses. He conquers with his head as well as his hand. It is intellect, after all, that conquers--not the strength of a man's arm. The Caucasian has been often master of other races--never their slave. He has carried his religion to other races, but never taken theirs. In history all religions are of Caucasian origin. All the great limited forms of mon[pg 15]archies are Caucasian. Republics are Caucasian. All the great sciences are of Caucasian origin; all inventions are Caucasian; literature and romance come of the same stock; all of the great poets are of Caucasian origin; Moses, Luther, Jesus Christ, Zoroaster, Budha, Pythagoras, were Caucasian. No other race can bring up to the memory such celebrated names as the Caucasian race. The Chinese philosopher, Confucius, is an exception to the rule.

And then again, there was that chauvinism I spoke of above, which forced John Van Evrie to conclude that, since Confucius was a great man, he must have been white:
There is little doubt that Confucius was a white man; indeed it is known that the leaders of those Mongol hordes which swept over Europe, shortly after the Christian era, were of Caucasian blood.

So much for that. Another stereotype we have today is that of the sexless, emasculated Asian male. Helen Zia wrote in "Where the Queer Zone Meets the Asian Zone", (Amerasia 32:1, p. 4):
Of all the multiple identities that humans possess, the combination of queer and Asian seems especially perplexing to many people. On the one hand, there are the gendered, racial archetypes: ...the demasculinized, buffoonish Long Duk Dong, the Asian man who never gets the girl--or guy.

But before that, Asian men were portrayed as licentious sexual predators, out to ravish all de white wimmin. In February/March 1905, the San Francisco Chronicle blazoned the headline "JAPANESE A MENACE TO AMERICAN WOMEN". And Megumi Osumi wrote in his article "Asians and California's Anti-Miscegenation Laws" of the Chinese:
Another popular attitude which contributed to the passage of the amendment [which outlawed Chinese-white marriages in California] was the prevailing belief that Chinese were sexually promiscuous and perverse. Miller believes that this racist stereotype derives ultimately from early nineteenth century anti-Chinese propaganda from Protestant missionaries. They wanted to exploit China as an example of the evils of paganism and the benefits of Christianity. Thus, their writings especially impressed on the minds of the American public this negative misconception of the Chinese as lascivious and immoral. Missionary Samuel Wells Williams declared that the Chinese were preoccupied with lechery and were "vile and polluted in a shocking degree."

This observation and many other missionary castigations of alleged Chinese licentiousness and perversion prepared the way for later popular acceptance of this negative stereotype. As early as 1856, the New York Tribune accused the Chinese as "lustful and sensual in their dispositions; every female is a prostitute of the basest order." In 1876, various papers stated that the Chinese men attended Sunday school in order to debauch their white, female teachers. In the same year, a writer in Scribner's Monthly warned that "no matter how good a Chinaman may be, ladies never leave their children with them, especially little girls." As we will see later, becoming an article of faith for most Americans, this stereotype was broadened to include other Asian groups.

And indeed, later he writes:
The public's fear of miscegenation expressed itself in two forms. One was Californians' belief in the familiar stereotype, first applied to the Chinese and then the Japanese, of an immoral, sexually aggressive Asiatic. This stereotype was especially exploited in anti-Japanese propaganda seeking school segregation. Dennis Kearney warned that the Japanese students knew "no morals but vice, who sit beside our sons and daughters in our public schools that they may help to debauch, demoralize and teach them the vices which are the customs of the country whence they come." Conservative Republican leader, Governor Johnson, stated before the California Assembly that he was appalled at the sight of white girls "sitting side by side in the schoolroom with matured Japs, with base minds, their lascivious thoughts...." The second manifestation of this fear was hostility against intermarriages between whites and Japanese. The anti-Japanese advocates exploited this sentiment with inflammatory propaganda. The Grizzly Bear, the official paper of the Native Sons, warned that Japanese were "casting furtive glances at our young women. They would like to marry them."

And later yet, he writes of the Filipinos (which he spells "Pilipino"):
Again the racist stereotype of the lascivious, aggressive Asiatic who chased lustfully after white women reared its ugly head, while anti-Pilipino spokesmen and their groups exploited it publicly. In the 1930 Congressional hearings on immigration, Secretary McClatchy testified that "you can realize, with the declared preference of the Pilipino for white women and the willingness on the part of some white females to yield to that preference, the situation which arises." Anti-Pilipino spokesman Judge D. H. Rohrock of North Monterey County engaged in the most reprehensible kind of racist stereotyping when he described the Pilipinos as "little brown men attired like 'Solomon in all his glory' strutting like peacocks and endeavoring to attract the eyes of young American and Mexican girls."

And Leti Volpp writes in "American Mestizo: Filipinos and Antimiscegenation Laws in California":
The President of the University of California testified before the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization in 1930 that Filipino problems were "almost entirely based upon sexual passion." While Chinese and Japanese were also considered sexually depraved — and, perhaps, more sexually perverse — Filipinos appeared to be specifically characterized as having an enormous sexual appetite, as more savage, as more primitive, as "one jump from the jungle." Their sexual desires were thought to focus on white women.

Funny how things change.

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