Espiritu - Ideological Racism and Cultural Resistance

Espiritu - Ideological Racism and Cultural Resistance - I...

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Unformatted text preview: I W) (It'l/i/t'l' 11ml Stay/rm Rich. Adrienne. 1981). “Compulsory llcterosexuality and the Leshian lisperience,” Sig/IX:~7<)///‘II(// of.” 12mm in (full/Hr Ill/t/ Sat/cry 5: ()3 116011. Sasscn, Saskia. 1901. The (Ila/ml (X/ti': Arr: lbw/c, [mu/mi, ’INqi'r). Princeton: Princeton Liniyersity Press. Smith, liai'hara. 197T. Terran/{1 [Blur/c l‘l'l/I[II/.\‘f (fi‘ilit'it/II. 15rect1oni, (IA: (Irossing Press. \\'cst, (land-ace C‘s Sarah lienstermaker. 1995. “Doing Difference,“ (Hem/er Soc/cry 9: 8737. IDEOLOGICAL RACISM AND CULTURAL RESISTANCE Constructing Our Own Images Yen Le Esp/rim . . . A central aspect of racial exploitation centers on defining people ofcoloi‘ as “the other” (Said 1979),'1‘he social construction ofAsian American “oth— erness’LAth rough such controlling images as the Yellow Peril, the model ini— nority, the Dragon Lady, and the (Ihina Do11#is “the precondition for their cultural marginalimtion, political impotence, and psychic alienation from mainstream American society” (1 lamamoto 199—1, p. 5). As indicated by these stereotypes, representations of'gendcr and sexuality figure strongly in the ar~ tictilation of racism. These racist stereotypes collapse gender and sexuality: Asian men have been constructed as hypermasculine, in the image of~ the “Yellow Peril,” but also as effhninate, in the image ofthe “model minority,” and Asian women have been depicted as superfeminine, in the image of the “China Doll,” but also as castrating, in the image of the “Dragon Lady” (Mullings 199-1, pp. 279’381); ()kihiro 1995). As Mary Ann Doanc (1991) suggested, sexuality is “indissociahle from the effects of polarization and differentiation, often linking them to structures of power and domination” (p. 317). In the Asian American case, the gendering of. ethnicityithe process whereby \i'hite ideology assigns selected gender characteristics to lirom \cn 1,c l‘ispil'lltl,.'1,\‘l:/[ll_f/IIW'It'IIH ll i)/llt’l/ 11ml \Icu (’1 housand Oaks. (IA: \ll.i.\1aria Press. 1997). Reprinted hy permission of RUWHMH & Little-field Piihlisliers, lnc. various ethnic “ot ously masculine at the one hand, as have heen depictt other hand, both tion ofthe group' ant “model minoi apparent disjunct men and women (Kim 199(1). THE YELLOW 1n the L'nited Stat ally exclusiye hina Asian Americans, Characterizing A: America," Sau—Li put in the niche disqualified from tionahle political cultures“ (p. 6). S tion" as a “peculi cents, our clothes cultural discrimir uates the notion ( .Iapanese Amerie; tnry, many teleyi Ho (1986-1987), (1 lamamoto 19‘)‘ As the unas Americans the “' conquer the wot from Asia, com} degeneracy of :‘ and Asians (“t consistently por‘ fare of the Unit (\Vu 1982). In appeared as feta for racial purity “at best, a for] (1 loppenstand 1 h“ _ i . . ,, nan ltvperiencc, \ceton: Princeton \: Crossing Press. (it’III/t'l' Society )eople ot'color merican “oth— the model mi— ition for their enation lirom :ated by these igly in the ar— ind sexuality: image of the el minority,” image of the ‘agon Lady” loane (1991) rization and lomination” nicitywthe cteristics to a Alaria Press, MW 11 lap/rm! I V various ethnic “others”~cast Asian American men and women as simultane— ously masculine and feminine but also as neither masculine nor feminine. ()n the one hand, as part of the Yellow Peril, Asian American men and women have been depicted as a VII/la‘t‘II/i/H’ threat that needs to be contained. ()n the other hand, both sexes have been skewed toward the female side: an indica~ tion otthe group’s marginalizatitin in US. society and its role as the compli— ant “model minority” in contemporary US. cultural ideology. Although an apparent disjunction, both the {ennui/anion and masculinization of Asian men and women exist to define and confirm the white man’s superiority (Kim 1990). THE YELLOW PERIL 1n the L' nited States, Asia and America ~»1§ast and \A’est—~are viewed as mutu» ally exclusive binaries (Kim 1993, p. viii). \Vithin this exclusive binary system, Asian Americans, even as citizens, are designated Asians, not Americans. Characterizing Asian Americans as “permanent houseg‘uests in the house of America,” Sauvliing‘ (Iynthia \Vong (1995) stated that “Asian Americans are put in the niche of the ‘unassimilable alien‘: . . . they are alleged to be self— disqualilied from lull American membership by materialistic motives, ques— tionable political allegiance, and, above all, outlandish, overripe, ‘Oriental’ cultures” (p. (i). Sonia Shah (199—1) detined this form of “cultural discrimina— tion” as a “peculiar blend of cultural and sexist oppression based on our ac— cents, our clothes, our lootls, our values and our commitments“ (p. 182‘). This cultural discrimination brands Asians as perpetual loreig‘ners and thus perpet— uates the notion oftheir alleged racial unassiinilability. For example, although japanese Americans have lived in the United States since the turn of the cen— tury, many television programs, such as Happy Days (19744984) anti (II/12g H0(198()#19S7), have continued to portray them as newly arrived foreigners (llamamoto 199—1, p. 13). As the unassimilable alien, Asian Americans embody for many other Americans the “Yellow Perm—the threat that Asians will one day unite and conquer the world. This threat includes military invasion and foreign trade from Asia, competition to white labor from Asian labor, the alleged moral degeneracy of Asian people, and potential miscegenation between whites and Asians (\Vu 1983, p. 1). Between 1851) and 1940, US. popular media consistently portrayed Asian men as a military threat to the security and wel~ hire of the United States (Hill as a sexual danger to innocent white women (Wu 1982). in numerous dime novels, movies, and comic strips, Asians appeared as feral, rat—faced men lusting alter virginal white women. Arguing for racial purity, these popular media depicted Asian—white sexual union as “at best, a form of beastly sodomy, and, at worst, a Satanic marriage” (Hoppenstand 1983, p. 17+). in these popular depictions, the white man was W)», a_ New 1 l is (rem/er i/m/ Star/MI the desirable sexual partner and the hero who rescued the white woman from “a late worse than death" (I loppenstand 1983, pp. 17—17175). By the mid—1880s, hundreds otgarishly illustrated and garishly written dime novels were being disseminated among a wide audience. sporting such sensational titles as The Rivalry and the lt’l/Oit‘ (Iron/er, The (flit/refer the (Mi/nave Diznnmnlx, 1‘11" ()pi/m/ [)t'll Defer/I've, and The S'I/‘zl/lg/t'lir qut’u' 1br/c. As portrayed in these dime novels, the Yellow l’eril was the Chinatown district of a big city “in which decent, honest white folk never ventured” (l loppenstand 1983, p. 177). In 30thveentury LXS. popular media, the Japanese ioined the Chinese as a perceived threat to litirope and the L'nited States (\Yu 1983, p. 2). In 1016, \Yilliam Randolph llearst produced and distributed Petr/(I, a movie about a group of fanatical Japanese who invade the United States and attempt to rape a white woman (Quinsaat 1976, p. 265). After theJapanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 19—11, the entire Yellow l’eril stereotype be— came incorporated in the nation‘s war propaganda, quickly whipping white Americans into a war fever. Along with the print media, Hollywood cranked up its anti—Japanese propaganda and produced dozens of war films that cen— tered on the Japanese menace. The fiction olithe Yellow Peril stereotype be- came intertwined with the tact of the United States’ war with Japan, and the two became one in the mind—set ofthe American public (1 loppenstand 1983, pp. 18277183). It was fear ()1 the Yellow l’erilit‘ear of the rise ()1. nonwhite people and their contestation oliwhite supremacy ithat led to the declaration otmartial law in Hawaii on December 7, 19—11, and to the internment ol'over 110,000 Japanese on the mainland in concentration camps (( )kihiro 199-1, p. 137). In subsequent decades, reflecting changing geopolitical concerns, CS. popular media featured a host of new Yellow Peril stereotypes. During the 1050s Cold \Yar years, in television programs as well as in movies, the Communist Chinese evildoers replaced the Japanese monster; during the Vietnam war of the 1070s, the Vietnamese Communists emerged as the new ()riental villains. 'I‘oday. Yellow l’erilism takes the torms of the greedy, calculating, and eleverJapanesc businessman aggressnely buying tip US. real estate and cul— tural institutions and the superachieving but nonassiinilating Asian Americans (1 lagedorn 1093, p. \xii). In a time ()1 rising economic powers in Asia, de— clining economic opportunities in the United States, and growing diversity among America‘s people, this new Yellow Perilisme~the depiction of Asian and Asian Americans as economic and cultural threats to mainstream L'nited Statesisupplies white Americans with a united identity and provides ideo— logical iustitication for LXS. isolationist policy toward Asia, increasing restric— tions against Asian (and Latino) immigration, and the invisible institutional racism and \1Sil)lL‘ violence against Asians in the United States (Okihiro 1994, pp. 135*» 130). THE RACIAL CONSTRUCT OF ASLAN AMERICAN M AN Like other men ()1 color, Asian white—based cultural notions oft picted both as virile and as prt characterized both as asexual 11m. to note the historical contexts 01 of Asian American manhood. Tl ious and predatory" were cspeci ment against Asians at the turn pp. 754m. The exclusion of As subsequent establishment of bacl struction ()1 Asian masculinity ‘ “homosexual.” ’l‘he contemporai‘ culates Asian American men as p: petuated through the popular 11' Asian male construct a reality in against these men appears deten Asian men naturalized their ina \Yorld \Yar 11 United States. (VS banned the immigration olimos that prohibited melt of color trot ol the eunuch and the rapist attr teristics of pre~war Asian Amerit desirability. A popular controlling image sinister ()rientalr—va brilliant, pt \Yestern civilization. l’ersonitiec this ()riental mastermind coinbii commands an army ol devote 'l‘hough ruthless, liu .\lanchu la 1988, p. 19), thus privileging he (1972). in a critique ol'the desex described how the l’u Manchu virility: Dr Fu, 9. mar: Wearsng a tor muscular black servants in touching white rnen 0n the so much a threat as he is 2 In another critique that glorifie trasted the neuterlike characteri ho rescued the white woman d 1983. pp. 17-17175). By the d garishly written dime novels nee, sporting such sensational L'lillre flu' rlw (flu/1m I )[i/l/mm/r, 0f.\1’f." lbw/c. As portrayed in lhiuatown district of a big city :ntured” (l loppenstand 1983, lapanese joined the Chinese as tates (Wu 1983, p. 2). In 1916, ributed I’W'm, a movie about United States and attempt to After theglapanese bombing of re Yellow l’eril stereotype he— ,‘anda, quickly whipping white int media, llollywood cranked dozens of war films that cen— he Yellow Peril stereotype be— itates' war with japan, and the an public (1 loppenstand 1983, —tear of the rise of nonwhite :y—that led to the declaration and to the internment ot‘over [ration camps (Okihiro 199-1, anging geopolitical concerns, low Peril stereotypes. During 'ams as well as in movies, the apanese monster; during the 111111111188 emerged 115 111C 11CVV {the greedy. calculating, and 1g up US. real estate and cul— iassimilating Asian Americans iconomic powers in Asia, de— Statcs, and growing diversity lisnifithe depiction ot Asian threats to mainstream United (1 identity and provides ideo— )ward Asia, increasing restric— ind the invisible institutional United States (( )kihiro 199+, 11"}! IA‘ IZZY/Hil'l'fll / 59 THE RACIAL CONSTRUCTION OF ASLAN AMERICAN MANHOOD Like other men of color, Asian American men have been excluded from white—based cultural notions of the masculine. \Vhereas white men are de— picted both as virile and as protectors of women, Asian men have been characterized both as asexual (/m/ as threats to white women. It is important to note the historical contexts otthese seemingly divergent representations ofAsian American manhood. The racist depictions of Asian men as “lasciv— ious and predatory” were especially pronounced during the nativist move— ment against Asians at the turn of the [30th] century (I’rankenberg 1993, pp. 75—76). The exclusion o1 Asian women from the United States and the subsequent establishment of bachelor societies eventually reversed the con— struction of Asian masculinity trom “hypersexual” to “asexual” and even “homosexual.” The contemporary model—minority stereotype Further emas— culates Asian American men as passive and malleable. Disseminated and per~ petuatcd through the popular media, these stereotypes of the einasculated Asian male construct a reality in which social and economic discrimination against these men appears defensible. As an example, the desexualization of Asian men naturalized their inability to establish coniugal Families in pre— \Vorld \\'ar 11 United States. (Iliding over race-based exclusion laws that banned the immigration ol most Asian women and antimiscegenation laws that prohibited men otcolor trom marrying white women, these dual images ofthe eunuch and the rapist attributed the “womanless households” charac— teristics of pre—war Asian America to Asian men’s lack o1. sexual prowess and desirability. A popular controllingimage applied to Asian American men is that ()lithe sinister ()riental~7a brilliant, powerful villain who plots the destruction of \1'estern civilization. l’ersonilied by the movie character ol‘ Dr. l’u .\lanchu, this ()riental mastermind combines \A’estern science with [Castern magic and commands an army of devoted assassins (l loppenstand 1983, p. 178), Though ruthless, liu Manchu lacks masculine heterosexual prowess (\Vang 1988, p. 19), thus privileging heterosexuality. lirank (lhin and jettrey (Zhan (1972), in a critique of the desexualization of Asian men in \A'estern culture, described how the li‘u Manchu character undermines Chinese American Virility: Dr Fu. a man wearing a long dress. batting his eyelashes. surround by muscular black servants in lorn cloths, and with his habit of caressineg touching white men on the log, wrist, and face with his long fingernails lS not so much a threat as he is a frivolous offense lo white manhood. (p 60) In another critique that glorities male aggression, l’rank (:hin (1972) con— trasted the neuterlike characteristics assigned to Asian men to the sexually I60 (rem/('1' Ill/[f Stair/H H'ressive images associated with other tnen of color. “Unlike the white a g , stereotype ofthe evil black stud, Indian rapist, A'lexican macho, the evil ofthc evil Dr. liu Manchu was not sexual, but homosexual” (p. 66). However, Chin failed to note that as a homosexual, Dr. hit (and by extension, Asian tnen) threatens and offends white masculinityi—and therefore needs to be con— tained ideologically and destroyed physically. \Yhereas the evil ()riental stereotype tnarks Asian Alnerican men as the white man‘s enemy, the stereotype of the sexless .Asian sidekick—Charlie Chan, the Chinese laundryman, the Filipino houseboyfidepicts Asian men as devoted and impotent, eager to please. \'\'illiam \Vu (1983) reported that the Chinese servant “is the tnost important single image of the Chinese im— migrants” in American [iction about Chinese Americans between 1850 and 19—10 (p. 60). More recently, such diverse television progratns as [Lillie/07' ['ilt/Jt'r (195771962), Bali/111ml (195971973), Shir Trek (19664969). and I‘ll/ml] (I/ttt‘r (198171990) all featured the stock Chinese bachelor domestic who dis— penses sage advice to his superiors in addition to performing traditional female functions within the household (1 lamamoto 199-1, p. 7). By trapping Chinese men (and by extension, Asian men) in the stereotypical “feminine” tasks of serving white then, American society erases the figure of the Asian “masculine” plantation worker in Hawaii or railroad construction worker in the western United States, thus perpetuating the myth of the androgynous and effeminate Asian man ((ioellnicht 1992, p. 198). This feminixation, in turn, confines Asian immigrant men to the segment of the labor force that performs women’s work. The motion picture industry has been key in the construction of Asian then as sexual deviants. In a study of Asians in the LES, motion pictures, l‘iugene Franklin \Vong (1978) maintained that the movie industry filmically castrates Asian males to magnify the superior sexual status of white tnales (p. 37), As on—screen sexual rivals of whites, Asian tnales are neutralized, un— able to sexually engage Asian women and prohibited from sexually engaging white women. By saving the white women frotn sexual contact with the racial “other,” the motion picture industry protects the Anglo—American, bourgeois male establishtnent froln any challenges to its hegemony (Marchetti 1993, p. 218). At the other extreme, the industry has exploited on the most potent aspects ofthc Yellow l’eril discourses—~the sexual danger ofcontact between the races by concocting a sexually threatening portrayal of the licentious and a rgrcssive Yellow Man lusting after the \A'hite \A'otnan (Marehetti 1993, U p. 3). l Ieedful ofthc larger society’s taboos against Asian malciwhite female sexual union, white male actors donning “yellowface”iinstead of Asian tnale actors~are used in these “love scenes.” Nevertheless, the message ofthe per« verse and animalistic Asian tnale attacking helpless white women is clear (\Vong 1978). 'I‘hough depicting sexual aggression, this image of the rapist, like that of the eunuch, casts Asian men as sexually undesirable. As \Vong (1978) succinctly stated, in Asian} rape, but there cannot be roman: sexual superiority ofthe white ma their sexual dominance over both Vietnamese American man descril on his self—image: Every day l was forced to let media As a young Asuan ma fair lvvasn't muscular. and 9 any pubescent teenager feel felt naked before a mass of v \Vltite cultural and institutit reflected in the motion picture in Asiansna tilmic solution to the tl analysis of l lollywootls view of A! 1960s, 'l‘om lingelhardt (1976) ties are seen by the movie industry asi He argued that the theme of the n( ence to accept, without flinching, “1 Asian areas in the course of three industry’s death theme, though ap Asian tnales, with Asian females R p. 35). Especially in war films, Asia tial position, inevitably perish atthe 1978, p. 3—1). THE RACIAL CONSTRUCTK 0F ASIAN AMERICAN VVOMA Like Asian men, Asian women havt icatures in \Vestern representation multiple differences into gross chat nonwhite‘obscures the social iniu sion (Marchetti 1993, p. 71). Botl dichotomous stereotypes of the As Dragon Lady or the servile Lotti: Though connoting two extremes, t eroticize Asian women as exotic “ot trustworthy. \Vhereas American pot men, it endows Asian women with them but also impugning their seXi - w- t msmwm. : white i1 ofthe ‘r. (Ihin ii men) be con— n as the Charlie ian men 'ted that iese im— 85() and Bachelor id I'll/(0n who dis— aditional trapping :minine” 'he Asian yorker in rogynous ration, in bree that . of Asian pictures, liliiucally .itc malcs lized. tili— engaging the racial iourgeois :tti 1993, )Sf potent t between licentious etti 1993, ite female .sian male )fthe per— n is clear :he rapist, As \\'ong w” a n! r- _ «w a :ratA‘W’ ~Wm‘nlfln W...‘W..%WM‘ “My. 0, i v a - )i‘u [.1' liiyiil'iru M] (1978) succinctly stated, in Asian maleiwhite female relations, “'l‘here can he rape, but there cannot be romance” (p. 25). 'l‘hus, Asian males yield to the sexual superiority ofthe white males who are permitted filmically to maintain their sexual dominance over both white women and women ofcolor. A young Vietnamese American man describes the damaging,r effect ofthese stereotypes on his self—image: Every day l was forced to loo...
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