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The Yellow Peril

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Illustration by Kristin Hugo / Opinion Editor & Gabriel Ivan Orendain-Necochea / Contributor

This fall, CBS brought something back to television that seemed long gone: pure, unadulterated racism.

“2 Broke Girls,” created by comedian Whitney Cummings and “Sex and the City” creator Michael Patrick King, is a sitcom with a recession-era twist. The show revolves around two white girls who waitress at a small Brooklyn diner.

Max, played by Kat Dennings, and Caroline, played by Beth Behrs, work for the foreign-born Korean owner, Han “Bryce” Lee, played by Matthew Moy.

It is obvious that neither Cummings nor King know a single thing about Asian Americans.

Lee is a goofy, socially ignorant but financially successful man who cannot pronounce his L’s and speaks like a confused fortune cookie.

His accent and speech do not reflect how a foreign-born Korean immigrant would sound, much less how any other Asian-American immigrant would sound.

Lee is not an accurate portrayal of today’s Asian-Americans, but is a throwback to an era where distasteful stereotypes were accepted and encouraged.

According to Allan Aquino, CSUN Asian-American studies professor, Asian stereotypes have existed since the 1850’s when Asian-Americans were cast as immigrants and “forever foreigners”.

“No matter how hard they try to assimilate, they are not American,” Aquino said. “It ignores the long history of Asian-Americans in the U.S. and multi-general Asian-Americans’ contributions.”

Aquino cited the “Six Faces of The Oriental,” defined by Professor Robert G. Lee, author of “Orientals,” a history of Asian Pacific-Islanders in American pop culture.

These six faces include the pollutant, the coolie, the deviant, the yellow peril, the model minority and the gook.

The yellow peril and model minority most impacted public attitude toward Asian-Americans during 20th century politics, popular culture and media.

The “yellow peril” emerged in the early 1900’s to portray Asian-Americans as a “threat to nation, race and family.” This stereotype was the basis for the television show “Fu Manchu,” which was about an insidious, evil Asian man who wanted nothing but destruction for the white race.

Though not part of the six faces, it is important to recognize another stereotype created around the same time to contrast the yellow peril: the benevolent but culturally ignorant Asian man.

This stereotype is best expressed through the television series “Charlie Chan.” Chan was a detective who traveled the world solving crime mysteries, but spoke broken English and ultimately, did what the white man wanted.

Both Manchu and Chan were at one point played by white actors, made up in “yellow face.” Yellow face continued to surface in American media, in works such as “Madame Butterfly,” “The Good Earth,” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Another popular stereotype is the “martial artist,” the exotic, dangerous Asian who can defy physics and annihilate enemies with his body.

“The paradox of Bruce Lee’s image is that, while Bruce Lee, as a man and living innovator, gave pop culture its first great Asian Pacific Islander hero and forever changed philosophy and pop culture,” Aquino said. “The image cannibalized after his death yielded the stereotype of the one-dimensional martial arts hero and or villain, a more dangerous update of the yellow peril.”

Possibly the most influential in the way Asian-Americans are portrayed today is the stereotype of the “model minority.” According to Dr. Tracy Buenavista, CSUN Asian-American studies professor, the model minority myth developed during the civil rights movement.

It was based on the idea that Asian-Americans are economically and academically more successful than other minorities, despite facing discrimination.

“The civil rights movement was about the government getting rid of racism in the law in American Institutions,” Buenavista said. “The conservative media response was to create the model minority myth.

If Asian-Americans can do it through hard work, it disproves (the) idea that blacks and browns needed civil rights reform.”

The myth is inaccurate because it only focuses on the experiences of a few Asian ethnic groups,” Buenavista said. “What it obscures is the diversity of the Asian-American community. There are over 40 different groups and some of those groups demonstrate low educational attainment rates, lack of access to employment and mental health issues.”

CBS’ Han “Bryce” Lee is a hybrid of stereotypes. He is Chan meets the model minority, and he is forever the foreigner. Lee is not based on any real human being, but is a lie. This portrayal is dehumanizing, unethical and defamatory.

How CBS and the American public is allowing a Long Duc Dong character on television to represent Asian-American immigrant men is a social offense beyond outrage, and presents a huge step back for racial media equality.

It will be truly perilous for CBS’ reputation if they allow the Lee character on “2 Broke Girls” to be the butt of a racist and ignorant white joke.

15 Comments

  1. samurai5 Nov 14, 2011

    Pretty amazing how shrill some get if anyone of non-white ethnicity speaks out. 

    “Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White.”

    Really?  This should be the drum beat for a new wave of paranoia.

  2. Vlad Nov 13, 2011

    Wow! As many have already responded, let me add a couple of things.

    1) Lighten up. You(we) can find race, or cultural slights at every turn, if that is what we seek. Once you(we) stop looking at ourselves as victims, these slights become less offensive. I haven’t seen the Korean businessman in the show, but he seems like the many Korean Immigrants that I’ve run into. A stereotype is neither postive, or negative, unless one wishes to make it so. When I opened my business, I stated that I would run it like “A Korean shop-owner” The stereotype that I was envisioning, was someone who got to their store at 7-8am, busted their ass all day, and closed up shop at 8-9pm and went home. 

    2) Here’s where you went off the rails.
    “The civil rights movement was about the government getting rid of racism in the law in American Institutions,” Buenavista said. “The conservative media response was to create the model minority myth. If Asian-Americans can do it through hard work, it disproves (the) idea that blacks and browns needed civil rights reform.”

    If Asian-Americans can do it through hard work, it doesn’t disprove the need for civil rights reform, but since enacted over 40 years ago, does require some ‘splainin by blacks and browns, as to why they still achieve significantly less than whites, and asians. It can’t be “white oppression”, or did we just forget to oppress the asian.

    The answer may not be color, but cultural. You might read “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell

    You may also read some Thomas Sowell – Black Author & Economist. He credits the Great Society, as suppressing blacks(and browns) through an enslavement to state dependency.

  3. Bob Gregan III Nov 11, 2011

    Funny how these “anti-racists” are very worried about “stereotypes”, but when you raise the important issue of White GeNocide, suddenly they all go deaf and dumb.

    No one is flooding Africa with Non Africans and telling them… “Don’t stereotype us” …we are going to create a blended humanity in ONLY Africa.

    No one is flooding Japan with non-Japanese and telling them… “Don’t stereotype us” …we are going to create a blended humanity in ONLY Japan.

    Only White countries are doing this, only Anti-Whites are pushing it. It is GeNOcide.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White.

    1. ChellG Nov 11, 2011

      “Only White countries are doing this, only Anti-Whites are pushing it. It is GeNOcide.”

      Absolutely right! You commit murder you face the death penalty…last I saw black Africa did not invade Europe ever..so saying that both Africans and whites should face the same penalty is ludicrous! Last I saw it was the white countries that had a debt problem..you pay back the debt and you can have your country back!

      1. Students for Liberty Nov 11, 2011

        Are you seriously saying the /whole/ white race should be punished for what a discrete number of ‘white’ invaders did? If we really wish to move beyond the race question we have to look at people as individuals.

        And as a matter of point; last I checked the Arabs invaded and colonized a good portion of their neighbors. Or is it just coincidence that the Persian people use the arabic alphabet now a days? Africa /did/ invade Europe, and colonized it for several hundred years. You might recall Moorish Spain? Moorish Sicily? Italy? What about the Ottoman/Muslim conquests into east Europe? Europeans were constantly invaded by nomadic tribes from Asia. Or have you never heard of the Golden Horde? Atilla the Hun?

        If you insist on despising the white race at least learn your history. They weren’t the first to colonize and they won’t be the last. Hopefully though you’ll simply discard these racist lenses and view things as individuals.

        1. ChellG Nov 14, 2011

          Read the Bible! Sins of the fathers passed on to the children…that is the way it is. Not all white people…only white nations that invaded. Should Switzerland be punished..the answer is no! Should Norway be punished, the answer is no! Whites today are very lucky. Two hundred years ago, if you were in debt, as the US is now to China, you either sell your daughters to be married off to debtor’s sons or you were sent off to Australia to work off the debt. If the only punishment is Asian invasion, the whites are very lucky!

          1. samurai5 Nov 21, 2011

            Somehow I missed this 2 Broke Girls episode…

        2. ChellG Nov 14, 2011

          “Are you seriously saying the /whole/ white race should be punished for what a discrete number of ‘white’ invaders did? If we really wish to move beyond the race question we have to look at people as individuals. “
          No! I am answering the assertions by Gregan and Porter who want Africa, Japan and the white countries to be treated the same.  Saying that all countries should be treated the same is like saying that you should be treated the same as a criminal on death row, and both of you should be behind bars, or he should be set free.  We will never move beyond the race question as long as people have some form of racial or ethnic preference or the other whether it is preferring one race for employment or promotion or dating preference or taking it down to the crass level, who you sit next to in a public transit preference.
          “And as a matter of point; last I checked the Arabs invaded and colonized a good portion of their neighbors.”
          That is why they keep invading each other and don’t like each other.
          “Or is it just coincidence that the Persian people use the arabic alphabet now a days?”
          Iran and the Arabs don’t like each other either and they invade each other when they see fit. The Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s is a typical example of this.
          “Africa /did/ invade Europe, and colonized it for several hundred years. You might recall Moorish Spain? Moorish Sicily? Italy?”
          Mostly Arabs. Outside of Timbuktoo most Sub-Saharan African countries were far too primitive to invade Europe. Yes, some Moors were blacks, but that is an exception rather than a rule. And they never went as far as the UK.
          “What about the Ottoman/Muslim conquests into east Europe?”
          The Soviets did not invade Turkey but they paid the moslems back by subjugating moslem Central Asia.
          “Europeans were constantly invaded by nomadic tribes from Asia.”
          Yes, they paid the Asians back by invading Asia (Opium Wars in China), taking over of Hong Kong and Taiwan and of course overrunning the Philippines, Indo-China and taking Chinese indentured laborers to South East Asia…..and most important, keeping Chinese women out of the so-called white countries.
          “Or have you never heard of the Golden Horde? Atilla the Hun? “
          Yes, that is why the Hungarians and Slovaks and many Slavs will ever be as white as the Brits or Scandinavians.
          “If you insist on despising the white race at least learn your history. They weren’t the first to colonize and they won’t be the last.”
          Yep…that is why Asians are now colonizing America and they wont be the last.  They tried to keep Asian women out of the US…. and Asian women are playing the pivotal role in reducing the number of future white people in the world by marrying white men…karma is a bitch…what goes around comes around! You commit a murder, death sentence is and should be on the table.
          “Hopefully though you’ll simply discard these racist lenses and view things as individuals.”
          We can all dream.
           

    2. Samurai5 Nov 23, 2011

      “Funny how these ‘anti-racists’ are very worried about ‘stereotypes’, but when you raise the important issue of White GeNocide, suddenly they all go deaf and dumb.”________________________________________

      “White Genocide?” 

      Maybe no one is saying anything because the concept is absurd. 

  4. Anonymous Nov 10, 2011

    What about the white genocide peril?

    Africa for the Africans,Asia for the Asians,white countries for EVERYBODY!

    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives alike say I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

    1. ChellG Nov 11, 2011

      As with individuals so with humans. You have the ultimate penalty for heinous crimes such as murder. The death penalty. Last I recalled, it was not the Japanese who invaded India or Africa and sent up colonies there. It was not the Chinese who invaded Africa and set up colonies there. Fair enough the Japanese invaded China now and then and they invaded Korea as well, but did not set up a long term empire like the white people did. Saying that Japanese and the white people should be treated the same is like saying that someone who shoplifted or violated traffic laws or even committed armed robbery without killing someone should suffer the same death penalty as a murderer. Fat Chance. The white people committed the crime of slavery, subjugation and even genocide in the Americas. I agree that the invasion of America is a passive genocide of white people…but it is a penalty they are paying for the crimes they committed. Let us not forget the crime of debt which most white countries suffer from and they go to China to bail them out..well you do what the creditor tells you to do…otherwise go live in the caves like your ancestor did and you can have all your second amendment rights to hunt for a living. Pretty soon Greece and Italy will be so broke that they will be looking at a Chinese invasion…you commit murder you face the death penalty!

  5. ChellG Nov 10, 2011

    “It’s common in today’s sitcoms to portray white patriarchical males as troglodytic dolts.  I haven’t heard too many people complain about it.”

    Yes. The white males are portrayed as idiots like in the Criminal Minds show yesterday where the idiot was sacrificing boys to the god of thunder….looked like one of those white pagans of yesteryears. But, white people are also portrayed as serious decent people more often than as idiots or criminals. Recently, the portrayal of Asian Americans have changed..in the Mentalist the Chinese guy is portrayed as unsmiling. In Hawaii five 0 two Asians are portrayed well…although they will still not give Grace Park a white love interest…a big no no despite the proliferation of AWWM couples. And for a while there I believe they tried to whitewash Hawaii five 0 and the only reason it did not succeed was because the white actors they brought in were not that great, and there was a huge uproar from white audience. Of course by portraying Lee as they have, they are threatening all the gains made in the portrayal of Asian Americans!

  6. “2 Broke Girls,” is supposed to be a comedy.  It’s common in today’s sitcoms to portray white patriarchical males as troglodytic dolts.  I haven’t heard too many people complain about it.

    1. Old Glory Nov 10, 2011

      Have you noticed an underlying theme here? She really doesn’t like the white culture.

      1. Bob Gregan III Nov 11, 2011

        Old Glory,
        it has nothing to do with culture it is all about RACE. They say they are anti-racist, but what they really are is anti-White.

        Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White.

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