Negative Stereotypes of Asian Americans

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Rising Against Negative Stereotypes of Asian Americans in Popular Culture That Developed Throughout History Negative stereotypes of Asians have been collectively internalized by societies, and were manifested by a society's popular culture, including the media, literature, theatre, and other creative expressions. Throughout America's history, Asian Americans have been conceived, treated, and portrayed as perpetual foreigners; un-assimilating and inherently foreign regardless of citizenship or duration of residence in America. These negative stereotypical views developed to what can be described as “the six faces of the oriental” which are the pollutant, the coolie, the deviant, the yellow peril, the model minority, and the gook (Lee, p.8). Stereotypes like these have been preconceived overgeneralizations about a group, without regard to individual uniqueness. This is evident through numerous Supreme Court rulings, acts of legislature, and statements made in the nation's media, such as "Go back to China!" (a familiar racist expression of xenophobia against Asian immigrants). The perceptions of Americans toward Asians in the media including characterizations of communication and social skills have drastically changed over the years. From the obvious negative stereotypes of the “six faces of the oriental” that developed in the 1800’s and early 1900’s to the perceived “positive” stereotype (but still actually negative) that occurred in the 1960’s to depict Asians as the “model minority,” the stereotypes never disappeared. These stereotypes placed on Asian Americans throughout history in popular culture were all negative, and today Asian Americans still experience these same negative racial stereotypes which we as Americans should strive to eliminate in order to grasp the idea of tolerance of Asian Americans in popular culture to create a less prejudiced society. The stereotypes of “the six faces of the oriental” derived from their ancestors during the time of immigration in the 1800’s and early 1900’s all portray a negative view toward Asian Americans. When Asian immigrants first arrived in the United States, they were welcomed as cheap labor. But after the California gold rush brought a flood of Asian immigrants to California, the cheap Asian labor began to be seen as a threat. What began as neutral or amusing stereotypical caricatures of Asians soon took on more negative connotations. The "Coolie" stereotype originated with Chinese laborers in the 1850’s as a way of preventing Chinese from entering the skilled trades. The lowest-paying unskilled jobs were called "coolie labor" or "nigger work." The "Yellow Peril" or pollutant stereotype (referring to the “White American fear”) began to take hold in the 1890’s in California. Asians were viewed as alien and a threat to wage earners, and a movement began that had the goal of making California racially pure (Lee, p.8). During this time, politicians and writers expressed numerous anti-Asian views, with headlines like "The 'Yellow Peril'" (Los Angeles Times, 1886) and "Conference Endorses Chinese Exclusion" (The New York Times, 1905). The "Gook" stereotype originated with the US Military during the Korean War as a generic term for Asians, and became more popular during the Vietnam War. A gook is an invisible and powerful enemy with superhuman endurance and ability to absorb punishment. The "Model Minority" stereotype originated in the 1950’s as a representation of successful assimilation of Asians that was contrasted with the less successful assimilation of those who did not fit the standards. Although this may have been perceived as a positive stereotype, this, like all of the six faces of the oriental, was still a negative stereotype because those who did not meet the qualifications of the “model minority” were looked down upon and discriminated against. These different yet similar labels set upon Asian Americans during the course of history all demonstrate a negative...
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