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Stereotyped Perpetual Foreigners: Racist Visual Culture Towards Asian-Americans

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Racist Visual Culture towards Asian- Americans

Marlon Riggs’ Ethnic Notions gives an insight on the racist nature of American Culture following the Emancipation Proclamation. These stereotypes are not limited to just blacks. The appearance of Asian stereotypes in past and even modern media is similarly offensive to the despicable stereotyping of African Americans in the US.

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One of the main targets for stereotyping East Asians is the relationship between Asian children and their parents. One of the most notable is that Asian school children are incredibly smart, excelling at math in particular. They have often been referred to as “human calculators” that will never fail to answer a math problem correctly. The explanation for this stereotype is a stereotype of its own: the extremely strict and conservative parent. The stereotypical Asian Parent will not accept any grade other than an “A” and if they get any other grade they will be disciplined severely. This stereotype is so controlling that they will not allow their child to study anything other than becoming a doctor or an engineer at an Ivy League school. The best representation of this is the popular internet meme: “High Expectations Asian Father”.

“High Expectations Asian Father is an advice animal image macro series based on stereotypes and cliches about first-generation Asian parents pushing their children to excel in academic fields in an overbearing manner. Centered around a photograph of a middle-aged Asian man with glasses and grey hair.” (Know Your Meme n.d.)

The stereotypical Asian parent will also force their child to master either the violin or the piano. The only thing the stereotypical child is not good at is athletics. However, in contradiction, some Americans actually believe Asians have innate Kung-Fu powers.

The appearance of East Asians was also a major subject of stereotype in the past and continues to a lesser extent today. Similar to calling people of African American descent, black Asians have been incorrectly labelled as yellow. Just as with blackface in Minstrel shows in the Southern US, yellowface has been used to portray East Asians. Most notably was Mickey Rooney’s Chinese character in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (TV tropes n.d.) The Yellow stereotype was how the disease ‘yellow fever’ got its name, the Yellow Sea, and Yellow Peril. Yellow Peril was a nineteenth century term for when massive amounts of Chinese would immigrate to one place and out populate whites, thus the westerners would feel overwhelmed (for once). Another stereotype of the era was that Asians had buck teeth, squinty eyes and glasses. Some westerners either seriously or comically believe that Asians eyes are so squinty that they can’t see and that’s why they need glasses. American General Bill Slim said that a Japanese General he faced was a perfect Asian caricature, further supporting the stereotype. Although the buck tooth stereotype is not as common today, the squinty eyes and glasses stereotype is still strong today. (TV tropes n.d.)

Modern Media has once again stereotyped an entire race of people, but the issue is not very well recognized as such. Asian Americans are considered perpetual foreigners, thus never achieving true “American” status. Asians are stereotyped via internet memes, movies, TV shows, in our news and in day to day conversations.

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