In “The ‘Yellow Peril’ and Asian Exclusion in the Americas,” author Erika Lee investigates the way Asian peoples have immigrated to the Americas since the 19th century and explores anti-Asian sentiment in the Americas, particularly the labeling of South/East Asians, and specifically Japanese people as the “Yellow Peril” in the early 1900s. What I found most interesting about this article was the discussion of the “Asiatic Exclusion League” and the massive race riots in 1907. One can’t study North American history without learning about the countless accounts of racial inequality and outright violence that have plagued the US, Canada, and Mexico to varying extents since their earliest days. However, these accounts usually involve inequality directed towards African Americans, Latin Americans, Native Americans and other groups, while anti-Asian sentiment is often overlooked. It was also interesting to see how president Theodore Roosevelt responded to expanding Japanese power (limiting immigration, advocating “White Supremacy”) in comparison to way we handle the rising of foreign powers like China now, just over a century later. No American politician could get very far advocating something blatantly as “White Supremacy” in the modern age, but couldn’t we say that many of our politicians still advocate similar policies, just in more nuanced ways?
Kent Ono and Vincent Pham follow this concept into the modern age, discussing the persistence of racism against Asians. In my opinion, the two most pervasive themes he brings up are (1) the fear of Asians as “coming to take over” western society and (2) stereotypical depictions of Asians in media. It would seem that every year the competition between America (as an existing superpower) and China (potentially rising to become another) is the source of more and more anxiety and xenophobia aimed loosely at all Asians in the United States, but this idea has existed for about a century. As for media portrayal: from commercials to full length movies, stereotypical Asian characters are still a staple in media. [See: The Fast and The Furious, Sixteen Candles, South Park]. Which begs the question: won’t these depictions seem just as archaic and distasteful in 50 years as “The Little Rascals'” character, Buckwheat does today? And what does that say about how far we’ve come as opposed to how far we still have to go?
Finally, “Black Orientalism” covers the Americanization of African Americans and the facilitation of which by growing racism towards East Asians in the 19th century. Author, Helen Jun, explains that new xenophobia towards Asians gave African Americans an odd new chance to become more American by identifying as “not Asian.” It was interesting to learn about this competition for American-ness and the way white conflicts with minorities translated into conflicts between minority groups. It would be interesting to learn about how this process played out with other groups throughout American history and elsewhere. It also seems worth pointing out the modern parallel to the use of Christianity to appear more American, since today many Americans still identify followers of non-christian religions as being less American.