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Yellowface!

 
Yellowface is another example of the racism prevalent in American culture. Yellowface means more than a white person wearing make-up to look Asian. It also describes the systematic bias against hiring real Asians to play Asian roles shown by white producers, directors, and others who control the depiction of Asians in popular culture through casting decisions and the propagation of racist Asian stereotypes and caricatures. 

 

Racist Asian Stereotypes

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.

 

Coolie
Coolie

The "Coolie" stereotype originated with Chinese laborers in the 1850s as a means of preventing Chinese from entering the skilled trades. The lowest-paying unskilled jobs were called "coolie labor" or "nigger work."
 

Yellow Peril
Yellow Peril

The "Yellow Peril" or pollutant stereotype began to take hold in 1890s 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.
 

Deviant
Deviant

The "Deviant" stereotype was a response to the movement of Asians from common labor to household servants, laundrymen, and operators of opium dens, and the importation of women for prostitution.
 

Dragon Lady
Dragon Lady

Asian women have often been portrayed as cunning "Dragon Ladies" -- aggressive or opportunistic sexual beings or predatory gold diggers. Non-threatening stereotypes include servile Lotus Blossoms, China dolls, and Geisha girls.
 

Gook
Gook

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.

 Model Minority
Model Minority

The "Model Minority" stereotype originated in the 1950s as a representation of successful assimilation of Asians that was contrasted with the less successful assimilation of Blacks and Hispanics.
 


 

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Legal Discrimination and Violence Against Asian Immigrants

As a trickle turned into a flood, (between 1850 and 1930, about one million Asians from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and India came to the United States) a backlash soon developed.

Yellowface on Stage

"Yellowface" portrayals date to at least 1767 in the United States, when Arthur Murphy's theatrical work The Orphan of China was presented in Philadelphia. 

Yellowface in Film and TV

Whites in Yellowface have a long history on screen, beginning with Mary Pickford’s Cio-Cio San in Madame Butterfly (1915). 

Yellowface Whitewashing

A phenomenon wherein white actors are cast to portray what were originally non-white characters is called "whitewashing." Instead of using yellow face makeup, the film makers change the race or origin of the characters.

Yellowface in Europe

The most blatant contemporary example of Yellowface in Western European media is a character created by Dutch TV and later adopted by Danish TV called Ushi; a caricature of a Japanese woman, but played by white women. 

Yellowface Caricatures in Politics

In 1997, The National Review magazine published an illustrated cover of then President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, in stereotypical Oriental garb and featuring caricatured features, buck teeth and slanted eyes.

 
 

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Blackface!
Black Stereotypes
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Yellowface!
Asian Stereotypes
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Brownface!
Hispanic Stereotypes
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Redface!
Indian Stereotypes
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Arabface!
Arab Stereotypes
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Jewface!
Jewish Stereotypes
 

Racial and Racist Stereotypes in Media


 

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Ken Padgett