• Prompts for Lee, “Introduction: Yellowface” [due by end of day Mon, Oct 5]

What are the main arguments or claims Lee is making in this chapter?

What are the six ways Lee argues Asian Americans have been represented in the U.S. historically (and define each).

What is your response to Lee’s arguments?

9 thoughts on “• Prompts for Lee, “Introduction: Yellowface” [due by end of day Mon, Oct 5]

  1. That Orientals are viewed/portrayed as alien bodies and as threats to the American national family. That recent immigrants are viewed with greater appreciation and wonderment if their stay is understood to be temporary, and thus non-threatening. And given the 6 archetypes they were thrust into, they were being used for cultural and political manipulation. This is especially evident given that these stereotypical depictions are contradictory and conflicting.

    Pollutant – Chinese settlers were seen as disruptive to the idealistic purity of California and the westward expansion that it embodied.
    Coolie – Immigrant Chinese workers, threatening the American working class, were labeled and categorized for purposes of prejudice, racial bias, and most importantly to unify the White American working class against a common enemy.
    Deviant – as Asian Americans were becoming commonplace in the White household, sexual fantasies naturally became commonplace. This label was created as dogma to protect “racial and class stability” from such fantasies becoming reality.
    Yellow Peril – in a time of economic, industrial, geographical, and societal change “a threat to nation, race and family” was most frightening when White Americans thought they had more to lose than ever.
    Model Minority – as the Asian Americans assimilated nicely into American life, they could be used as an example for other non-white immigrants and races, not only by saving, producing, and keeping the family intact, but as a group who didn’t ruffle any feathers or disturb the ruling class.
    Gook – this description refers to the silently anti-American sentiment of the invisible enemy, existing in robotic secrecy. Or as Lee asserts, “the embodiment of inauthentic racial and national identities.”

    Lee initially argues that race is a way of generalizing people by attaching spiritual, cultural, and intellectual abstractions to physical appearance or nationality. This is undeniably evident given, once again, the subjective and self-serving nature of the six classifications. For example the gook is merely the model minority gone too far and for too long that everyone is silently sick of him. Yellow peril contradicts the model minority in a similar vain. Americans liked what the Asians stood for, but only to a comfortable extend, and only as and when it suited them. As humans we naturally form stereotypes to give ourselves the ease and comfort of rapid judgement and decision-making. Without this we’d spend far too much time assessing every person and situation to get anything done. But changing the stereotypical models to support our latest sentiment or reaction is the reverse order. It would undo the efficiency that was originally intended. It’s a contradiction and a logical fallacy.

  2. 1. Lee explains about race. He conveys race it is not a category of nature but an ideology. Putting a color on people’s skin as a mode of placing cultural meaning, in this case, helps to define who is and who is not a ” Real American”.
    2.The pollutant:.- Originated on mid – nineteenth century, at the “completely white” California, Chinese were portrayed as pollutants.
    – The coolie.- They were excluded from the working class, racialized as “coolie labor” or “nigger work”
    – The Deviant-. Household servant. Represented as deviant to avoid race mix up.
    – Yellow Peril.- Greatest threat to western civilization, and white race.
    -Model minority.- Succesful Asian American assimilation as a model for upward mobility.
    The Gook.- Model of productivity, savings and mobility.
    3. What really caught my attention was when Lee questioned who are real americans, what constitues America and who gets to participate, since the answers to these questions have changed from time to time.

  3. 1) Lee is claiming that because of the way Orientals look, they can never be a true citizen; they are merely given false image of being considered citizens.
    2) 1. During American western expansion, Americans wanted free land for each other, Orientals happened to be present there. Americans weren’t happy about the presence of Orientals in places like California, and thus were called the pollutant.
    2. The coolie was a Chinese laborer that was considered a threat to the common white family.
    3. The deviant refers to scores of Chinese women that came to San Francisco and were forced into prostitution. This also refers to household Chinese servants that represented some kind of sexual desire.
    4. The yellow Peril was a fear that Chinese and “yellow” people would consume America with their overabundance and become the new American.
    5. The model minority was the idea of an Asian family being the perfect immigrant.
    6. The gook was considered to be the invisible enemy and was considered so because of the war in Vietnam.

    3) I believe there are stereotypes of Oriental peoples, However I do not believe that they are racially discriminated the same way other people have been. Orientals may not be considered American by some people because of the way they look, however they have literally all the benefits any white American would have, therefore I don’t really agree with Lee’s arguments.

  4. 1. Asians in America are seen as aliens or pollutants. He argues that even though Asians are being accepted into America they will never be true Americans.
    2. The Pollutant- During the mid-19th-century white settlers in California were afraid that the Chinese settlers would disrupt westward expansion. The ideal of establishing California as free and racially pure required the removal or exclusion of Chinese.
    The Coolie-The Chinese immigrant worker that came to the U.S. during the 1870s and 1880s. They were portrayed as a threat to white workers.
    The Deviant- A Chinese servant was know as the “deviant.” The middle-class gender roles and sexual behavior were being codified into a heterosexual cult of domesticity. During the 1860s and 1870s many Chinese women were forced into prostitution.
    The Yellow Peril-a threat to nation, race and family.
    The Model Minority-The image of Asian Americans as a successful case of “ethnic” assimilation.
    The Gook-faceless and invisible, a huge threat that Americans faced post Vietnam War.
    3. There is one paragraph that stands out to me on page 2. “What does Yellowface signify?” This paragraph kinda sums up the article to me.

  5. 1) Lee states that race is established by politcal standards and sociieties standards. That the ideal ”real american” is contanstly changing, however immagrants (asians in this case) no matter what they do, they will never be accepted. Because even after the years, he explains how he is still looked at in a different light and not a positive one. How he will never be looked at as a real american. He also speaks about americans wrong attiude towards saying who the real americans are.

    2) The Pollutant: in the mid 19th century, Americans saw California as a second chance at an all white free state, since they felt Asians were like a pollutant. They wanted to get rid of any Asian, and African influences.

    The coolie- working class, but low class labor. Since they were seen as a threat to the typical american mans family, they were put in positions where they could do less damage through cheap labor

    The Deviant:This is when chinese were made servants of middle class whites, which lead the chinese to be viewed as almost like sexual targets, which caused tf interracial relationships, which were then outlawedThe deviatn was created to prevent this from happening/keep happening.

    The yellow peril: Viewed as the greatest threat american. The nation, race and family. after acquiring new territories, seeing so many “yellow faces” terrorized Americans.

    Model Minority: When Asians would assimilated to the white mans way of life, it made the ‘perfect” model for other minorities.

    The gook: The invisible enemy: The embodiment of inauthentic national and racial identities that arouse after the Vietnam war.

    I think it is funny that Lee generalizes the “white man” when he trying to justify how they discriminated against ÿellow face” however I feel like this comes about because of a feeling of oppression, or the unknown. When we dont know about something or feel like we are looked as less, we tend to generalize the person, object, or culture that makes us feel that way. Therefore, I dont think there is a solution. Being open minded is a privliage most dont have which is why we have constantly struggled in America.

  6. 1) What are the main arguments or claims Lee is making in this chapter?
    In his introduction, Lee challenges the common idea that Asians have been integrated into our society. He claims that Orientals have a false illusion of citizenship and despite white Americans allowing them to be here, they will never see them as true Americans. He also challenges who has the right to even claim themselves to be true Americans, and how America has been established through ways of using bloodlines as validations.

    2) What are the six ways Lee argues Asian Americans have been represented in the U.S. historically (and define each).
    1. The pollutant- originated in mid nineteenth-century California. An idea developed by those involved in American expansion to the West, where they considered the presence of the Oriental disruptive to their way of living. California had an ideal look of being a free state, but in reality they wanted it to be free for all white Americans.
    2. The coolie- the Chinese immigrant worker. They came as regular workers but were forced into a racially defined state of subordination as “coolie labor”. Portrayed as unfree and servile, a threat to the white working man’s family
    3. The deviant- in the person of the Chinese household servant is a figure of forbidden desire. In the 1860s and 1870s, hundreds of Chinese women were brought to San Francisco and forced into prostitution. Men were forced out of the mines and into the homes of middle class Americans as servants. This allowed the Chinese to be viewed in a more sexualized manner, therefore allowing the spill of interracial relationships, which were outlawed.
    4. The yellow Peril- A threat to nation, race, and family. It was the fear of the American people after we acquired the Caribbean and the Pacific, that the introduction of so many yellow faces was going to be the greatest threat to our society.
    5. The model minority- originated in the racial logic of Cold War liberalism. It was in a sense the lesser of all evils of the time. It gave Asians the false illusion of being the perfect assimilated alien, even though Americans in reality would never see them as one of them
    6. The gook- represented as the invisible enemy and the embodiment of inauthentic racial and national identities.

    3) What is your response to Lee’s arguments?
    My response may be slightly biased. But considering the country we live in, I don’t feel I have encountered significant racism towards Oriental. Yes there are stereotypes that engulf their presence. But this can be said about any form of people that have ever encountered America. I think the majority of our racism was directed towards Africans Americans and in the recent years the hatred has grown towards Latinos who are being blamed for coming in and stealing American jobs. For this fact, I feel many of his arguments are emphasized and not completely prevalent in our society.

  7. In this piece, Lee is claiming that race is determined by political ideology dependent on the cultural narrative of a given society. Lee presents a historical example of how the Supreme Court refused Ozawa’s citizenship in spite of his “white” skin color. They said race was defined by blood; however, later the Supreme Court ruled against Thinds, a high-class Hindu man who brought evidence of being a descendant of the Aryans. The Supreme Court concluded that race was a political label. If the surrounding norm in society was a white Protestant, than the Asian will be alienated automatically. Physical characteristics are used as “markers.” This is the yellowface. The slanted eyes, yellow skin, and all other foreign characteristics become alien once present in society, because the innate presence disrupts the narrative environment. Once a foreign, distant object becomes present to a given place, it becomes alien to that given place.

    In the mid-19th-century, the land of California seemed like a second chance for the white Eastern people to establish a republic and govern a territory free of racial varieties and instead pure and of one kind. In this vein, the white settler viewed Asians as pollutants. They also demanded a society without any chattel slavery, but the Chinese represented industrial wage slavery. Therefore, they were perceived as threats for pollution.

    The word used to represent the Chinese immigrant as coolie manifested itself when the US working class were forming in the mid 1870s and 1880s. During this time, the Chinese were segregated into a position where they are subjugated to opportunities only including common labor. The Chinese were perceived as a threat to the ideal, nationalistically symbolic family.

    As for the usage of deviant to describe the socially perceived Chinese immigrant, this was apparent when the US middle class might have interracial, sexual relations with a Chinese slave. This term, deviant, helped erase the Chinese slaves from being a possibility for sex or intimacy in the minds of the white man.

    The yellow peril term used for the Chinese was used in the beginning of the 20th century to represent the Chinese as threats to Western civilization. Leaders of Western civilization began to promote and create avenues in which racial purity can be preserved during a time for new expansion.

    During the 1960s and 1970s, the model minority was fully assimilated working Chinese immigrants, and this model served as a perfect example for other minorities.

    The term gook, meaning an invisible enemy, was used to represent the collective identity of others of different racial origin, a false and skewed portrayal at the end of the Vietnam war.

    I understand that Lee can say that each racial perception was relative to the times of practical necessity within Western civilization. Racial categorization came as a political ideology dependent on the times, and it was inherited by political thought. I agree this is true; however, there seems to be no practical solution.

  8. In America, the Asian immigrant is perceived as an alien (someone with a different allegiance) and a pollutant (an anomaly within a given structure; a thing that is out of place) who will always be a foreigner in disguise – a threat to the symbol of the all-white American family. Though the perception of the Asian immigrant in America has shifted over the years, he is always seen in a somewhat negative light. Race is wrongly defined by popular culture (and the Supreme Court) as a “common understanding” of what it should be.

    1. The Pollutant: During the mid 1800’s: settlers from the East were distraught by the idea that the presence of Asians in California could be a disruption to the perfect all-white/slavery-free image they wanted for their new community.

    2. The Coolie: Defined as docile and unfree; looked down upon as a threat to the white working man’s way of life through cheap labor.

    3. The Deviant: Justification of the middle-class whites’ forbidden desire for the Asian domestic worker by labeling them as “deviant”.

    4. The Yellow Peril: A threat to the homogeneity of the nation.

    5. The Model Minority: Through assimilating themselves to the white man’s way of life and not contesting it, Asian Americans were perceived as a successful immigration story.

    6. The Gook: A post-Viet Nam war threat; silent and invisible; whose family model will inevitably become deceitful.
    Lee has a depth of knowledge on the subject matter that is undeniable. My only critique is that he tends to generalize “The White Man” in America, which is a tad contradictory given that it could be seen as the “common understanding” of what the white man’s perception towards “Yellowface” should be.

  9. Asians assimilation into America is seen as pollution, an entity out of place and disturbs the overall sanctity of the American way. Lee argues the defining guidelines for what constitutes being a “real American” is always shifting in times of cultural crisis and popular opinions. The Ozowa and Thinds case rulings exemplifies Lee’s argument that Nationality is a constant battle between the dominant and dominated.

    Described as the six faces of the Oriental, Lee describes the pollutant, the coolie, the deviant, the yellow peril, the model minority and the gook.

    The Pollutant – 1860s California – Disruption of ideologies regarding westward expansion at the end of the 1860s a national debate of slavery, abolition and statehood was nearing its end. Demand for the removal of all Chinese and African influences to develop a racially pure and free California.

    The Coolie – 1870s and 1880s – A subordinate working class also known as low class labor. The Irish immigrants had started to be accepted into America’s white culture and led the Anti-Chinese movement.

    The Deviant – 1860s and 1870s – The integration of the Chinese servants into the households of middle class whites, presented a threat of interracial and sex and intimacy. The Orientals were identified as deviant to prevent racial pollution and to preserve racial and class stability.

    The Yellow Peril – “Turn of the Century” – Greatest threat to nation, race and family. Acquisition of new territories led to an influx of Asiatic immigration. Although immigration was not the only variable to have affected the shift in culture to the middle and working classes, many changes in gender roles, and sexual attitudes in both men and women occurred at this time.

    Model Minority – 1960s and 1970s – A non political and non militant upward mobility regarding successfully assimilated Asians in America to be used as a model for other ethnic minorities to follow.

    The Gook – 1970s – The invisible enemy – The embodiment of inauthentic national and racial identities brought about after the Vietnam war and national decline.

    I agree with Lee’s arguments about how we define race, sex, gender throughout history as contradictory and reinforces the notion of instability, politically motivated agenda and usefulness towards upward mobility in society. As ideologies shift throughout history, racial representations will shift as well.

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