By Frank Chin & Jeffery Paul Chan

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By Frank Chin & Jeffery Paul Chan

White racism enforces white supremacy. White supremacy is a

system of order and a way of perceiving reality. Its purpose is to
keep whites on top and set them free. Colored minorities in white
reality are stereotypes. Each racial stereotype comes in two
models, the acceptable, hostile black stud has his acceptable
counterpart in the form of Stepin Fetchit. For the savage, kill-
crazy Geronimo, there is Tonto and the Hollywood version of
Cochise. For the mad dog General Santa Ana there's the Cisco Kid
and Pancho. For Fu Manchu and the Yellow Peril, there is Charlie
Chan and his Number One Son. The unacceptable model is
unacceptable because he cannot be controlled by whites. The
acceptable model is acceptable because he is tractable. There is
racist hate and racist love.
If the system works, the stereotypes assigned to the various
races are accepted by the races themselves as reality, as fact, and
racist love reigns. The minority's reaction to racist policy is
acceptance and apparent satisfaction. Order is kept, the world
turns without a peep from any nonwhite. One measure of the success
of white racism is the silence of that race and the amount of white
energy necessary to maintain or increase that silence.
Likewise, the failure of white racism can be measured by the
amount and kind of noise of resistance generated by the race. The
truth is that all of the country's attention has been drawn to
white racism's failures. Everything that has been done by whites
in politics, government, and education in response to the failure
of white racism, while supposedly anti-racist, can be seen as
efforts to correct the flaws, redesign the instruments, and make
racism work. The object is to shut up the noise. Do it fast. Do
it cheap. White racism has failed with the blacks, the chicanos,
the American Indians. Night riders, soldier boys on horseback, fat
sheriffs, and all them goons and clowns of racism did destroy a lot
of bodies, mess up some minds, and leave among these minorities a
legacy of suffering that continues to this day. But they did not
stamp out the consciousness of a people, destroy their cultural
integrity and literacy sensibility, and produce races of people
that would work to enforce white supremacy without having to be
supervised or watchdogged by whites.
In terms of the utter lack of cultural distinction in America,
the destruction of an organic sense of identity, the complete
psychological and cultural subjugation of a race of people, the
people of Chinese and Japanese ancestry stand out as white racism's
only success. This is not to say that Asian-Americans are worse
off than the other colored minorities. American policy has failed
in Vietnam, yet no one would say that the Vietnamese are better off
than the people of Puerto Rico, where American policy has
succeeded. The secret of that success lies in the construction of
the modern stereotype and the development of new policies of white
The general function of any racial stereotype is to establish
and preserve order between different elements of society, maintain
the continuity and growth of Western civilization, and enforce
white supremacy with a minimum of effort, attention, and expense.
The ideal racial stereotype is a low maintenance engine of white
supremacy whose efficiency increases with age, as it became
"authenticated" and "historically verified."
Those stereotype operates as a model of behavior. It
conditions the mass society's perceptions and expectations.
Society is conditioned to accept the given minority only within the
bounds of the stereotype. The subject minority is conditioned to
reciprocate by becoming the stereotype, live it, talk it, embrace
it, measure group and individual worth in its terms, and believe
The stereotype operates most efficiently and economically when
the vehicle of the stereotype, the medium of its perpetuation, and
the subject race to be controlled are all one. When the operation
of the stereotype has reached this point, where the subject race
itself embodies and perpetuates the white supremacist vision of
reality, indifference to the subject race sets in among mass
society. The successful operation of the stereotype results in the
neutralization of the subject race as a social, creative, and
cultural force. The race poses no threat to white supremacy. It
is now a guardian of white supremacy, dependent on it and grateful
to it.
For the subject to operate efficiently as an instrument of
white supremacy, he is conditioned to accept and live in a state of
euphemized self-contempt. This self-contempt itself is nothing
more than the subject's acceptance of white standards of
objectivity, beauty, behavior, and achievement as being morally
absolute, and his acknowledgment of the fact that, because he is
not white, he can never fully measure up to white standards.
The stereotype, within the minority group itself, then, is
enforced by individual and collective self-contempt. Given: that
the acceptable stereotype is the minority version of whiteness and
being acceptable to whites creates no friction between the races,
and given: fear of white hostility and the white threat to the
survival of the subject minority, it follows that embracing the
acceptable stereotype is an expedient tactic of survival, as
selling out and accepting humiliation almost always are. The
humiliation, this gesture of self-contempt and self-destruction, in
terms of the stereotype is euphemized as being successful
assimilation, adaptation, and acculturation.
If the source of this self-contempt is obviously generated
from outside the minority, interracial hostility will inevitably
result, as history has shown us in the cases of the blacks,
Indians, and chicanos. The best self-contempt to condition into
the minority has its sources seemingly within the minority group
itself. The vehicles of this illusion are education and the
publishing establishment. Only five American-born Chinese have
published what can be called serious attempts at literature:
Pardee Lowe has a one-book career with _Father and Glorious
Descendants_(1943), an autobiography; Jade Snow Wong, another one-
book career with the most famous Chinese-American work, _Fifth
Chinese Daughter_(1950), an autobiography; Diana Chang, the only
serious Chinese-America writer to publish more than one book-length
creative work to date, has written and published four novels and is
a well-known poet; Virginia Lee has one novel, _The House Tai Ming
Built_ in 1963; and Betty Lee Sung, author of the
semiautobiographical _Mountain of Gold_(1967). Of these five,
four--Pardee Lowe, Jade Snow Wong, Virginia Lee, and Betty Lee
Sung--confirm the popular stereotypes of Chinese-Americans, find
Chinese-America repulsive, and don't identify with it.
The construction of the stereotype began long before Jade Snow
Wong, Pardee Lowe, Virginia Lee, and Betty Lee Sung were born
within it and educated to fulfill it. It began with a basic
difference between it and the stereotypes of the other races. The
white stereotype of the Asian is unique in that it is the only
racial stereotype completely devoid of manhood. Our nobility is
that of an efficient housewife. At our worst we are contemptible
because we are womanly, effeminate, devoid of all the traditionally
masculine qualities of originality, daring, physical courage,
creativity. We're neither straight talkin' or straight shootin'.
The mere fact that four of the five American-born Chinese-American
writers are women reinforces this aspect of the stereotype.

The sources of Chinese-American self-contempt are white

Christianity, the sojourner's state of humiliation, overt white
racism, and legislative racism. Each served to exclude the
Chinese-American from the realm of manliness and American culture.
The Chinese were the target of the largest missionary campaign ever
mounted in the history of mankind. It's now in its fifth century.
The American missionary movement is now in its second century. In
1871, the Reverend John L. Nevius wrote:
The Chinese as a race are, as compared with the European
nations, of a phlegmatic and impassive temperament, and
physically less active and energetic. Children are not fond
of athletic and vigorous sports, but prefer marbles, kite-
flying, and some quiet games of gall, spinning tops, etc. Men
take an easy stroll for recreation, but never a rapid walk for
exercise, and are seldom in a hurry or excited. They are
characteristically timid and docile... While the Chinese are
deficient in active courage and daring, they are not passive
in resistance. They are comparatively apathetic as regards to
pain and death, and have great powers of physical endurance as
well as great persistency and obstinacy. On an average a
Chinese tailor will work on his bench or a literary man over
books with his pen, more hours a day than our race can.

The Chinese in the parlance of the Bible, were raw material

for the "flock," pathological sheep for the shepherd. The
adjectives applied to the Chinese ring with scriptural imagery. We
are meek, timid, passive, docile, industrious. We have the
patience of Job. We are humble. A race without sinful manhood,
born to mortify our flesh. Religion has been used to subjugate the
blacks, chicanos, and Indians along with guns and whips. The
difference between these groups and the Chinese was that the
Christians, taking Chinese hospitality for timidity and docility,
weren't afraid of us as they were of other races. They loved us,
protected us. Love conquered.
It's well-known that the cloying overwhelming love of a
protective, coddling mother produces an emotionally stunted,
dependant child. This is the Christian love, the bigoted love that
has imprisoned the Chinese-American sensibility; whereas overt and
prolonged expressions of hatred had the effect of liberating black,
red, chicano, and to some degree, Japanese-American sensibilities.
The hatred of whites freed them to return hate with hate and
develop their own brigand languages, cultures, and sensibilities,
all o f which have at their roots an assumed arrogance in the face
of white standards, and defiant mockery of the white institutions,
including white religion. One of the products of these cultures
born of overt racist hatred was a word in the language for white
man, a name loaded with hate. A white man knows where he stands
when a chicano called him "gringo," or a black man called him
"honky," "Mr. Charlie," "ofay," "whitey," or an Indian calls him
"paleface." Whites aren't aware of the names Chinese-Americans and
Japanese-Americans have for them. And it's not a little
embarrassing for an Asian-American to be asked by a curious white
what we might call him behind his back.
The first Chinese were sojourners to America. They arrived in
a state of humiliation as indentured servants, coolie laborers to
California to perform the labor of slaves, which were outlawed in
this free state. They never intended to settle here. The whites
encouraged them with overt white racism and legislative racism to
leave as soon as they could. The first Chinese so loathed this
country that they regularly burned all their letters and records of
their stay, journals and diaries, and tossed the ashes into the sea
in the hope that at least much of themselves would make it back to
China. As a consequence of their total self-contempt, Chinese-
America has no literary legacy. Of the Chinese who stayed not one
complete account of one Chinese man's life in California, in diary,
in journal, or in the form of correspondence, survives. Nor is
there any oral history. All that survives from those old men is
the humiliation of being foreign.
If life here was something to be erased from memory, death
here was the ultimate humiliation. They were contemptible in life
on American soil. Life they could endure. But death, no. So the
practice of returning the bones to China for burial in hospitable
ground, an eloquent and final expression of their loathing of
America released after death, which the whites regarded as quaint
and heathenish.
Legislative racism, the only form that openly survives, was
invented to cope with the Chinese specifically and the first
applied against them with success. Legislative racism culminated
in the passage of The Chinese Exclusion Act by the U.S. Congress,
giving the Chinese the distinction of being the only race to be
legislated against by name.
The racist policy applied against the blacks defined them as
nonhumans, as property without legal status. This resulted in
political schisms among the white majority and contributed to a
costly war, thus failing as an instrument of white supremacy. It
also failed to control the blacks and condition them into white
supremacist self-control. The policy of extermination and
incarceration applied against the American Indian was another
costly failure.
For the Chinese, they invented an instrument of racist policy
that was a work of pure genius, in that it was not an overtly
hostile expression of anti-Chinese sentiment, yet still reinforced
the stereotype and generated self-contempt and humiliation among
generations of Chinese and Chinese-Americans, who, after having
been conditioned into internalizing the white supremacist Gospel of
Christian missionaries, looked on themselves as failures, instead
of victims of racism. This wondrous instrument was _the law_.
They gave the Chinese legal status, access to the protection under
the law as "aliens ineligible for citizenship." We were separate
but equal under the supposedly blind impartiality of the law.
Legally we were masters of our own destiny, limited only by our
intelligence and talent.
The game was rigged. The Chinese were forced into Chinatown
and out of American culture and society by laws supposedly designed
to protect fish, secure safety against fire, and protect public
health. One law stated that only "aliens ineligible for
citizenship" of the laboring class would be admitted into the
country. A fancy way of saying only men, no women. this law was
designed to control the Chinese population. It discouraged Chinese
from staying by denying them access to their women, underscored the
state of their (supposedly voluntary) humiliation in America, and
guaranteed that even should all the Chinese stay they would not
reproduce. And eventually they would die out.
This law worked. At the turn of the century the ratio of men
to women was 27 to 1. Then a little after the turn of the century
the Chinese population took a sudden decline. White historians
like to say that suddenly a lot of us went home to China. We
didn't, but our bones did, six months after we died here. This law
was doubly successful in that it contributed to the myth of
Chinese-American juvenile decency and thus added to the
effeminization of the racial stereotype. According to this myth,
the reason juvenile delinquency stayed so low in Chinatown until
the last twenty years was that maintenance of the strong Chinese
family. Nothing less than Confucianist Chinese culture was making
law-abiding citizens of us. The reason there was no juvenile
delinquency in Chinatown has less to do with Confucian mumbo jumbo
than with the law against the birth of Chinese kids. There were no
juveniles to be delinquent.
What holds all this self-contempt together and makes it work
is "The Concept of the Dual Personality." The so-called "blending
of East and West" divides the Chinese-American into two
incompatible segments: (1) the _foreigner_ whose status is
dependent on his ability to be accepted by the white natives; and
(2) the _handicapped native_ who is taught that identification with
his foreignness is the only way to "justify" his difference in skin
color. The argument goes, "If you ain't got Chinese culture, baby,
all you got's the color of your skin," as if to say skin color were
not a culture force in this country.
The privileged foreigner is the assimilable alien. The
assimilable alien is posed as an exemplary minority against the bad
example of the blacks. Thus the privileged foreigner is trained to
respond to the black not the white majority as the single most
potent threat to his status. The handicapped native is neither
black nor white in a black and white world. In his native American
culture he has no recognized style of manhood, in a society where
a manly style is prerequisite to respectability and notice. His
pride is derived from the degree of his acceptance by the race of
his choice at being consciously one thing and not the other.
Black, white, chicano, or a museum of Chinese culture. In his use
of language, voice inflection, accent, walk, manner of dress, and
combing his hair, the handicapped native steeps himself in self-
contempt for being "quick to learn...and imitative." At worst,
he's a counterfeit begging currency. At best he's an "Americanized
Chinese," someone who's been given a treatment to make him less
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