Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture

By Robert G. Lee | Go to book overview

4
Inner Dikes and Barred Zones

At the end of the nineteenth century, Theodore Roosevelt wrote to his friend, the diplomat Spring Rice, "Together. . . the two branches of the Anglo-Saxon race. . . could whip the world." 1 Roosevelt joined Alfred Thayer Mahan, the apostle of American naval power, in calling for a program of vigorous military preparedness and an "Anglo-Saxon" alliance of English-speaking peoples. 2 Roosevelt and Mahan shared a concern about competition from Germany, Russia, and Japan for concessions and spheres of influence in China and Korea and an anxiety about a revanchist challenge to the white domination of Asia. In 1905, this anxiety over a "Yellow Peril" assumed the status of a nightmare after Japan's stunning military victory over Russia. 3

While a formal British-American alliance never materialized, the spirit of Anglo-Saxonism expressed by Roosevelt shaped the racial discourse of the first two decades of the new century. Between the time that Roosevelt rode off to liberate the Cubans and the passage of the Immigration Act of 1923, Cuba, the Philippines, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico were all brought under the American eagle. The American transformation from republic to (comparatively small) empire created anxieties about new immigration and "racial suicide." These anxieties were voiced in debates over nationality, naturalization, and family in which the Oriental was consolidated as the Yellow Peril. 4

The construction of the Yellow Peril was paralleled by a consolidation of whiteness. Roosevelt's call for an Anglo-Saxon alliance prompted columnist Finley Peter Dunne's trenchant observer of American life, Mr. Dooley, to observe to his pal Hinnissy:

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Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface - Where Are You From? ix
  • Introduction - Yellowface 1
  • 1 - The "Heathen Chinee" on God's Free Soil 15
  • 2 - The Coolie and the Making of the White Working Class 51
  • 3 - The Third Sex 83
  • 4 - Inner Dikes and Barred Zones 106
  • 5 - The Cold War Origins of the Model Minority Myth 145
  • 6 - The Model Minority as Gook 180
  • 7 - After La 204
  • 8 - Disobedient Citizenship: Deconstructing the Oriental 223
  • Notes 233
  • Index 257
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