Perpetual foreigner, yellow peril, and model minority: The roots of the racialization of Asian Americans
Racialization and stereotypes of Asian Americans fall under three broad categories: that of the perpetual foreigner, yellow peril, and/or model minority. The first paints Asians as strangers in their own homeland, forever foreign regardless of immigration status or how long they have been in the United States. The second characterizes Asians and Asian Americans as threats to American stability and well-being, and this threat is characterized as militaristic, economic, and social. Finally, the model minority myth positions Asians and Asian Americans as being superior to other people of color, particularly in the United States, and suggests that Asians are successful in the United States by means of their work ethic, family values, and intelligence.
These stereotypes and tropes, however, are not unrelated—rather, they are inextricably linked to one another. All of these stereotypes are based on a foundation that racializes Asians and Asian Americans as foreign, and they are all linked to one another in a circular fashion. Each stereotype can in turn draw from the other—the myth of the model minority is nothing more than a positive version of the yellow peril trope, and both rely on the image of the Asian American as a perpetual foreigner. …
In this paper, I will examine each stereotype in turn. I draw upon Claire Jean Kim’s framework of racial triangulation to describe and demonstrate how they are all linked by their common indexing of Asian as foreign, and are all part of the racialization of Asian Americans as foreigners, as compared to other people of color who have been raced as insiders. I will then examine the roots of all three stereotypes/tropes and show how their origins are in white immigration and labor policy; furthermore, I will show how they are all constructs of white racism toward Asians and Asian Americans.