Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | Racist and stereotypical Halloween costumes never die – they come out every October
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Racist and stereotypical Halloween costumes never die – they come out every October

Racist "Fee Ling yu

Variation of the racist "Fee Ling yuI’m starting to dread Hallowe’en. It seems like every year, there’s some new offensive costume that makes racist fun of Asians or perpetuates a racial stereotype. I wrote about this back in 2002, when a really sick costume called “Kung Fool” was sold.

Today I read and saw that mainstream America once again thinks it’s cool to manufacture a caricature of Asians into a mass-market costume: One that’s even available on The Fee Ling Yu mask is disgusting — the mask itself is bad enough, but there are variations being sold and shown online that include a different cap and thick round glasses.

I grew up with this image of myself and others like me. It’s incredible and sad and horrifying… downright scary… that I still have to see this now, decades later.

Some of the annual parade of costumes simply perpetuate a stereotype, like geisha costumes and wigs that are standard fare.

Geisha costumes are always popular, perpetuating the stereotype of the exotic submissive hot Asian babe.Yes, elements of those costumes are based on Japanese or Chinese traditional clothes and roles, but they reduce centuries of racial subordination into one cheesy, unauthentic and disrespectful representation. They scream out to one and all, “exotic, submissive hot Asian babe right here!”

And the people who wear these costumes wear them because of the stereotypes, not because they appreciate Asian culture — except, perhaps, the misguided anime fans who don’t get their “look” quite right but at least tend to respect the culture.

I should note that Asians aren’t the only ones picked on with racial stereotypes. Obama’s election has made African American faces — supposedly like the President’s — fair game for stereotyped reproduction. And there’s been protests over a costume called “Illegal Alien” with a big-eyed green alien wearing the orange jumpsuit that’s supposed to make him look like an illegal alien from Mexico (there’s a more offensive mask of a green, large-eyed alien with a “bandito” mustache).

I don’t understand the thought process that people go through when they green light a costume like Kung Fool or this year’s Fee Ling Yu (get the pun? har har). They obviously think it’s acceptable to make fun of an entire ethnicity. Or the thought process of someone who buys such a costume and wears it to a party. I hope they don’t run into any Asian Americans at the Hallowe’en party.

Or if they do, I hope the Asian will let the person know how insulting and stupid their costume is.