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 AngryAsianMan.com 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 Amazon.com. 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.

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16 Responses to Racist and stereotypical Halloween costumes never die – they come out every October

  1. Simon Tsui says:

    Wow, if I saw someone wearing that, I’d go up to them and punch them in the mask.

  2. Maaaan….you just got me fuming, Gil.

  3. Lxy says:

    It’s interesting that White people who throw a hissy fit over McDonald’s indomitable gaijin clown, Mr. James, don’t even bat an eyelash over this normalized racism that happens every damn Halloween.

    It’s long overdue that someone make a Halloween costume of Mr. James.

    Just to piss off these White hypocrites even more.

  4. Wilda Williams says:

    In addition to all the Michael Jackson costumes, I have seen some stores selling Bernie Madoff masks, which leads to the ugly issue of anti-Semitism.

  5. Invasian says:

    This is why I usually avoid going out on this dreadful night.

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  7. Japanese Hypocrisy says:

    It’s funny how you don’t mention anything about the Japanese in Japan going around wearing large noses and wearing a yellow wig, portraying white people. White people are shown to be stupid and dumb on Japanese television, comics and in animation, ON A DAILY BASIS!!

    I don’t see the same thing happening to asian people in America. ON A DAILY(YES) DAILY BASIS!! You people got off easy with this and throw a hissy fit if anyone even dares portray Japanese people like this, even for one time.

    We are not going to take this hypocrisy for much longer and will take action.

  8. Gil Asakawa says:

    True enough; Japan has its own problems with racism and stereotypes. I hope there’s someone like me (or many people like me) blogging in Japan. If I lived there, I would hope I’d be writing about what I see there. There is one man I know, Arudou Debito (David Ardwinckle), who writes about race issues in Japan at http://www.debito.org. He’s fighting the good fight in Japan, and I recommend his website highly.

  9. liver says:

    @Japanese Hypocrisy,

    First of all, Gil is Japanese American, not JAPANESE, so bother bringing up issue of japan and their racism? I would say USA still #1 in institutional racism, because after all American created it. let not forget WW2, how USA decided to use nukes against civilians and two, round up all japanese american and throw away their freedom and rights

    btw am chinese

  10. YourSoul says:

    I agree with you liver.

    What does Gil, a Japanese AMERICAN who blogs about Japanese/Asian American issues, have to do with what goes on in Japan? If someone wants to point out racism in Japan, and believe me there’s plenty enough to go around, then they can do it on their website.

  11. Gil Asakawa says:

    Hi YourSoul, thanks for your comment. As I said in my reply to liver, I hope there are bloggers in Japan pointing out racism, because there’s plenty of that there. And, I urge you to check out Arudou Debito’s work on that front. I do feel a little more empathy and familiarity in writing about Japan than some other JAs might, because I was born there and lived there as a lid. So my memories are fresh and personal, and my mom is a textbook case of a racist Japanese woman.

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  13. Get Over It says:

    The costume was probably made somewhere in Asia. Just saying

  14. Jennifer says:

    Americans created racism?…..no…just….no

  15. Gil Asakawa says:

    Hi Jennifer. Thanks for your comment! I certainly don’t think or have ever written that Americans “created racism.” But these costumes have been sold here in the US.

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