The “yellow peril” is one of the oldest and most pervasive racist ideas in Western culture—dating back to the birth of European colonialism during the Enlightenment. Yet while Fu Manchu looks almost quaint today, the prejudices that gave him life persist in modern culture. Yellow Peril! is the first comprehensive repository of anti-Asian images and writing, and it surveys the extent of this iniquitous form of paranoia.
Written by two dedicated scholars and replete with paintings, photographs, and images drawn from pulp novels, posters, comics, theatrical productions, movies, propagandistic and pseudo-scholarly literature, and a varied world of pop culture ephemera, this is both a unique and fascinating archive and a modern analysis of this crucial historical formation.
Detail from the cover of William Petersen's Japanese Americans: Oppression and Success (1971).
Let’s start at the end.
In the final paragraph of his recently published commentary, “Why Do Democrats Feel Sorry for Hillary Clinton?,” Andrew Sullivan writes, “Asian-Americans, like Jews, are indeed a problem for the ‘social-justice’ brigade. I mean, how on earth have both ethnic groups done so well in such a profoundly racist society?”
To some, it may be unclear how a piece criticizing Clinton supporters wound up discussing Asian Americans and the recent brutal attack on United Airlines passenger David Dao. But there is a logic to Sullivan’s screed.