The U.S. Military’s Long History of Anti-Asian Dehumanization
When soldiers returned home, they brought with them stereotypes that became embedded in American culture
“Fry ‘em out! Burn ‘em out! Cook ‘em!” You wouldn’t be faulted for guessing this dialogue is from a new cooking show. But it’s actually from the 1951 documentary, This Is Korea. Directed by distinguished filmmaker John Ford, the documentary was commissioned by the U.S. Navy to show off its military prowess to American audiences. Hollywood hero John Wayne narrates the film, including one scene where he exhorts a U.S. soldier with a flamethrower to “cook ‘em” — the ‘em in this case being Koreans.
Ford’s documentary follows a dark U.S. tradition of treating Asian people as less than human. It’s a particularly insidious form of racism that can be traced back to its imperialist wars and continues today. One has to contemplate the level of dehumanization necessary for a white man to travel to three Asian-owned massage parlors this week, and shoot and kill eight people — six of whom were Asian American women.
The local police responded to the killing spree by increasing patrols around Asian-owned businesses, adding “there are no known threats at this time.” What’s lost here, however, is an understanding that there is and has been a war raging against Asians in this country, that America’s wars in Asia have injected racism into the country’s veins, and this racism will continue to erupt into violence against innocent Americans repeatedly unless we stop to acknowledge and understand it. As is the case for many minority communities in America, existence is itself a threat.
Asian Women Are Not a ‘Temptation’
The Atlanta shootings were a culmination of centuries of hypersexualization of Asian women
War involves humans killing other humans. One way governments make this process easier is by otherizing combatants, often by race. It’s no surprise that the tactics of America’s genocidal wars against Native Americans were reprised in the Philippines. During World War II, in Japan, the U.S. used nuclear weapons to vaporize not one but two cities full of…