Racism is nothing new. But in the early part of the 20th century it had the face of a super-villian. In pulp magazines, books, movies and magazines the deadly influx of Oriental genuises, crazed Doctors, insane mandarins shocked,scared and seduced a generation of open-mouthed readers. Sporting long robes, longer fingernails, perfect English and diabolical plans to swamp the financial markets of the world with Yen for dollars, unleash plagues on humanity and generally to make as much trouble as they could; this group of super-human, sub-human and basically inhuman conspirators represented an hidden fear in the heart of the white world, the dreaded “Yellow Peril”. Writers like Robert E. Howard who created the white hero CONAN were authentic enthnophobes tracing a future where the “white Man’s burdern” – to educate and civilize the world – was swept away by a tsuname of rushing Asians and cunning WOGs (“Worthy Oriental Gentlemen”).
The early years of Kung Fu’s migration to the west just helped to reinforce an already skewed view of the “mysterious East” peopled by little men who cut bricks with their bare hands, spoke with Carradinian stutters and sat contemplating the moon. Such days are thankfully gone – for the most part. Both views were of course studded with ignorance. On the other hand this was the beginning of an unpecendented inter-change between the East and the West.
It was difficult for the average Westerner to absorb the immensity of Asian civilization. Stereotypes are some times just the mind reducing overwhelming information to understandable symbols.