Some Chinese community leaders are upset that facial decorations and costumes offensive to Chinese people, including Fu Manchu and even “Chinaman,” are available for purchase on the Internet this Halloween season, the US China Press reported. The article was translated from Chinese.
With Halloween approaching, businesses are offering a variety of costumes and masks to attract costumers. However, there are businesses who disregard the feelings of Chinese people and are openly selling facial decorations of Fu Manchu, a character used by Westerners to humiliate Chinese people in the beginning of the last century. This has upset the Chinese community and other ethnic community leaders, who are demanding that the businesses immediately stop selling these offensive facial decorations.
Halloween consumers who pick their costumes online are very likely to see Fu Manchu, Fu Manchu’s mustache, Chinaman, and other similar costumes and disguises. These costumes were actually used by Westerners to insult Chinese people more than 100 years ago. Despite this, some websites actually display and sell them. While some of these websites bluntly label these items as “Chinaman,” others try to disguise the label and avoid using such words but are in fact selling the same type of costumes.
These merchandise include red- and yellow-breasted Chinese-style jackets and hats with “pigtail braids.” Price ranges from $3 to nearly $40. Fu Manchu was the main character of a novel of the same title published in 1913 by British author Sat Rohmer. Fu Manchu was a typical Chinese man in the eyes of Westerners at the time. Later on, he became the image of a criminal in a series of parodies and was considered the evilest character in history. Fu Manchu was lanky bald with two long eyebrows and a sinister look, and considered to be an incarnation of the “yellow peril.”
On the other hand, the word “Chinaman” can be traced back to 150 years earlier, when the first Chinese gold diggers came to California for the Gold Rush. They came hoping to become rich overnight, but contrary to their expectations, many of them could only afford to live in shabby houses. They were called “Chinaman” by whites and suffered from discrimination, exclusion, and oppression.
In the English language, “Chinaman” and the n-word carry the same connotation, since both suggest contempt and racial discrimination. Stewart Kwon, president and executive director of Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles says that he is against businesses using this unpleasant image as Halloween costumes and demands that they stop selling them.
Yuanyu Mei, the president of the Southern California Historical Society says that the selling of this kind of merchandise may infringe on people’s civil rights and is a form of racial prejudice. “We should remind the public that this kind of mocking will not be tolerated,” said Mei.
Amanda Susskind, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, says that Fu Manchu stereotypes should be eradicated. As a member of a group that experienced prejudice in the past, this Jewish community leader says, “We are very attentive of this kind of prejudice and are willing to work with other minorites to eradicate it.”