Anti-Asian Racism Historically Archived

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Robert Henderson from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001).

A note from the University Libraries:  Some resources in our collections may contain offensive stereotypes, visuals, or language. Such materials serve as evidence of the time period in which they were created, and are part of the historical record. These items do not represent the views of the library or the institution.

 

Anti-Asian Racism Historically Archived

By Robert Henderson

Race and ethnic representation in the United States (U.S.) continues to be a white-centric consensus on the branding of non-white peoples. Alongside heightened scrutiny into race relations, the COVID-19 pandemic has manifested damning rhetoric blaming the Asian diaspora for the creation and spread of the virus. As hate crimes against people of Asian descent rise globally, conducting research on the struggles of race and ethnic identity within the U.S. is pertinent to understanding the continued misrepresentations of the Asian-American. With pandemic restrictions on in-person research impeded, the digital collections within the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections & Archives provide a historical account on the mass conditioning of false ethnic representation found within Iowa’s periodicals.

Editorial cartoons have long been sources of sociopolitical imagery. Reaching across populations, these caricatures have the capacity to relay information without the confines of age and literacy. Within the editorial cartoons of J.N. “Ding” Darling Collection, we see the exacerbation of ethnic discrimination through Darling’s satirical perversions on Asians in the early 20th century. A figurehead in editorial cartoons, Darling’s images can be interpreted as foundations for continued ideologies on race and ethnic relations in popular culture within the U.S. Midwest.

Referencing sociopolitical discord, Darling’s images are records of the white-American stance on international relations. Imagine being a young Asian-American child of the 21st century and coming across a cartoon window promoting racial exclusion. With the digital age of information technologies, we can research and challenge conforms of racial misinterpretation. Now, imagine being a young Asian person in the U.S. during the early 20th century and seeing oppressive imagery of your familial lineage reaching across the entirety of the immediate white populace.

Fig. 1: Ding Darling’s It tastes so different when you make it yourself, 1927

Printed in 1927, It tastes so different when you make it yourself [Fig. 1], is an example of such relays on Asian separatism. Over four decades since the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act enactment, Darling relishes in the irony of the U.S. receiving karmic retribution for such atrocious foreign legislation. Shown as satirical, the depiction of the Chinese man, taking the medicine of exclusion and feeding it back to Uncle Sam, does nothing to uphold inclusion and racial equity. In fact, many may see the child-like facial expressions and U.S. inspired mimicry to measure inferior intellect.

The proliferation of anti-Asian imagery within Darling’s cartoons spans a career from 1900-1949. During this era of world wars, reflections on Asians are incredibly perpetuated by the institution of the white-savior-complex. In 1941, Darling reflects on Nazism with Beginning to understand the Nazi philosophy [Fig.2], an editorial cartoon reflecting hostile Japanese occupation and the American intervention. Carrying a seemingly dead Asian child while hordes of Asian people grasp at his feet for help, the symbolic Uncle Sam casts a farfetched rendition of peace without acknowledging the U.S. contribution to colonial induced war within Asia.

Fig 2: Ding Darling’s Beginning to understand the Nazi philosophy, 1941

Rising to over 150% in 2020, anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S. continue to climb. From “China virus” to “Kung-flu,” the white political platform refrains from accountability; and without accountability, there is no racial equity. As an Asian-American academic in the Midwest, the fear of violence is very real. The structural heart of white America is rooted in ethnic and racial exploitation. Understanding the roots of oppression through Iowan-created content and imagery found in Special Collections is a great step toward social repair. Until the U.S. accepts the harsh realities of its history and associated imagery, there can be no evolution to racial equity. Special Collections & Archives is a resource not to be overlooked and should be your first stop into acquiring regional archives that can teach the social structures of the region.

 

Robert Henderson is a gay Korean-American artist and activist living in Iowa City, IA.

 

Further reading:

Lee, Jennifer and Min Zhou. Asian American Youth Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity. Routledge, New York, NY, 2004.

Pak, Jenny Hyun Chung. Korean American Women: Stories of Acculturation and Changing Selves. Routledge, New York, NY, 2006.

Park, Hee Sun, Doshik Yun, Hye Jeong Choi, Hye Eun Lee, Dong Wook Lee, and Jiyoung Ahn. “Social Identity, Attribution, and Emotion: Comparisons of Americans, Korean Americans, and Koreans.” International Journal of Psychology 48, no. 5 (2013): 922-34.

Rienzi, Elizabeth S. “A Part Yet Apart: Exploring Racial and Ethnic Identity Formation for Korean Transracial Adoptees Raised in the U.S. Midwest.” Dissertation, University of Oregon, 2012.

Political Cartoons: A “Darling” Reminder to Vote

The following post comes from Olson Graduate Assistant Rachel Miller-Haughton.

Political cartoons are more fraught and relevant today than ever. The New York Times ended their political cartoons in July 2019, after they pulled an image that was widely perceived as anti-Semitic. Other publications have gone the same way in order to be perceived as more serious, or less controversial. At the same time, cartoonists and their supporters write about the loss of the visual medium. Patrick Chappatte, a New York Times political cartoonist, says, “Political cartoons were born with democracy. And they are challenged when freedom is.” No matter whether you like them or not, the impact of political cartoons cannot be denied. The most extreme example of this in recent memory are the attacks on the offices and contributors to French magazine Charlie Hebdo in response to their portrayal of Islamic prophet Muhammad. The response to a political cartoon, and subsequent conversations over free speech, is something that has colored our understanding of what they look like. 

Almost 100 years ago, a cartoonist was illustrating his view of the current election. Jay N. “Ding” Darling was a cartoonist who spent much of his life in Sioux City, Iowa, and spent most of his career at the Des Moines Register. Born in 1876, he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1924 and 1942. He was disillusioned with many of the political groups he worked with, but his life’s passion was wildlife conservation. The University of Iowa Libraries now holds many of his works. The “Ding” Darling Papers in Special Collections are a large group of the political cartoons the artist was best known for, as well as other art forms he created over the span of his life. Two images from the 1924 election stand out, even today. That year, Calvin Coolidge, the Republican candidate, won, helped by a divide in the Democratic party where many liberal Democrats left the party and backed third-party Wisconsin Senator, throwing the majority of the rest of the votes to Coolidge. A three-party election with a divided majority party was highly contentious

“The citizens will soon go forth and vote their calm, dispassionate judgement. [also titled] the citizens will now go forth and vote their calm, dispassionate judgement” by Ding Darling, 1924
The first image is captioned, “The citizens will now go forth and vote their calm, dispassionate judgement.” It features two voters clutching their ballot, pursued by huge ballooning figures carrying signs saying, “campaign lies,” “beware of chaos!” and “the government is run by a bunch of crooks,” among others. Anyone who has spent a few minutes watching TV, or on social media, has been blasted by similar messages around the 2020 election. Darling shows us that voters in the early 1900s were obviously feeling a similar strain, albeit with different names (“red peril” from the newly formed Soviet Union is reflected now as Russian cyber agitation)

 

“It`s a wonder there aren`t more serious accidents” by Ding Darling, 1924

 

The second cartoon, also from 1924, says “It’s a wonder there aren’t more serious accidents” and is commentary about nonvoters. Meant to either galvanize or shame “non voting voters” to be more like “the small percent who take their voting duty seriously,” it is certainly interesting to reflect on today. Already, the 2020 voter turnout is breaking records. Darling hoped this piece would encourage those who were able, and had the right, to vote, while also telling those who didn’t they don’t get to complain about “the gov’t machinery.” This may have been his way of encouraging participation in democracy. 

The 2020 election is weighing on all our minds as Americans. Looking in Special Collections, it is almost comforting (albeit frustrating) to look back at history and know this is not the first time we’ve felt bombarded by groups telling us how to vote. Political cartoons have always done a good job of showing us what is important, and cutting through the noise of words with a single image. Who we listen to is up to us. But the importance of voting, although portrayed in a humorous manner by Darling, is no less pressing today than it was in 1924. 


For more information on “Ding” Darling, check out the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society