Sunday, July 05, 2009

What's Up, My Oriental?

Dear Korean,

I cringe with embarrassment when I hear my mother or a friend refer to an Asian person as “oriental”. I realize that the term "oriental" is considered derogatory, but I'm unable to give an informed reason why to offending parties. From my understanding, rugs can be considered "oriental" but not people. However, in my local grocery store an isle is dubbed the "Oriental Foods" aisle. Is this acceptable, or should it be the "Asian Food" isle? And if so, why, exactly?

Justasketch

Dear Justaketch,

Your question touches upon a very interesting point in Asian American lives, namely the nature of racism against Asian Americans. Unfortunately, the Korean cannot give a good answer to your question, because he is not sure about your question either. So instead of giving an answer, the Korean will describe the situation and throw out some things to think about.

This is the biggest reason why this question is difficult to answer: Asian Americans are always an afterthought in the discourse of race relations in America. When people speak of race relations in America, the focus is always squarely on the history and travails of African Americans. Obviously, that happened for a good reason – the narrative of race relations involving African Americans is inextricable from the general course of American history.

But for Asian Americans, that meant that race relations involving Asian Americans generally have been considered a derivative of the race relations involving African Americans. This results in many situations in which the square peg of white-black relations meets the round hole of white-Asian relations. The “o-word” issue is a nice illustration of this situation.

Why is the term “oriental” considered derogatory? Here is one way of answering that question – “o-word” is derogatory because “n-word” derogatory. At some point in American social discourse, people decided that because n-word is derogatory, certain other words denoting other racial groups must be derogatory as well.

So let’s explore this question first – why is n-word considered derogatory? Fortunately, someone far smarter than the Korean already looked at this issue. Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy explores the history and the roots of the offensive force of the n-word in his excellent book Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.

[Note: The Korean severely dislikes writing out the n-word. But he thought respecting the word choices of Professor Kennedy, himself a black man who is well-studied in race relations, was the right thing to do. The Korean will simply write “n-word” when he is not quoting Prof. Kennedy. Please don’t get upset.]

Kennedy writes: “No one knows precisely when or how niger turned derisively into nigger and attained a pejorative meaning. We do know, however, that by the end of the first third of the nineteenth century, nigger had already become a familiar and influential insult.” For the next 170 pages of his book, Kennedy describes the long history of n-word. For example, Kennedy cites Hosea Easton, who wrote a book on race relations in 1837: “Easton averred that often the earliest instruction white adults gave to white children prominently featured the word nigger. Adults reprimanded them for being ‘worse than niggers,’ for being ‘ignorant as niggers,’ for having ‘no more credit than niggers”; they disciplined them by telling them that unless they behaved they would be carried off by ‘the old nigger’ or made to sit with ‘niggers’ or consigned to the ‘nigger seat,’ which was, of course, a place of shame.”

Reading that long history of n-word, the reason why n-word is offensive becomes clear: the offence comes not from the word itself, but all the baggage imbued in the word. N-word is offensive because it brings back all the bad memories of racism suffered by African Americans since the beginning of America all the way to the present.

Having answered that, the next question is: how well does this reason apply to the “o-word”?

To a degree, the term “oriental” is capable of invoking bad memories. In the bad old days, Asian Americans did suffer through severe discrimination, such as Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese Internment during World War II, or Vincent Chin.

But there are two problems with this. First, although the discrimination that Asian Americans have suffered is appalling, one cannot honestly claim that Asian Americans have historically suffered as much as African Americans. Or in other words, our bad memories are just not as bad as those of African Americans. It is not that the racist white Americans of the yesteryear were somehow nicer to Asian Americans. Like the Korean said previously, racism truly comes out in full swing only if the minority is in a position to threaten the majority. Asian Americans were never numerous enough to threaten the majority; historically, we were an afterthought to American racism. At any rate, Asian Americans have suffered less from racism, so the level of anger that an Asian American can summon in reaction to the o-word is generally not as high as that which an African American can summon in reaction to the n-word.

Second problem is – what bad memories? African Americans, by and large, have been a group whose membership has been static for the last 200 years or so in American history. On the other hand, Asian Americans have been a dynamic membership group, with more immigrants arriving at America each day. Of course, every Asian American must learn those incidents because they may happen to them again, should the world history turn to an unfortunate direction. (For example, conservative blogger Michelle Malkin advocated internment of Arab Americans based on the “lessons” from the Japanese Internment. Perhaps illustrating the point of this post, Malkin is Filipina.) But try as one might, it is difficult for a many Asian Americans, particularly recent immigrants, to work up an anger and be offended when those memories are invoked because it is difficult for them to identify those memories as theirs.

To summarize, the Korean is conflicted. On one hand, being afraid of the o-word feels silly because such fear is derivative of the fear of the n-word’s offensive force. The Korean is not opposed to watching your selection of words. Certain words definitely offend and injure. But the Korean is just not sure if “oriental” is one of them, because the word does not necessarily offend many Asian Americans with the same strength and consistency.

On the other hand, avoiding the use of the word “oriental” can be admirable, in the following sense. It is undeniable that “oriental” is an old term that was used in the bad old days, when racism was clearly rampant. While it is true that recent Asian immigrants may not identify strongly with the travails of Asian Americans of an earlier era, they certainly do not wish to experience such travails themselves either. Stopping the use of the word “oriental” puts people on notice – that we made a clean break with that past, and that we are in a new era in which we must be aware of the sensibility of minorities. This may be enough of a good thing to not care whether or not the old term actually offends.

So at the end of the day, the Korean cannot decide. Comments are welcome.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@hotmail.com.

48 comments:

  1. The negative connotations of the word "oriental" goes beyond American history and extends deep into historical views of Asia by the entire West. Europeans viewed "the Orient" and its people as exotic and strange. My guess is that the real stigma of the word "oriental" originated with Edward Said's book "Orientalism," where he points out how the dominant discourse in the West views "the East" as "other" and "inferior" and how these views are dangerous when held by a militarily and economically dominant culture. While Said's book was primarily concerned with the Middle East, the book was very famous, and it surely tainted any use of the word "oriental."

    Also, the word "Orient" literally means "East." Asia is east of Europe but is west of the USA. So, using "Oriental" to mean "Asian" is literally problematic in America. I've seen "the Occident" in some turn-of-the-century American newspapers, which is literally more correct but is a much less familiar word. "Asian" is a word with a clear, unmistakable meaning.

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  2. They also that Asia was originally the eastern side of India, which they commonly referred to as the Orient as well. Oriental is actually a mislabel due to insufficient mapping.

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  3. Sorry, "they also THOUGHT that"

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  4. Interesting. And I'm glad you're tackling the issue, no earlier than last week somebody commented on my blog using the word and I asked him about that and he said it was not derogatory while I've always heard it was.

    In French/France, things are a bit different. The word "oriental" is an adjective only, not a noun (it was back in the days though), as such it's used mostly with objects, very rarely with people.
    But in French, "oriental" means both "oriental" and "eastern".
    Ironically, "occidental" (which means "western") is widely used for both things and people, talking about Europe and North America (and even Australia, New Zealand).

    And I thought that was the case in English too, hence I'm surprised by what you say Wanda about some journalists using "Occident" talking about Asia.

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  5. "Orient" originally referred to where the sun rises, while "occident" was where the sun sets. It's about as literally Eurocentric a word you can find.

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  6. Sure it was Euro-centric, but last time I checked and despite the fact that they have spread far beyond Europe, English and French are European languages. Blaming them for being Euro-centric, is like blaming a lion for eating meat. Every language is wherever-it's-from-centric.

    Also, words evolve and as I mentioned, nowadays, in French, while "oriental" and "occidental" still mean "eastern" and "western", "Orient" and "Occident" have different meanings, namely synonyms of "Asia" and "Europe/North America".

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  7. "European," "African," "American," "Australian..."

    Why the heck not "Asian?"

    (Still waiting to meet my first Antarctican, so I can call him a freezer and see if it offends.)

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    1. Well, the etymology of "Asia" is uncertain, but it is thought to derive from an Akkadian word which refers to the direction of the sunrise. (An earlier commenter claimed that this was the etymology of "orient," but all I've found is that "orient" means "east.") So if "Oriental" is problematic because of its "eurocentrism," so is "Asian." Both terms can be used to refer to a direction, to places in that direction, to the people(s) who live in those places, and to their cultures. And there probably is no term that can avoid being problematical, since the world is round and there is no objective place to begin or end. But the people who bequeathed us these names and categories didn't know that.

      It seems that there's a lot of historical and cultural ignorance involved in these disputes, as when someone claims indignantly that an Oriental is a rug, not a person! Obviously that's not true; you could say the reverse with as much justice. But one thing that's conspicuously absent from these disputes, as far as I have seen, is an account of how people in "Oriental" countries saw themselves, and even more importantly, how they named and thought of the bignosed hairy foreigners from the West. From what I know so far, China was quite Chinacentric, Japan Japancentric, and Korea Koreacentric. Some pre-Columbian peoples in the Western hemisphere called themselves "the human beings," though I don't know where they drew the line between Human Beings and non-human outsiders; still, that self-labeling is pretty suggestive. I've read some accounts of Muslim/Middle Eastern views of Christian Europe, and they're not exactly egalitarian or free of xenophobia. What mattered in the end was who conquered and occupied whom (and don't forget that "the Orient" invaded and held much of Europe for some centuries).

      As a matter of courtesy I'll refer to people by the label they choose and prefer. It's interesting how many white people throw hissyfits when they're asked to do so. That tells you a lot about their sense of entitlement right there.

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  8. African Americans have been static and Asian Americans have dynamic membership group? What does that mean LOL

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  9. @David: I read "the Occident" or "Occidental" in several places in the NYTimes from the 1870's and 1880's in articles about Chinese immigration, the Exclusion Act, etc. Although it is more technically correct from the American point of view, given its clash with the European usage, I'm not surprised it didn't catch on.

    "Oriental," today, is a pretty unnecessary word- unless one is using it in a historical context or specificially wants to invoke the "exotic and strange" connotations that history has burdened it with. It's good for a careful speaker or writer to avoid it. My sense, though, is that a lot of people haven't realized that the usage of "Oriental" has changed over the past few decades, and I wouldn't assume that someone who used that term was racist as opposed to being old or naive.

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  10. I agree with what Wanda wrote, but I think the problem is that a suitable replacement for "Oriental" has not been as easy as it would seem.

    For his part, Rob suggests:
    Why the heck not "Asian?"

    But the problem is that "Asia" covers a far larger area than what one would mean when describing the ethnically and racially related (if "racial" has any real meaning anyway) peoples of East Asia.

    As I understand it, Brits use "Asian" to refer to people such as Pakistanis and Indians. That's different from what Americans would mean.

    I think the best substitute we have is "East Asian," especially when needing to be precise (and the Brits can use "South Asian"), and then "Asian" for shorthand or in conversation when everyone knows what we're talking about.

    The other problem is adding the "Pacific Islander" category to the East Asian category, which is foolish in many ways, sort of a demographic artefact from the past.

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  11. David wrote:
    Blaming them for being Euro-centric, is like blaming a lion for eating meat. Every language is wherever-it's-from-centric.

    I wasn't blaming them. I was trying not to place any value judgement on "Euro-centric," but it's a loaded word, and my qualifier that it's "literally Euro-centric" probably wasn't sufficient.

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  12. Sorry Kushibo, I'm grumpy in the morning. (I should avoid commenting at that moment of the day)

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  13. @small41

    He means the population of Asians immigrating to the United States continues, while the immigration of Africans is not.

    At least that's what I think he means.

    How true that is, I really don't know, but I'd bet he's correct.

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    1. Actually, he's incorrect. There have been significant numbers of Africans moving to the US as immigrants and refugees, and they bring a whole different set of cultural backgrounds with them. There was also an influx of African-descended immigrant and refugees from the Caribbean in the 20th century, and it probably hasn't ended yet. The African diaspora in the US isn't "stable."

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  14. No worries, David. "Euro-centric" is a loaded, charged word nowadays and that can distort discourse about it or the things that are labeled that way.

    Funny how "Sinocentric" doesn't carry the same type of baggage as Eurocentric — not yet, anyway — even though a case can be made that the Han Chinese have had a similar hegemonic influence on outside people's in a lasting way that hasn't always been positive.

    Uighurs, anyone?

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  15. Well as a Korean I don't really mind when people call me oriental, I actually like it better then being called Asian because, like 95(Kushibo) said, Asia covers a large area which includes Pakistan and that sort of thing.
    Just My Opinion....

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  16. So, short answer:

    "East Asian" or "South Asian" if you're writing or saying something where the meaning must be precise, but "Asian" where the meaning is understood and language doesn't need to be as precise.

    "Southeast Asian" or "Northeast Asian" can refer to a geographic area that contains a "sub-racial" category (e.g, Japanese, Koreans, Far Eastern Russians, Chinese or northern Chinese, Mongolians versus Thais, Malaysians, Indonesians, Filipino/as, Cambodians, Laotians, possibly southern Chinese, etc.).

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  17. Of course, we should recognize that, geographically speaking, Asia isn't a continent at all. That is, it's not separate from Asia.

    Europe is a geopolitical entity more than a geographic one, created to make Whites in Europe feel special and perhaps more elite.

    Think about it: a continent is a land mass, and land masses are separated by water (like the Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco ) and connected by narrow pieces of land (like Egypt's Sinai Peninsula bridging Africa and Asia or the isthmus of Panama bridging the two American continents).

    It is absurd revisionist geographical fiction that the Urals and the Caucasus form thousands of miles of mountain "border" between two continents. That would be like saying India, south of the Himalayas and China, north of the Himalayas, are two separate continents. Or, east of the Rockies or Andes and west of the Rockies or Andes.

    Geographically, Europe is a subcontinent or a glorified peninsula, accorded special status because, well, they're special. And what it is about peninsulas, creating hot-headed people who have to kill each other off every few decades?

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  18. Wanda,

    That's a good comment, and it touches upon the Korean's point -- i.e. avoiding the word "oriental" signifies a break from the past. But the Korean is not sure if Said's book tainted "oriental" forever -- Said is influential, but not that influential.

    The core question, for the Korean, is this: in deciding whether or not the word "oriental" should be avoided, do we take the offense to Asian Americans into consideration?

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  19. @Paul C
    Africans come to this country all of the time. I believe they are Nigerians, Kenyans,Ethiopians, Somalians and South Africans and others. I don't know how somebody could've missed that LOL

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  20. As an Asian male and as a teacher of multicultural literature, I think the word Oriental is tainted in its purely exoticism. It doesn't have the same weight of racism as the "N" word, but it still makes me cringe whenever I hear people call me it.

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  21. I prefer Asian over Oriental. Just don't call me Bruce Lee or Ching Chong Ching or Chinaman, lest I shove my Fist of Fury down your throat.

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  22. "in deciding whether or not the word "oriental" should be avoided, do we take the offense to Asian Americans into consideration?"

    It's clear that for a good number people of East Asian ancestry, the word "oriental" is offensive, for understandable reasons. (Incidentally, I thought your blog post was off the mark in exploring why "oriental" can be offensive- I think the negative connotations of the word lie mostly in older European usages of the word and how Europeans treated Asians and Asian countries, back when America was a young country that didn't have much clout on the world stage.) Speech and writing unavoidably evoke emotion as well as impart facts, and a good speaker or writer uses language that creates the desired emotional impact on the listener or reader. The very fact that the word "oriental" (understandably and correctly) offends a large group of people means that the careful speaker or writer will avoid it if no offense is meant.

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  23. To all the liberal whites who feel offended for Asians by the use of the word "Oriental".... Don't feel offended, the word has no negative connotation.

    If you see someone use it to describe Asian person, just ignore it. Don't get hung up about it.

    Just the other day, friend asked me if I got offended... I told him, why would I get offended by misuse of word. I feel embarrassed for the person who used the word more than offended. It shows that persons ignorance.

    If you go to the deepest parts of Africa and call the indigenous people, who are black, N-word.. you think they will get offended... NO, because the word has no meaning to them.

    So just correct your friends.. tell them distinction is; if you are talking about an inanimate object, Oriental is fine. If it is a person don't call them Oriental.

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  24. In my experience, most Asians who grew up and were educated in the US or the West prefer the geo specific terminology. Most Asians from the East who grew up in the West remember being teased as a child for being Oriental. And it was not meant to be a compliment. Consistent with the history of the word, the usage of the word in the playground was sometimes used to marginalize the child as the other. Us and them. For a child who just wants to fit in, the word Oriental (when used in association with other real slang words such as chink, gook, or nip) is no less offensive. I imagine that for Asian children who did not grow up in this kind of playground environment, the word Oriental might even sound beautiful as a girl from Hong Kong recently confided in me.

    Having said that, I have heard educated Americans and NYT news articles refer to Koreans as South East Asians. Doh! Nothing is perfect. But at least with the geo specific usage one can say you are incorrect without having to get into a time consuming cultural debate.

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  25. Small 41,

    I don't speak for the Korean but I can try to interpret him. I think what he meant by

    African Americans, by and large, have been a group whose membership has been static for the last 200 years or so in American history. On the other hand, Asian Americans have been a dynamic membership group, with more immigrants arriving at America each day.

    is that there has been a disproportionate number of AA/Blacks represented in the underclass and in US prisons for a very long time. In contrast many Asians have managed to make it into the middle class and into higher education in the short 100 plus year history of Asian immigration. The majority of which I would guess started in the 1960's.

    Of course, this is all relative. I think there are many Asians who emigrated to the US with a high level of education but remained stagnant in their career paths because of language, culture, or lack of ability. Others became part of the merchant class which may not have been their first choice for an occupation. And don't forget refugees and illegal immigrants who continue to remain in the underclass. Finally, no matter how hard the Republicans try to promote Bobby Jindal, (and this is where the term Asian American is inadequate in describing ones ethnic background) I don't foresee a truly viable Asian American candidate for prez in the near future.

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  26. Wow, so much been said here. I'd like to add a slightly different point of view to most of what's been said here.

    To put what I'm going to say in context, though, I first have to say that I'm from Britain, and have never been to America.

    Having read what's been said here, I'd have to say that the word 'Oriental' has always had a slightly different connotation and usage. Until really recently, last couple of years perhaps, I would have said that it had little or no racist or negative connotation. It means 'Far Eastern.' Originally of course anything East of Greece could be referred to as Oriental, but for a long time now Oriental has meant Eastern, specifically East Asian.

    As someone commented previously, Asia is a huge place, and is not confined to the American usage of the term. In fact, I find it strange to see Indian Americans or other Asian (continent) Americans using the word 'Asian' only to mean East Asia. I think in a British context some people might get offended if people used the word 'Asian' in a way that excluded some people from other Asian countries, but that's a contextual issue.

    Back to the main point of my comment. In Britain the term is generally used as a geographic one. Everyone understands it this way. However, it seems to me that recently the fact that it has come to be considered racist in American English has influenced its usage in British English.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/panorama/3218681.stm

    In this 2003 BBC article the word 'Oriental' is used in my opinion badly and wrongly, I don't like the tone of the sentence particularly, but it is not intended to offend, and there is no sense that the writer expected the reader could be offended by its use. In this case, however, I think it can be let off, bearing in mind that it's a word that in standard English (British) as used by the BBC, it isn't a racist word.

    Now look at this article: http://www.metro.co.uk/fame/article.html?Wendy_in_new_BB_racism_row&in_article_id=292292&in_page_id=7

    No excuse for that sort of comment, but to me, the racist part of it is not in the word 'Oriental,' but in everything else she's saying.

    So, I think the word has been used very differently in English over the years, but my personal opinion is that if it offends, don't use it. I do, however, think that, although we use the same language, I think more Americans would describe 'Oriental' as a racist word than speakers of British English.

    Finally, for what it's worth, I go with 'East Asian' every time, I can't bring myself to say 'Asian' when I'm not referring to EVERYONE from the whole of Asia.

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  27. DWO = driving while Oriental.

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  28. I'm not British, but my background is from a couple of Asia-Pacific Commonwealth countries, and I've got a slightly different perspective to asadalthought's.

    From my point of view, the issue with the word "Oriental" isn't so much racism as colonialism; as Wanda points out, the word is heavily tied up with the days of empire. The fact that the word is somewhat archaic in conversational usage only exacerbates that.

    If someone used the word "Oriental" in normal writing or speech, I wouldn't view it as a racist epithet like "n----r." However, I'd immediately flag the writer or speaker as someone who might hold some of the attitudes and views of the era when "Oriental" was a perfectly normal everyday word - specifically, a paternalistic, condescending attitude toward those from other parts of the world. (That doesn't necessarily equate to racism, but often the two go together.)

    As a side-note, "Oriental" has absolutely no mental association with the US or US views on race for me; it's always seemed to me that the ethnic mix is sufficiently different around here that US racial issues and "hot buttons" often don't translate well.

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  29. Maybe "Oriental" is more akin to "Negro" than to "n---er."

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  31. "Oriental" itself is not actually a slur, though archaic and you'd probably get weird looks for saying it (similar to negro as mentioned earlier). The reason why the word died out and is considered "offensive" to some people is because it generally refers to Japan, China and Korea. This became an issue during the civil rights movement where Filipinos were dominate figures in the Asian civil rights movement. "Asian American" then begin replacing Oriental due to its pan-Asian connotations and integrated south and SE Asians into the movement. IIRC, it mostly stems from Seattle where pan-Asianism was a dominate ideology in the civil rights movement.

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  34. Here is why I find it offensive: “Oriental” is an Old World term leftover from colonialist days.

    The French use of “orient” implies middle-east or the Near East (relative to Europe, Turkey for example); when they refer to Japan or China they often call it the Far East.

    However, the English use of “oriental” can mean anything from Turkish to Indian to Japanese to Mongolian to Siberian to Pacific—basically almost anything non-European and non-African. At best, it is the Eurocentric way of “othering” a diversity of people and cultures as a genetically homogeneous mass. Even geographically speaking, Asia is spread out, broken up and separate, and it is strange to call it a single continent.

    “Orientalism” is the way that the West interprets or comes to terms with their experiences and encounters with the Orient, or the East. Edward Said claimed that “The Orient” was a European invention to denote Asia as a place of exoticism, romance, and remarkable experiences, and also as a conception to contrast with western civilization. The effects of orientalism in western cultures include an “othering” of Asians--their cultures and ways of life are seen as being exotic and novel, in direct contrast to “normal” western customs. While western cultures are capable of changing and modernizing, Asian cultures are seen as being ancient, static, and entrenched in the past.”

    Keyword: exoticism!

    “Orientals” don't belong in the natural scheme of things in the West, and are considered inherently foreign beings. They are patronized like no other minority group, by the majority who assume they cannot be American, or that English cannot be their mother tongue, or French. They are made to explain themselves—where they are really, really, really from—and justify their existence in the West. People do not accept the answers they give, nor accept their self-perceptions and self-descriptions as Americans for example. The assumption is that they just don't belong. And “orientalism” is a big part of the business of seeing Asians as inherently foreign.

    Hear someone say they met an “Oriental man” and most people will see an outdated image in their heads of a man who is not Western in any sense.

    Zak Keith,
    author of My Life as a Squint Eyed Chink.

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  35. Zak:
    "The French use of “orient” implies middle-east or the Near East (relative to Europe, Turkey for example); when they refer to Japand or China they often call it the Far East."

    No we don't....
    In the 19th Century maybe, but not nowadays.
    The world "Orient" (as a noun) is used rarely those days, and when it is, it's for a vague concept of Asia.
    Now we do use "Proche Orient" to talk about the Mediterranean region Turkey that goes roughly from Turkey to Egypt and "Moyen Orient" to talk about the "Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula countries", "Extreme-Orient" roughly means the Far East (but we use it less and less), and we definitely never use "Far East" as it's English and not French.

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  37. Thanks, David. I stand corrected about the finer details. I had simply recited what was explained to me about the use of the word "Orient" by a French girl. Perhaps she has been living outside of France for too long, or perhaps I didn't get all my facts right, having studied French outside of France.

    But it seems I didn't say anything horribly out of place--whether it is "Proche Orient" or "Moyen Orient," the French use of "Orient" does refer to the Near East relative to Europe.

    And I had taken the "Far East" translation for granted as the EFEO--Ecole Française d'Extrème Orient--is usually referred to as "The French School of the Far East" by English speakers. Extreme Orient sounds ... well, strange and extreme.

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  38. I'm happy this topic got discussed. It was something that actually popped up in my childhood often, but forgotten after I got out of high school.

    Here's a little backstory. I grew up with a Thai immigrant single mom. Where we lived there was a sparse asian community. Some Vietnamese folk lived on our street, a Korean family a block away, my co-workers and my ma's co worker's were Philippino. Whenever my family referred to these different folk we'd use their names/job titles/actual ethnicities. If they ever did anything that reflected themselves in a cheap, ignorant, or disrespectful manner (or if they just pissed my family off) we'd refer them to orientals.

    I never drew the parallel between oriental and n-word (respect for you) until I read this article. Now I have to do some deep reflection and then shrug it off as part of growing up in the early 90's.

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  39. This is just one of those words that I agree not to use, even though there's no other acceptable word to signify... well yellow people (to use another cringe worthy term for some.)

    Korean, how would you translate the word "동양인" (東洋人)? For those not familiar with the word, It's a specific word denoting people from either China, Korea, or Japan (or sometimes Vietnam, Mongolia, or anywhere else that is occasionally placed in the realm of East Asia).

    Going by politically correct translation, one would simply translate it as East Asian, and be done with it. That however is another word, "동아시아인", though admittedly, in speech and in writing, that word isn't used as much unless one is translating from an American source.

    The suggested translation on naver for 도양인 is "Asian , Oriental", with a heavy preference for Asian in the listed examples.

    Asian, as we know, has its limitations in that Asia is a huge continent and it's only appropriate when the context is understood.

    It is precisely for this reason that there is discourse in the US over whether we should include Indian-Americans and Pakistani-Americans as Asian-Americans, because by definition India is in Asia, however it's not in East Asia, so they wouldn't be 동양인.

    If there were a word that could adequately translate 동양인 that wasn't "Oriental" then I'd actively use it.

    Now going off the subject a little bit, why is Europe considered a continent? Shouldn't that instead be West Asia? "Europe" is therefore a term to describe the general area that White people come from, or the limits of the spread of culture originating in the western end of the Asian continent (Or Eurasian one if you want to use accepted terms.)

    If Europe gets to be it's own continent (or separately defined area with a unique name) because of a racial or cultural difference (or both) then "South Asia" or "East Asia" should also have their own unique words. Oriental provided that distinction until it was deemed offensive by whoever, for whatever purpose. Now go make me a new word.

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  40. I find this article quite interesting as my knowledge of the history between the n-word is still very scarce. Today I got to learn that there is also a history behind the "o-word" which I knew wasn't a kind term to call an Asian but not "why" it wasn't (a result of going with the flow). Thanks a lot :)

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  41. Oriental still sounds cool in the right context --- comparing the N word to Oriental is exuse me but way off --- the N word is more consistent with Slant-Eye or Gook or Nip or Chink --- Oriental is not a bad term but an older term --- please try and see the folly of your mistakes --- lol

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  42. The PC crowd are the modern day school yard bullies. If you were born in America then you are simply an American, nothing more and nothing less. If you were born in another country and have legally become an American citizen then you are simply an American. If you came here legally from another country and have not overstayed your visa then you are a guest of America. If you came here illegally or overstayed your visa we, as americans, can call you anything that our hearts desire because you have no rights in this country under the auspices of the Constitution of the United States of America.

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  43. I find the term, "American" offensive. It refers to two hemispheres of the earth and a broad range of cultures and races. A man from the tip of Argentina and a man from the Northwest Territory can't just be lumpped into the same category and carelessly be called "Americans". So please stop. Call me "North America, Nevada Stater".

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  44. Alot of things are offensive. Are we the only country that separates the races? Can't we just all be Americans and not be hyphenated. The word oriental to me is offensive since I am born here. I noticed alot of asians that don't mind the word oriental are ones that are from overseas asia. The word foreigner is also an offensive word because it makes a certain group feel inferior from one another. Another term that is offensive towards me since I'm asian is Chink eye. Chink eyes from the past history was referenced to asians as a derogstory term for their eyes being slanted. From my experience when growing up in an all white town. I was referred as Chink for my eyes being different. Sometimes words can be hurtful. I have an African American friend who told me that Qtip was a racist term towards blacks which I didn't understand before she explained it to me. When I explained Chink eye as being racist she didn't understand why. I explained it to her and I think she understood. Most of the name calling was in earlier childhood years, but I think these outdated words, such as oriental or asian derogatory chants need to stop.

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  45. I prefer to be called asian since I'm born in the U.S. I have noticed alot of overseas Asians don't mind being called oriental, but some do mind. Oriental feels like a negative word meaning outsider.Just like the word Chink eye turned into a derogatory word for Asians eyes or in otheword for their almond slanted eyes. Some of my other ethnic friends didn't understand why Chink eye would be offensive. Hmmm...maybe when I was growing up as a child I was the only Asian child in an all white school on the east coast. I never had a problem like this with the west coast because there are alot of different ethnic backgrounds. I think some asians might understand what I'm referring to if it has happened to you with the name calling words like chink.

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  46. Nobody truly understands each other until they walk in the shoes of that person. Walk in my shoes for a day as an Asian person then you will understand what I'm talking about. That goes with any other races. You don't know what people go through until you walk in their shoes.

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