I recently met a person, pardon the vagueness as it is deliberate. You know how you aren't supposed to talk religion or politics with people when you first meet them? In my first conversation with this person (whom I will probably have to tolerate for at least a year), he asked about my research interests and then argued with me that Oriental is not an offensive term and that Asian is more of a problematic term because it leaves out some people in Asia, like Russians and people from Kazakhstan. I made a failed attempt at being patient as I explained that Asian is a term of collective identity that gives us (as in yellow people) some political strength through solidarity. He would not compromise and just pushed the argument harder. He was in complete denial of the social and political implications of this racist notion of Orientalism as it is constructed in the west. He argued that black people call themselves the N word so "Oriental" is also okay. I responded that Asian American people DO NOT call themselves Oriental and even if they chose to reappropriate that term (like queer for example), it doesn't give other people permission to use it unless that permission is granted rather than assumed. Asian American history really needs to work its way into the public school curriculum because obviously there are a number very misguided people out there.

Oh and did I mention this heated argument took place in MY HOME within five minutes of meeting him? Aside from taking Ethnic Studies 101, this person also needs to take a lesson from Miss Manners on how to make small talk with people you've just met.


Lost said...

E-gads! Who is this person?? Do you have to interact with this person again??

I think this is the best way to get people out of thinking that "oriental" is ok.....rugs are known as "oriental rugs" would you want to be referred in the same way as a rug?

Then again, maybe we need to change the term "oriental rugs", it should be "The rug is *insert Asian country of origin here*"

Who are people who still think this way???

Fumbling said...

hmm well, I noticed the folks who are Asian AND have seriously misguided ideas about things like this tend to be scientists and engineers who never took any liberal arts type courses in college because their course load was so heavy. That and they don't do any reading on their own about their own people's history in North America. Y'know the same ones who proudly shopped at Abercrombie after that line of offensive shirts came out. *sigh*

Robyn said...

oh yeah, one of my friends is a computer science person in seattle. she is cool but tells me about all her crazy (asian-american) co-workers. like super religious and conservative and all that...