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I Hate the Word Oriental

Hey guys, here’s a crazy thing you might not know about me–I’m Asian. Yup, I’m one hundred percent Vietnamese, down to the core.

Everyone has a different perspective on things, (not one is better nor right than the other) and everyone’s perspective is based on a few different things. Being a cis, straight, Asian, young female, my perspective is a lot different than someone who is for example, White, cis, straight, and male. Significantly different.

One thing that I have a completely different perspective on is the use of the word Oriental. I have very strong opinions on other things, such as ethnic fetishism, why the media thinks it’s appropriate that white ladies like Emma Stone play Asian females in cinema, why asking me “where I’m from” is offensive, among many other things. But at risk of making this essay a five thousand word piece, we will stick to the one issue at hand.

The word oriental has always bothered me.

There’s just something about it that makes me cringe, and involuntarily shake my head. It’s so politically incorrect, and so outdated. President Obama recently signed a bill prohibiting the use of the word “Oriental” in all federal documents, and I remember I absolutely freaked out when I heard about it. Why?

Because it’s f-ing offensive, and so, so incorrect. I am sure that there are other Asian people who don’t care, and could care less if you called them Oriental. But to me, specifically, I cannot stand it when someone is called Oriental. I’m going to stand by my words, I think it’s demeaning and to be quite frank, I am a person, not a rug.

Being an Asian American isn’t all that I am–I am a complex individual with varying qualities and skills, and by using  There is much more to me than my race.

Jeff Yang commented, “When you think about it, the term … feels freighted with luggage. You know, it’s a term which you can’t think of without having that sort of the smell of incense and the sound of a gong kind of in your head.”

It brings up images of geishas and “china dolls,” the emasculation of Asian men, Asian women as aggressive “dragon ladies,” and the belief that “good Asian women” are obedient and docile. The word can’t be brought up without being accompanied by stereotypes of East Asians.

The term Oriental is just so antiquated, and quite honestly, it reminds me of a past where racism and discrimination against Asian Americans was much more rampant.

So please, don’t call me Oriental. Because I’m a person, not a freaking rug.

And of course, there are so many other racial issues in our present society, and so much racism and discrimination towards other individuals out there. There is racism that far exceeds the racism and discrimination against Asian Americans, I would be a fool and ignorant if I were to say that Asian Americans had it the worst. (Seriously, the issue of the usage of the n-word are far, far, far, worse than my issue with the word Oriental).

I do not feel like it is my place to comment on those matters, because I will not have a true perspective like someone else. The only thing I can do regarding other racial issues not pertaining to Asian Americans, as an Asian American, is to be an ally and offer my strongest support.

It is not because I do not want to do more, it is because I cannot. I cannot because I will never understand how other racial issues affect other ethnic groups in the way that they do, as I am an outsider. I cannot fully understand the tribulations and difficulty that other individuals have gone through, and it would be disingenuous for me to pretend otherwise. 

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