Friday, September 11, 2009

New York State bans use of word "Oriental"

In state documents, that is. So says the New York Times.

Me, I don't care for "Oriental," which seems almost dehumanizing the way it has been used, but I never liked the term "Asian-Pacific Islander." As if Chamorros from Saipan would have the same social capital or culture as people whose forebears were from Japan or South Korea. Or, for that matter, as if Filipino-Americans and Chinese-Americans would have a similar background.

Well, I guess an argument could be made that non-Hispanic Caucasians are not all that similar either. It ends up being a recognition not of who you are but what other people treat you as. Heck, until recently you couldn't officially be of more than one race.

Anyway, "Asian" itself is quite inadequate — and misleading, especially if you're talking with a Brit who thinks of a Pakistani when hearing that term — so I tend to say "East Asian" if I say anything at all. It all gets kinda wordy. Maybe we should just transcend race altogether.

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