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View Full Version : "Asian" vs "Oriental"



Glen Miyashiro
August 9th, 2004, 09:07 AM
Since some folks seem to get worked up over the word "haole", let's throw another log onto the ethnic-labels fire: "oriental".

All my years growing up in Hawai'i, I was an oriental kid from an oriental family. Then I went to college in California, and was brusquely informed that oriental is for rugs. We are Asians.

Hah? Asians? What, I look like I just got off da jet from Hong Kong? Brah, I from Hawai'i, not Asia. Maybe you from Asia - your accent hahd fo' understand, you know! - but not me. :p

That was my first reaction, really. Of course, there's more to it than that.

First off, yes, oriental is a very Eurocentric term, as it means "eastern", as in "east of Europe". Here in Hawai'i, Japan and China are to the west. Also, "Asian" is actually more vague than "oriental". Asian is so broad that it could mean "from India", while oriental generally means "from East Asia" and thus covers a tighter area. And then there's the annoying and inaccurate shortening from "Asian-American" (a mouthful, granted) to just plain "Asian". It's as if American black people were called "Africans", or American white people were called "Europeans".

Does anybody else get annoyed by this?

pzarquon
August 9th, 2004, 10:02 AM
My wife often tells the story of when she took our (hapa) kids to a park in Florida, and a woman there started talking to my wife about them. She was clearly beating around some bush in her head, and eventually leaned in and asked, "Is the father, you know... oriental?" That last word whispered with such trepidation it was all my wife could do to not laugh. :)

I think it's definitely particular to folks from Hawaii, the "no beeg ting" attitude toward using the term "oriental" to describe Asians. Being born and raised here, it took a long time to keep the "oriental furniture, Asian people" rule straight in my head, and definitely I saw it as PC run amok at first.

But, I figured, I can't diminish other people's experiences simply because mine was different, and if "oriental" carried connotations that were negative, hurtful, or just simply outdated for many of my peers in ethnicity if not locality, I'd try to be understanding. Albert recently raised the issue of "the n-word (http://www.hawaiithreads.com/showthread.php?t=1863)," and while I'm sure it's "no big thing" to lots of people today, it is a big deal to others, and I'm certainly not about to start flinging that word around.

I might self describe myself as oriental if I'm not thinking about it, but I won't call a Chinese guy from San Francisco oriental, you know?

Labels are often stupid, but unavoidable, and if I'm going to be a nice guy and hold doors open for senior citizens, it's not much more effort to try and communicate with others in a way that won't be clouded by loaded or awkward meanings.

Albert
August 9th, 2004, 01:46 PM
I thought "Oriental" was a definite no-no these days, even if it was a quite common term during my childhood. "Oriental carpets," etc.

kamlost
August 11th, 2004, 04:02 AM
Oriental is out.. AZN >.< is in.

I hate that term though - Azn.. bloody annoying.

pzarquon
August 11th, 2004, 06:43 AM
Ugh. Actually, the whole 'ethnic pride' practice of going nuts with the Z's and going out of one's way to tYPe LiKE A cHihUaHuA oN cRAcK just makes me shake my head. It's not so bad in Hawaii, but on the West Coast, lots of Asian youth groups have gone whole-hog into some hybrid "gangsta" aesthetic.

Of course, rebellious movements tend to blend into each other, so the difference between sW33t aZn bOIz N gRrLz and l33t h@X0rz is pretty minimal these days. I guess in electronic communications, as in popular music, the less intelligible something is, the better.

Eric
August 11th, 2004, 08:13 AM
Ugh. Actually, the whole 'ethnic pride' practice of going nuts with the Z's and going out of one's way to tYPe LiKE A cHihUaHuA oN cRAcK just makes me shake my head. It's not so bad in Hawaii, but on the West Coast, lots of Asian youth groups have gone whole-hog into some hybrid "gangsta" aesthetic.

Of course, rebellious movements tend to blend into each other, so the difference between sW33t aZn bOIz N gRrLz and l33t h@X0rz is pretty minimal these days. I guess in electronic communications, as in popular music, the less intelligible something is, the better.
My wife teaches high school. Her students will e-mail her, and looking over her shoulder I see some of their e-mail addresses. Things like sweetaznbabe@yahoo.com and naughtybutnyyce@hotmail.com. I sure hope these kids change their addresses before they hit the grownup world. :p

kamlost
August 11th, 2004, 03:53 PM
ditto.

It's gotten so ridiculous that they even have engines to translate regular English into AZN!

It's mind-twisting how people can be so insistent on their "ethnicity" on the internet.

craigwatanabe
August 11th, 2004, 05:23 PM
I prefer to be called Japanese but when you look at the term Asian, I would imagine it would mean coming from the Asian continent which Japanese is not (anymore) So really we are Pacific Islanders better known to the US Military as Mongols. Go figure that one.

But you know, I'm an American and proud to say that instead of Japanese or oriental or Japanese, heck I can't even understand the Japanese language.

zensual
April 1st, 2005, 12:05 PM
thought it best to start from the beginning, since i'm new here... hence, this archive getting ttt'ed...

at first glance, the issue of asian vs oriental, seem's simple enough, a matter of personal preference... however, what seem's like & should be a cut & dry issue oftentimes, get's comlpicated when you add "born & raised in hawaii" to the equation, given the fact that hawaii is not a country...

you may find yourself, as i have countless times before, having to explain the difference between "local" & "hawaiian"...

depending on who's asking & where they're from determines how i reference myself, somedays ranging from any & or all of the following; local, non-hawaiian, okinawan/japanese, asian, american or pacific islander... :D

when asked about race, i reply simply with, human...:)

craigwatanabe
April 1st, 2005, 02:09 PM
How about: The Winning race. When I was living on the mainland I had that situation come upon me whereas I was born and am a resident of the state of Hawaii yet my ethnicity is Japanese but my nationality is American.

So they tell me I'm Hawaiian and I say no I'm Japanese. Then they tell me I'm from Japan and I say no I'm from the United States.

Totally confused they ponder that one in total ignorance and they rebutt: How can you not be Hawaiian if you are a resident of Hawaii and how can you be Japanese yet not come from Japan!

So for practical purposes I say I'm from the United States, so they say I'm an American. Hmmm not exactly since the only Americans are the native Americans, we're just a bunch of offspring from immigrants who settled in America and they in their ignorance are blown away. Funny because so are they. Yep I hate to say it but there's a lot of ignorant people in our great nation of ours...I'm speaking of the United States of America. :D

Lei K
April 2nd, 2005, 02:06 PM
I remember as a child I would refer to myself as being part Oriental and I did that for a very long time. My own mother would use that term about herself. The moment of change was when I was in nursing school (here on the mainland) talking about being part Asian with a girl and said "Oriental" (gasp) She went off on me about it (you'd think she was part Asian and it hurt her feelings but no she is full Caucasian) and was like, "Oriental is for furniture, not people" and etc.

I have more problems though when I get to the Native Hawaiian part of me than anything. I talked about this in another thread. I can't get it through these California people's minds *not ALL, but a good 90% of them* what a Native Hawaiian is. Why is it so hard to comprehend that Hawaiian is a blood? A blood and ethnicity all of it's own. Why must they fight with me that I am really part Samoan and not part Hawaiian?! Like I don't know my own ancestory or something. I wonder how did they pass Geography in school when they tell me, very teacher like, that all Samoan's come from and are native to Hawai'i and there is no such thing as Samoa! So therefore if I am part Hawaiian, I must be part Samoan. You'd be surprised how often this happens to me.

Then I run into people who can't understand how people can be FROM Hawai'i and not Native Hawaiian. That's a whole different argument and headache. I will try to explain to them situations. Like my Chinese ancestors came in the 1800's to O'ahu but they are still Chinese in ethnicity, they didn't land on the shore and somehow become Native Hawaiian. The people I argue this with look at me real confused like and go, "No, but their kids are Hawaiian when they are born and they became Hawaiian after some time there." :mad: I am only one woman and I try as hard as I can up here to educate. I for some strange reason think everyone should be able to understand these concepts. It's like saying a Japanese family moves to Sweden and stays there...does this make them Swedish? Strangely if I use this scenario they will say, no they are Japanese. :rolleyes:

craigwatanabe
April 3rd, 2005, 09:53 PM
You just can't argue with ignorant people so I just pathetically look them in the eye and say, "One day you'll understand how the world works, for now leave it to the professionals and just play with your toys."

And when they say, "well I don't know about that" you quickly interject by saying, "That's right you don't know so leave it to us intelligent folk and go outside and play...go on shoo!" And turn to talk to someone intelligent next to you. :D

alohabear
April 4th, 2005, 05:46 AM
What gets me is that even in the DOE where I work , demographic charts have a chart pie for asian students and a separate chart for Filipinos.I always thought
filipinos were asians. It seems the state needs to be educated too.

sinjin
April 4th, 2005, 05:48 AM
I believe in Great Britain the term "Asian" is reserved for people whose ancestors are from India. Confusing, eh?

hkplayer
April 4th, 2005, 06:24 AM
Yep, its definitely confusing...or at least too vague. In the news here, when the cops are ranting about "asian" gangs...its funny that they are referring more to east indian gangs rather than say vietnamese or chinese ones (especially nowadays). I just love it when they put us in the same pot :rolleyes:

sinjin
April 4th, 2005, 06:45 AM
Yep, its definitely confusing...or at least too vague. In the news here, when the cops are ranting about "asian" gangs...its funny that they are referring more to east indian gangs rather than say vietnamese or chinese ones (especially nowadays). I just love it when they put us in the same pot :rolleyes:

Many non-caucasians tend to put all caucasians into one "white" pot as well.
Norwegians have little in common with Italians. Irish and Russians share very little.

AbsolutChaos
April 4th, 2005, 07:08 AM
Many years ago when I was living in the Midwest, a caucasian boyfriend informed me that the term "Oriental" was non-PC and considered offensive. Up until that point I had used it freely to desribe anything Asian, and my Indian family had never used it with negative connotations intended. Since being told that it was considered negative, I've not used it since, except when describing rug--or no--here on this thread!

:p

hkplayer
April 4th, 2005, 07:26 AM
Many non-caucasians tend to put all caucasians into one "white" pot as well.
Norwegians have little in common with Italians. Irish and Russians share very little.

very good point :)

pzarquon
April 4th, 2005, 08:11 AM
Many non-caucasians tend to put all caucasians into one "white" pot as well. Norwegians have little in common with Italians. Irish and Russians share very little.A very good point indeed. Growing up in Hawaii, where Caucasians were in the minority, for a while I simply couldn't fathom that there were divisions like this. Even now I'm sadly ignorant of some of the distinctions, and when I catch myself, I remember the times I'd get mad at someone else for mixing up Chinese and Japanese or something similar.

Ignorance is ignorance, sure, and I'm still learning. So, on the part of others, I don't presume malicious intent in a gaffe as often as I used to.

Eric
April 4th, 2005, 08:37 AM
A very good point indeed. Growing up in Hawaii, where Caucasians were in the minority, for a while I simply couldn't fathom that there were divisions like this. Even now I'm sadly ignorant of some of the distinctions, and when I catch myself, I remember the times I'd get mad at someone else for mixing up Chinese and Japanese or something similar.Oh, me too. It wasn't until I got to college on the mainland and looked back at my high school days that I realized that my classmate, a guy named Billy Cohen, must have been Jewish. Hey, I just thought he was haole. :p

craigwatanabe
April 4th, 2005, 09:44 AM
I guess we're all ignorant to some point. Yeah back in the mid 80's I dated this beautiful girl from Egypt. I asked the most ignorant question to her: Do you folks still ride camels? She replied: Do you still live in grass shacks?

Hmmm. Anyway I'm 100% Japanese but never been to Japan and can't even speak the language but can tell you that the Big Mac has...Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun! But despite my ancestry and being 45-years old, I've never regarded being called Oriental as being offensive, because I really feel that's what I am! I always assumed that Asians were people who came from the Asian continent, now the Japanese did originally come from the Asian continent however what does that mean for Europeans who are attached geologically to that continent?

I think people are just wound up too tightly and too focused on PC. My friend Helmut once called me a Jap, I figured he's just shortening the word so I replied wassup Germ! I can handle Jap, Nip whatever but just don't attach "F*!@K'n to it and I'm cool. :D

zensual
April 7th, 2005, 12:08 PM
I think people are just wound up too tightly and too focused on PC. My friend Helmut once called me a Jap, I figured he's just shortening the word so I replied wassup Germ! I can handle Jap, Nip whatever but just don't attach "F*!@K'n to it and I'm cool. :D
hahaha good stuff right there... :D i l'edmao on that one...
http://www.fostertravel.com/hifreegallery/images/hifree143-web.jpg

shall
May 31st, 2005, 04:40 AM
I'm about as caucasion as you get, Celtic ancestry; red hair and white skin, and my wife is Filipino. So our daughter gets to claim minority status as a Pacific Islander even though she's never been west of Texas!!! Also, the last time we went to Cherokee, NC the Cherokees there thought she was one of them. And why is "Philippines" with a ph and two ps and "filipino" an f and one p?

jdub
May 31st, 2005, 03:32 PM
I grew up haole in Honolulu, and the Asian kids I grew up with would refer to themselves as "oriental." So that's how I referred to my friends without ever thinking it any different than them referring to me as haole. The switch to
PC was an unfortunate one, and I don't recall exactly when it took place. But now they're Asians. Whatever. I do recall being a little uncomfortable, though, when being called "a" haole. Subtle difference. But "He's a haole guy" still feels better than "He's a haole." I suppose it matters how you employ terms like that as figures of speech. Adjective? ok. Noun? That's racist.

AuntieNellieKulolo
June 1st, 2005, 06:23 AM
I grew up haole in Honolulu, and the Asian kids I grew up with would refer to themselves as "oriental." So that's how I referred to my friends without ever thinking it any different than them referring to me as haole. The switch to
PC was an unfortunate one, and I don't recall exactly when it took place. But now they're Asians. Whatever. I do recall being a little uncomfortable, though, when being called "a" haole. Subtle difference. But "He's a haole guy" still feels better than "He's a haole." I suppose it matters how you employ terms like that as figures of speech. Adjective? ok. Noun? That's racist.

Interesting. Kind of like how 'Jewish' is less offensive somehow than 'Jew'...

kamapuaa
June 1st, 2005, 09:22 AM
I picked up saying "Asian" when I was living in California. I got sick of the white guys telling me (1/2 Japanese) that I couldn't say "Oriental". :D

AuntieNellieKulolo
June 2nd, 2005, 07:15 AM
I picked up saying "Asian" when I was living in California. I got sick of the white guys telling me (1/2 Japanese) that I couldn't say "Oriental". :D

At least you didn't start calling people 'aZn'... :D

craigwatanabe
June 2nd, 2005, 08:48 AM
Being 100% Japanese (but 100% dakine local), I think I'd prefer being called Oriental over Asian. I actually see nothing wrong with being called Oriental. To me Asian seems too broad of a term encompassing the entire continent of Asia.

When I was in the military, a couple of friends of mine who were African-American called me a Pineapple because I was from Hawaii. "Eh Popolo!" I waved back! "What does that mean?" said Sgt Diggs, I told him it meant: Brother...soooooo you can imagine all the black guys in my squadron waving each other fist up and yelling out, "Eh Popolo...right on man!" This was back in the 70's by the way.

Us braddahs from Hawaii...we so mean yeah! :D

poi cocktail :)
June 2nd, 2005, 02:41 PM
Asia - the world's largest continent, I kinda' like that. I'm asian in that context not oriental like that sofa :) All this pc stuff gives me a headache. forms, my dad was chinese and my mom japanese. so now what do I check to pidgeon hole myself for stats purposes.



USAGE NOTE: Asian is now strongly preferred in place of Oriental for persons native to Asia or descended from an Asian people. The usual objection to Oriental—meaning “eastern”—is that it identifies Asian countries and peoples in terms of their location relative to Europe*. However, this objection is not generally made of other Eurocentric terms such as Near and Middle Eastern. The real problem with Oriental is more likely its connotations stemming from an earlier era when Europeans viewed the regions east of the Mediterranean as exotic lands full of romance and intrigue, the home of despotic empires and inscrutable customs. At the least these associations can give Oriental a dated feel, and as a noun in contemporary contexts (as in the first Oriental to be elected from the district) it is now widely taken to be offensive. However, Oriental should not be thought of as an ethnic slur to be avoided in all situations. As with Asiatic, its use other than as an ethnonym, in phrases such as Oriental cuisine or Oriental medicine, is not usually considered objectionable.


* the "whiteaman" perspective is what's objectionable. in China (and other places) maps start with their own country centered :p so I use a globe. it's centered on Hawaii usually :)

craigwatanabe
June 5th, 2005, 09:35 PM
so there you go it's the western's interpretation that makes "oriental" a derogatory word despite it's acceptance everywhere else. That is a bit arrogant isn't it!

All in the name of political correctness. Who's PC are we talking about anyway? Global PC or just Western PC.

poi cocktail :)
June 6th, 2005, 12:47 AM
well, you live in that western world no? things are different in hawaii due to population make up. but is it really accepted by asians everywhere else? china pulls no punches in it's disdain for europeans (margaret thatcher=fat cow; brits get the eff out of HK; etc.) I doubt they refer to themselves as anything other than Chinese, period. either way no skin off my nose people can call themselves what they want to. also I think pc crap can and does go too far and at times a bunch of hooey for lack of common decency for each other.

"no shame" ornamental