Why do you call Asian guys Orientals? Are they furniture? Decorative vases? You professed on your blog that you are not a racist, but you come across either as very condescending or ignorant.In fact a few years ago my friend P had made a similar comment to me, so I was pretty sure that I hadn't been using the word 'Orientals' to described East and South-East Asian guys, at least not for several years. However, since that conversation with my friend P, I had become aware that some Asian guys use the word 'Oriental' to describe themselves. So I sent back the following reply:
Hi, thanks for reading my blog :-). Actually, I hear a lot of Asian guys in London call themselves Oriental. I've always regarded it as a term which is more specific than Asian. Asian can mean from anywhere in Asia, including India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, etc. But I think Oriental refers to East and South-East Asia. Do you disagree?But his reply was quite adamant:
I do. "Random House's Guide to Sensitive Language states "Other words (e.g., Oriental, colored) are outdated or inaccurate." This Guide to Sensitive Language suggests the use of "Asian or more specific designation such as Pacific Islander, Chinese American, [or] Korean." Merriam-Webster describes the term as "sometimes offensive," Encarta states when the term is used as a noun it is considered "a highly offensive term for somebody from East Asia."However, I wasn't going to be convinced so easily, so I sent him back the following argument:
Very interesting, although perhaps those sources are out of date given the usage that I've observed here. For example, if you search on gaydar.co.uk you'll find a lot of profiles of Asian guys where their profile name starts 'Oriental'!Indeed, doing a quick search last night I found 144 such profiles. This time, his reply was a bit more conciliatory:
Are you from England? I am from America. We tend not to use the term Oriental to describe Asian guys.This whole email conversation had been during the day while I was at work, so when I got home that evening I searched my blog for the word 'Oriental'. In the past three years I only found three occurrences. Two of these were when a guy had described himself as Oriental in an email where he was asking me for advice:
and the other occurrence was when a similar thing happened on gay.com. Although back in May 2006, I did use the word Oriental to describe a cute Chinese guy.
Last night, I also asked boyfriend T what he thought about using the word 'Oriental' to described a person.
"I'm not sure," he replied, "Isn't there a train called 'Oriental' that goes from Europe to Asia?"
"Oh, you mean 'The Orient Express'," I answer after a little thought, "but that doesn't really go do Asia, well, only Istanbul I think!"
"Anyway, I don't think 'Oriental' is an offensive term," he says, "although I think of the Middle East and India, rather than the Far East."
In spite of what the guy who emailed me said, the fact that some East and South-East Asian guys use the word 'Oriental' to describe themselves suggests to me that it's not an offensive term. Do any readers have any thoughts on this matter?