An older lady who works as a float receptionist (she substitutes any receptionists in the Clinic who are sick or out for vacation) recently told me, “Oh you have an interesting accent. Are you Oriental?”
I have never been asked that way before. I understand she meant ‘Asian’ and I guess I wasn’t really bothered by it. At supper, I shared this hilarious story with hubby and he was surprised. “It’s actually considered rude.” Oh really? I didn’t know that.
So then of course I have to Google it. Seems to me that mostly Asian Americans are the ones who’d feel offended by the O word. Not the Asians who were born and raised for a good chunk of their life time in, uh, Asian countries.
‘Oriental’ has a strange connotation to it probably because it’s Eurocentric. This source would explain why and how. It summarized that “…some Asian American activist types decided that “Oriental” was a Bad Word, and that ‘Asian’ was more accurate, less Eurocentric, and less loaded with strange connotations…”
Which is why I thought this debate is really interesting. The subject was: Asian people are annoyed when people call them Oriental, like they are a rug or something. It’s like calling a Brit, Victorian. Twelve people agreed to this statement, while only 3 didn’t. One of the disagreed ones gave a very thoughtful opinion. In an essence, he’s stating that the Asians who are annoyed by it is because they’ve been told they should be.
It makes sense. I have not heard of this so-called Oriental-name-calling before of this very day. I don’t believe my mother, or sister (with an exception of my smarty pants brother), or cousins back home in Indonesia know that they should be annoyed if they were called ‘Oriental’. I just learned from my non-Oriental husband that it’s been considered rude. I personally don’t see why I should be annoyed, but I will take a stand: the next time somebody called me ‘Oriental’, I would politely inform them that it’s geographically incorrect. Hopefully this next person did not skip Geography class when they’re in high school.
“I’m Indonesian. From I-n-d-o-n-e-s-i-a. Hello? Southeast Asia? Have you heard of Bali?”