Readers React: Why saying ‘Oriental’ instead of Asian American gets so much wrong
To the editor: Objections to “Oriental” can be traced to Edward W. Said’s 1978 book “Orientalism,” in which he analyzes how European intellectuals imagined the “Orient” to stretch from the Middle East to South, Southeast and East Asia, treating the many peoples of these different regions as the same. (“The term ‘Oriental’ is outdated, but is it racist?” Opinion, June 1)
Said argued that this intellectual nomenclature, still evident in our odd use of the term “Middle East” and “Oriental Studies” departments, was an integral part of European colonialism.
As op-ed article author Jayne Tsuchiyama correctly notes, “Oriental” is generally not considered a racial slur, but it remains an extremely inaccurate term to refer to people as different as Egyptians, Japanese, Chinese and Indians.
John Carlos Rowe, Los Angeles
The writer is a professor of English, American studies and ethnicity and comparative literature at USC.
To the editor: Tsuchiyama has said what I’ve wondered about lately, although admittedly I have consciously substituted the word “Asian” for “Oriental.”
It seems to me the politically correct folks, along with the rest of us, should be more concerned with thoughts and actions than with words. Words do, of course, represent our thoughts, but once we get the thoughts and actions headed in the right direction, the words will take care of themselves.
Then again, what do I know? I’m just a dumb Mick from Orange County.
Patrick I. O’Donnell, Yorba Linda
To the editor: Tsuchiyama has no problem living in an America that uses racially charged words. She brushes aside the historic and racial implications of “Oriental” and the stigma attached to that word.
In trying to dignify our society, Americans have stopped using racially offensive words used to describe other minorities. By using words like “Oriental” to describe people, we continue the systemic oppression that Tsuchiyama appears to find acceptable.
Michael Szeto, San Marino
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