Author Topic: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?  (Read 4801 times)

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Offline minasoliman

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The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« on: September 18, 2008, 11:28:58 AM »
He was not black African, nor was He Oriental or Native American or Australian Aboriginal. The same goes for His Mother.

Oriental is offensive. Asian. East Asian. We're not rugs or noodles.

I personally had no idea the word "Oriental" was offensive to Asians.  Being an "Oriental" Orthodox myself, I didn't think I consider myself a rug or some noodles (after all, Oriental literally to me means Eastern, so the Byzantine "Eastern" Orthodox can also be "Oriental").

I don't understand the whole rug comment.  Just because a rug is called Oriental, it's now offensive? That's like calling myself Egyptian doesn't mean I'm cotton, or that a certain food can be called Arabic or Greek or Italian makes those words offensive now when you call people Arabic, Greek, or Italian.

I'm sorry, I just don't see the offense.  This is the first impression I get in what you say.

How did this word become so offensive?  Has it caused problems in the past, just as the white man did to black people while using the "n word" against them?

Help me out here.  I'm confused.

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Offline ozgeorge

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2008, 11:37:53 AM »
What I'm confused about is how anyone can say that Christ was "not Oriental".
What do people think "The Middle East" means?
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Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2008, 11:42:33 AM »
"Oriental" is Latin for "Eastern," so there's nothing inherently wrong with the word. But it, like "negro" (L. "black"), can be used as a racist epithet. To me, it's all in how the word is used. But I do understand that some can find the word offensive, as I find "Caucasian" as applied to all European-Americans offensive. My family are from the opposite end of Europe from the Caucasus.
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Offline Eleos

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2008, 11:48:05 AM »
"Christianity is in the first place an Oriental religion, and it is a mystical religion" - Olivier Clement, first words of the preface of the book The Roots of Christian Mysticism

The Chinese people in my family are not offended and many times refer to themselves as "Oriental". 

Seems like any word can become offensive if said with suspicion, guile and hatred though.

The greater reality is that we are one people regardless of how we divide ourselves. 
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Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2008, 11:50:37 AM »
Seems like any word can become offensive if said with suspicion, guile and hatred though.
Yes, the problem is not language. The problem is people's hearts.
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Offline minasoliman

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2008, 11:53:58 AM »
"Oriental" is Latin for "Eastern," so there's nothing inherently wrong with the word. But it, like "negro" (L. "black"), can be used as a racist epithet. To me, it's all in how the word is used. But I do understand that some can find the word offensive, as I find "Caucasian" as applied to all European-Americans offensive. My family are from the opposite end of Europe from the Caucasus.

Really?  Many applications put "Caucasian" under the ethnicity/race question as one of the options.

Strange how normal words can easily be offensive.
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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2008, 11:59:00 AM »
"Oriental" is Latin for "Eastern," so there's nothing inherently wrong with the word. But it, like "negro" (L. "black"), can be used as a racist epithet. To me, it's all in how the word is used. But I do understand that some can find the word offensive, as I find "Caucasian" as applied to all European-Americans offensive. My family are from the opposite end of Europe from the Caucasus.

Really?  Many applications put "Caucasian" under the ethnicity/race question as one of the options.

Strange how normal words can easily be offensive.

Cauc-asian is simply a geographical variation of Asian. There are East Asians, South Asians, Southwest Asians (Middle-easterners, e.g.), and Cauc-Asians. ;D
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Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2008, 12:02:43 PM »
"Oriental" is Latin for "Eastern," so there's nothing inherently wrong with the word. But it, like "negro" (L. "black"), can be used as a racist epithet. To me, it's all in how the word is used. But I do understand that some can find the word offensive, as I find "Caucasian" as applied to all European-Americans offensive. My family are from the opposite end of Europe from the Caucasus.

Really?  Many applications put "Caucasian" under the ethnicity/race question as one of the options.

Strange how normal words can easily be offensive.
Right. They do so to avoid the term "white." Yet they fail to realize that those of us who are descended from the Celts and northern Germanic peoples are not Caucasian in the least. They wouldn't call African-Americans "Congolese," and they wouldn't call East Asian-Americans "Chinese." Why the overgeneralization for European-Americans?
« Last Edit: September 18, 2008, 08:48:46 PM by ytterbiumanalyst »
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Offline PeterTheAleut

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2008, 02:34:59 PM »
Cauc-asian is simply a geographical variation of Asian. There are East Asians, South Asians, Southwest Asians (Middle-easterners, e.g.), and Cauc-Asians. ;D
Yeah, right! ::)  You expect us to believe that line of BS? ;)
« Last Edit: September 18, 2008, 02:35:37 PM by PeterTheAleut »
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Offline SolEX01

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2008, 03:40:08 PM »
Cauc-asian is simply a geographical variation of Asian. There are East Asians, South Asians, Southwest Asians (Middle-easterners, e.g.), and Cauc-Asians. ;D

The origin of the word Caucasian is one who hails from the Caucasus mountains and has nothing to do with the continent, Asia.  You probably knew that before posting....   ;)

Etymology of Caucasian

Quote
The mountain range name is from Gk. kaukhasis, said by Pliny ("Natural History," book six, chap. XVII) to be from a Scythian word similar to kroy-khasis, lit. "(the mountain) ice-shining, white with snow." But possibly from a Pelasgian root *kau- meaning "mountain."

Offline Αριστοκλής

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2008, 03:46:47 PM »
Well, to add some spice here, we Laz are Caucasians outright and this one doesn't mind being "Occidental".  :D
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Offline samkim

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2008, 09:30:17 PM »
As far as I know, and as far as my other Asian-American friends know, "oriental" is only used to describe non-persons, like inanimate objects.
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Offline minasoliman

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2008, 10:00:17 PM »
As far as I know, and as far as my other Asian-American friends know, "oriental" is only used to describe non-persons, like inanimate objects.

That's what's bugging me  ;)  It is so clear that black people do not want to hear the "n" word because of the reminder of the slavery they endured and the racism they suffered from.  I mean we can't even use the word on an inanimate object.  The word itself has become equivalent to a curse word.

So, that is why I'm asking, was there something along the history of the US, lets say during the Japanese concentration camps, where the word was used in a derogatory manner?

If the ONLY reason for not being called an oriental was because of inanimate objects, then... ???  All I can say is at the risk of repeating myself, the word "Egyptian" is also used to describe cotton.

Do you see what I mean?  If that is the only reason why Asians feel offended at the title, what would you think how others would think of them?
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Offline GiC

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2008, 10:21:46 PM »
Right. They do so to avoid the term "white." Yet they fail to realize that those of us who are descended from the Celts and northern Germanic peoples are not Caucasian in the least. They wouldn't call African-Americans "Congolese," and they wouldn't call East Asian-Americans "Chinese." Why the overgeneralization for European-Americans?

Well, in a sense it's a rather accurate description, there seems to be a concensus that the indo-european tribe first settled along the black sea and in the southern Caucasus. The consideing the migration path of this tribe, it would seem quite appropriate to identify its descendants as 'caucasians'.
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Offline samkim

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2008, 11:15:28 PM »
As far as I know, and as far as my other Asian-American friends know, "oriental" is only used to describe non-persons, like inanimate objects.

That's what's bugging me  ;)  It is so clear that black people do not want to hear the "n" word because of the reminder of the slavery they endured and the racism they suffered from.  I mean we can't even use the word on an inanimate object.  The word itself has become equivalent to a curse word.

So, that is why I'm asking, was there something along the history of the US, lets say during the Japanese concentration camps, where the word was used in a derogatory manner?

If the ONLY reason for not being called an oriental was because of inanimate objects, then... ???  All I can say is at the risk of repeating myself, the word "Egyptian" is also used to describe cotton.

Do you see what I mean?  If that is the only reason why Asians feel offended at the title, what would you think how others would think of them?

I can only say how it is, bro, not why. ;D
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Offline GiC

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #15 on: September 18, 2008, 11:55:57 PM »
As far as I know, and as far as my other Asian-American friends know, "oriental" is only used to describe non-persons, like inanimate objects.

That's what's bugging me  ;)  It is so clear that black people do not want to hear the "n" word because of the reminder of the slavery they endured and the racism they suffered from.  I mean we can't even use the word on an inanimate object.  The word itself has become equivalent to a curse word.

So, that is why I'm asking, was there something along the history of the US, lets say during the Japanese concentration camps, where the word was used in a derogatory manner?

If the ONLY reason for not being called an oriental was because of inanimate objects, then... ???  All I can say is at the risk of repeating myself, the word "Egyptian" is also used to describe cotton.

Do you see what I mean?  If that is the only reason why Asians feel offended at the title, what would you think how others would think of them?

Here's a relatively well researched (for the internet) article on the issue; http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/545754.html

The jist of it seems to be that it's a North American fad to view the term 'oriental' offensive when refering to people...but not one shared by most the rest of the anglophone world. I would assume that part of this is because of the continued divergence between American and British English this word, which remained common in England whereas Asian became more popular in America, contributed to the perceived exoticness of the term, which seems to be the main point of contention. I'd argue typical American ignorance, but I would have expected those who started the fad (academic elite) to have known better...though perhaps I have too high of expectations.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2008, 11:56:24 PM by greekischristian »
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Offline sohma_hatori

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #16 on: September 19, 2008, 07:54:36 AM »
As far as I know, and as far as my other Asian-American friends know, "oriental" is only used to describe non-persons, like inanimate objects.

Yep. Filipinos call their country "Pearl of the Orient", everytime we sing our National Anthem.  ;D
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Offline NDHoosier

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #17 on: September 19, 2008, 10:39:54 AM »
Apparently, the hierarchs of SCOOCH do not think it's offensive....
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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #18 on: September 19, 2008, 10:46:49 AM »
Apparently, the hierarchs of SCOOCH do not think it's offensive....

Of course, it's not offensive if "Oriental" is used in relation to particular Christian Churches of the Middle East.
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Offline Eleos

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Re: The Word "Oriental" Offensive?
« Reply #19 on: September 19, 2008, 01:05:00 PM »

The jist of it seems to be that it's a North American fad to view the term 'oriental' offensive when refering to people...but not one shared by most the rest of the anglophone world.
That explains it.  The younger members of my family with or without roots in China don't use the term oriental when referring to people, instead we use Asian, Chinese, Eurasian, Californian, Pacific Rim.  The only time I hear "Oriental" used referring to people from east Asia is by the elders who grew up in WWII era.

Personally I think all attempts to group people fall short ultimately anyway.
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