Why can't we say the word "Oriental" anymore?



When did Oriental become a bad word? Now we have to use Asian.

I'm trying to write an article about the SAT's and when I write Asian no one has any idea if I'm talking about Chinese or Pakistani. It makes a big difference. When we say, or used to say, Oriental, we knew were talking about Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, mostly. Now when we say Asian we have no idea what in the world we are talking about.

I tried to find out when and why Oriental went bad, but just found wacko explanations like this one:

During World's fairs and other mediums of entertainment/culture/education, the world was split up into the Occident and the Orient. Images from the Orient are much like we would think of stereotypical/racist imagery of Asian people – exoticism, hypersexuality from the women, strange sexual positions/practices, backwardness, ties to nature and apparent wisdom over science and hard facts, etc. Ultimately, when the word “Oriental” was used, it was in an attempt to make commodities out of things from the orient – including people. We're not talking physical slavery, but perhaps ideological relegation into a dehumanized status by being the “other”, who we don't have to like or understand because they are not “us”.

What? Does anyone think calling someone Oriental refers to sexy Chinese women? Or to strange sexual positions? What is the "Oriental" sexual position? I've never heard of that. (But if that were a problem, should we still be calling missionaries missionaries?)

If we can still call rugs Oriental, aren't we implicitly calling the people who made them Oriental? I liked the word because it had more precision than "Asian".

I say we keep using it. I know when I use it I am not referring to a sex position.



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