Why is Oriental Offensive?
When we hear the word oriental we normally associate the word with something or someone coming from the orient, but where is the orient and why does ‘oriental, represent offensiveness?
Delving deeper into history the Orient was used to refer to the East. Anything coming from the East or the Far East was dubbed as oriental. In the early days of Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan to name a few famous European explorers who discovered lands from the East; these lands were countries from what we now recognize as Asia. Asia was once unknown, untouched by civilization, and the people from countries of this era were considered primitive and exotic bordering on the barbaric; a race being considered as inferior to the more educated and civilized people of the North (Europeans).
From this perspective it all boils down to Eurocentric implications as viewing everything in relation to cultural and historical influence suggesting predominance of the European culture and race.
Is oriental then simply an issue of racial discrimination? Where people of black origins were referred to as Negro to what is preferred today as African American or Black African? It is fascinating to note that oriental when referred to a certain food, oriental dish or object such as an oriental rug is not considered derogatory as opposed to calling someone, ‘that Oriental man,. The acceptable term used for oriental especially in Northern America is Asian. Asian, meaning: Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Mongols, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Malaysians, Indonesians, and etc.
Why is oriental offensive? Is it a matter of general opinion where the preference of the majority dictates what is offensive? Does personal opinion no longer count in the general scheme of society? It is interesting to know that the word oriental if spoken in Asia whether being referred to a person or not is not considered offensive at all. I cannot speak for everybody but being an Asian myself with oriental ancestry, the word oriental has never occurred to me as offensive.