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Why is calling someone 'oriental' politically incorrect or offensive?

Just wondering. I thought it just meant from the east.

21 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I was curious about that too, and searched for it here on Y! Answers. Here's a good answer that I found:

    "Hi there, I've read about the history of the word (I wrote a paper on it for sociology) and found that it is an extremely offensive word to those who know its history. Some other people in their answers talked about this but I'd like to expand in the issue where I can.

    During the age of colonialism many western peoples used a callous, pejorative system of classifying races. For example, in the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition (about 120 years old I think), it classifies "Negroes" as the weakest, most barbaric race and "Orientals and Mongoloids" as in the middle with "caucasians" as the top. The term oriental is the epitome of western colonials "discovering" "savage" peoples and classifying them based on their own view. Think of it as the n word for non-blacks.

    Furthermore, to call something "oriental" generally reflects an enormous ignorance on the side of the labeller. Since 1750, the word "Orient/oriental" has referred to the near east (Israel-ish), native Americans, every form of Asian person (including S. Asian), and some N. African groups. Of course it's absurd to group so many peoples under one title but that was exactly the attitude of the colonials. The world was just a mass of barbarity to them that required civilizing and the "exotic orient" was just a less-than-totally-backwards-but-still-un… area.

    To summarize by repetitive answer: "Orient" doesn't refer to anyplace in particular. "Oriental" is an ethnocentric term for the exotic and foreign which groups the exotic and foreign under one heading. For example, Indian food is oriental and so is Thai food even though they're completely different.

    Sorry to be so long and tiresome but so many people are so ignorant about it. Just look above and you'll see people claiming "oriental only refers to food" and you'll see the true extent of it. Good night to you and I hope you can educate people about this."

    • diana4 years agoReport

      I found your post very informative. i knew it was PI, jst didn't know why.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I've had many asian friends and only a few are offended by the term oriental. One told me, "Oriental describes a rug, not a person."

    Most, however, don't care.

    The only other reason I have heard is that it isn't factual. There is no place called the orient. They are from the continent of Asia, hence they are asian.

    Just like some Mexican-Americans don't like the term Hispanic. They argue that there is no hispania. I myself don't mind, but I suppose that Latin American would be more accurate.

    It's all how you were brought up.

    Most importantly, it is how you use the terms that matters most. Do you mean it to be offensive? Most people today can tell when you mean to be insulting and when you don't. Few will get deffensive on just one term like that.

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  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    This Site Might Help You.


    Why is calling someone 'oriental' politically incorrect or offensive?

    Just wondering. I thought it just meant from the east.

    Source(s): calling 39 oriental 39 politically incorrect offensive:
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  • erbe
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Why Is Oriental Offensive

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    It is considered to rude to describe a person as being from the Orient.

    An important factor in the usage of 'Oriental', regardless of perceptions of pejorativeness, is that it collectively refers to cultural, ethnic and national groupings of people who do not necessarily identify themselves as associated, and hence can lead to inaccurate assumptions about similarity.

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  • 1 decade ago

    It is becoming harder every day to know what people want to be called that is not offensive to them. Seems like what was good last year is bad this year. If I call someone an oriental, or a black, or a white and they get offended I can't help their thin skin, I mean no harm by it. As long as you don't use derogatory slangs then I think it should be fine.

    • finao5 years agoReport

      I've never heard of a white person taking offense at the term "white".

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  • 5 years ago

    It probably shouldn't. It means their of the orient, but people are so focused on being open minded and...gosh this things is OLD.

    • Plan4 years agoReport

      Of the Orient?

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  • 5 years ago

    So, considering the earlier explanations, why, if oriental refers to objects and Asian refers to people, is Asian food not called oriental food?

    I think this is absolute nonsense. Is it really necessary for people to find new ways of being offended?

    • Timothy5 years agoReport

      P.S. I am a mixture of European and native American background and personally don't care how someone wants to identify me. But please don't call me late for supper.

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  • 1 decade ago

    It does mean from the East, but many cultures have a lot of pride of their own culture and hatred with their neighbors. They don't like being grouped with their enemies.

    • pirate6 years agoReport

      ... Like Europe/European?

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  • 6 years ago

    kevinpcorcoran is a racist moron who doesn't like being called out on his being a racist moron, as evidenced by his "OMFG STOP THE PC" stance. He probably feels that 'oriental' is not an offensive word because he himself is not Asian and shouldn't be the judge of how offensive it is.

    He is right in that the word itself means 'to the east'. What he fails to realise is that the word has taken on negative connotations. You wouldn't call an African American 'coloured' anymore because the term is outdated, just like 'oriental'. 'Oriental' calls to mind exoticism and colonialism.

    kevinpcorcoran's should get his facts straight. 'Westerner' is not offensive because it hasn't taken on any offensive connotations. And if he thinks those from South Asia (Indians, Pakistanis etc) are never referred to as Asians, I'm guessing he's never heard of the UK.

    Personally, I know that if someone called me oriental, I'd be insulted because I'd feel like they were treating me as an object, not as a human being.

    Source(s): Me (Asian)
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