Sunday, February 04, 2007

Wanted: Asians -- For Good Times, Easy Conversation & to Settle 'Oriental' Debate

For the past couple of years, I’ve belonged to an online writing community. It’s pretty decent. It allows me to get my writing reviewed and I can also review the work of others. So it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

Recently, I was annoyed when I read a woman’s short story where she described the people on the block: ‘Their faces were black, white, and Oriental.’ An alarm buzzed in my head. Isn’t the term, ‘Oriental,’ a no-no when referring to a human being? Isn’t it the equivalent of calling a black person ‘colored’ or ‘negro’? In my review, I told the writer that the word could be offensive: “All of my Asian friends prefer being called Asian, Asian American or identifying their country of origin,” I wrote.

That’s when I stopped. All my Asian friends? Hmmmm. In all honesty, I haven’t had an Asian friend since high school. That was my Cambodian buddy Seila, who hipped me to the Asian/Oriental issue. We drifted apart, as high school friends are prone to do. I’ve made many new friends since then – white, black, Middle Eastern, Latino, gay, straight, etc. But no Asians. I do have one Asian friend, but she’s Indian, so she doesn’t count. I’m looking for some southeast Asians. I'm on a hunt.

There is an Asian guy at my job – actually, there’s two (double the number of blacks, but that’s a different story). One of the men is pierced and tattooed. I see him outside smoking with the smokers all the time. Because I loathe the smell of smoke, I wasn’t able to introduce myself and tell him that I’m recruiting Asian friends. I didn't even display my t-shirt which is emblazoned with the image above.

The other Asian man is cool. His name is Dave. We had a nice long chat about a football game about a month ago. The problem is that Dave doesn’t work in my department. The few times I see him across the room, he’s gone as soon as I blink. I never see him in the break room, the conference room or with the other Asian guy (if I could catch two birds with one stone, that would be great!).

But I am determined to find this man again – this Dave Asian person. I’m going to introduce myself, turn on the charm and eventually ask him how he feels about that whole Asian – Oriental debate. If he doesn't cuss me out, I'll report his response to the writer who penned that sentence about the 'Orientals' in her neighborhood. For shame!


Mlle Smith said...

Errr..."Black" should be capitalized when referring to an ethnicity (since it's the "name" of the ethnic group). :0l

All lower-case when simply referring to the color, etc. I've noticed people are very flighty about employing this rule. And brown folks are unlikely to enforce or demand it.

MotownRunnerGirl said...

you crack me up. i love you for that. also, it's asian, not oriental. as you know. you wanna give me the offender's phone number?

Juicy77 said...

I have a family member who will be 100 yrs old soon and he always refers to Asian people as Oriental. I tried changing him, but it hasn't worked. I cringe every time. "Rugs are Oriental, not PEOPLE!" Anywho, I'm sure she will get an earful from other readers about this as well. I find the term "Oriental" offensive but I'm not Asian/Asian-American so what do I know? Maaybe this will help:

Juicy77 said...

Oh shoot. The link was truncated. I'll email it to you.