Re: Asian

John Cole. (jrc@TEI.UMASS.EDU)
Wed, 28 Aug 1996 01:07:50 -0400

Then there is Mark Twain's comment, when forced to speak before a segregated
audience and he therefore decided to give two lectures---"Earlier I had the
pleasure to address a colored audience, and I'm now going to repeat it for
you, a *colorless* audience...." (quote is approximate!)

But seriously, as they say, re: "Asian" vs. "Oriental" and the change in
popularity of terms--I suspect that some of this distinction is
traceable directly to a couple of things--the odd idea that "the West" could
or should define a "Far East" and Orient combined with the either sinister or
comical portrayal in the mass media and general culture of "WOGs." That phrase
dates back how far? ("Wily Oriental Gentlemen" is one of the translations; the
term is always sarcastic and condescending.) Or, as an Asian friend once
remarked, "I'm just as scrutible as anyone else!"

There is also a parallel trend, at least in the US, which tends to substitute
continent names for racial or linguistic or national groups (or imagined
groups)--e.g., African-American, Eurocentrism, etc. terms....

Words are arbitrary, and fashions change, but the current preference seems to
be angled towards letting people self-identify rather than be lumped together
in groups by others; the result is a lot of people who do not see the old
terms --or new ones--as really defining them.

--John R. Cole