The cashier called DS "Oriental." UPDATE post #73 - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 02:10 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I mean, really.

The other day, I was checking out at the evil Wal-Mart (I know, I know) and the cashier (whom I would say was middle-aged, but definitely not old or elderly) says, "Awww! Look at the baby, looking all cute and Oriental and all!"

Ummm... Very rarely am I speechless. But I was speechless! I looked at her very seriously, and said, "His father is Chinese-American."

So, she mumbles something I couldn't hear, but I thought it was an apology, maybe. I thought she looked embarrassed. She asks me about my sling, and we complete our transaction. Then, she busts out with, "He's so cute. Look at the cute Oriental baby!"



I guess I was wrong about the "apology!"

FTR, neither DH or I are like crazy politically correct. But this really bothered me! Am I wrong here? What should I have said?

Here's a recent pic, mostly because, well, he IS cute!

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pi...9&id=547436358

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#2 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 02:15 AM
 
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I was very surprised when a college professor referred to "oriental" people once during a lecture. All the more surprising since this was in Hawaii which is very ethnically diverse. Some people just don't think.

Oh and he is extraordinarily adorable!

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#3 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 02:25 AM
 
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my mom says oriental, more because thats what was used when she was growing up than for any other reason... she doesnt do it to be mean... i do tell her that its not pc, and ots not always neccessary to point out race, but its hard to change something shes been doing her whole life, you know?

i know its annoying though, and rude, which is what im trying to get her to understand

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#4 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 02:31 AM
 
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That would bother me too

But on another note, your baby is beyond adorable!

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#5 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 02:33 AM
 
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I think there is a lot of ignorance about this term. I didn't know it was incorrect and potentially offensive until I was in high school and someone asked a Chinese-American friend of mine something about being "oriental." She said, "Rugs are oriental. People are not."

I think it would be kind of you to let people know that their language is incorrect in a neutral way--then they might understand why they're wrong without getting defensive, and you can feel better knowing that you helped educate someone.

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#6 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 02:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I think there is a lot of ignorance about this term. I didn't know it was incorrect and potentially offensive until I was in high school and someone asked a Chinese-American friend of mine something about being "oriental." She said, "Rugs are oriental. People are not."

I think it would be kind of you to let people know that their language is incorrect in a neutral way--then they might understand why they're wrong without getting defensive, and you can feel better knowing that you helped educate someone.
Yes, Led... I always think "rug" when I hear Oriental! I agree with your suggestion. I was totally not rude to her, and wouldn't have been, but I guess I was just shocked because it was the first time someone had ever said something like that about him. (Well, except for the 4th grader who informed me that my baby "looks Chinese" and was I sure that he was really my baby? I mean, she seemed seriously concerned! But that's a whole nother story.) Of course, he's only 5 months old. I'm sure there will be more opportunities to educate other people.

I guess I just couldn't think of way to tell the cashier, who was AA, that many people consider using the word "Oriental" as akin to using the word "colored."

I asked my DH about it, and he said that Oriental was offensive, but that he was "used to it," because, well, people have been saying it to him his whole life.

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#7 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 03:01 AM
 
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Well, it's always easier to think of a good response later on! I probably would have been flustered, too.

And holy moly, he is ADORABLE!

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#8 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 03:15 AM
 
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i dont know which one is better 'oriental' or 'chinese'.

*shrug* i dont find it offensive and never have. i always look upon it as lack of knowledge. with those kinds of comments i listen to the intent and not the 'exact words'.

if i had i would have shed many a tear. but i knew they were truly admiring my dd.

however your son is just ADORABLE!!!! she is right!!! he is SUPER CUTE!!!!!

also i live in a v. v. diverse city. when i visited others not so diverse i got those kinda comments. but i always knew they didnt mean that way and were really into the cuteness of the child.

one other thing i also noticed many people have a hard time making small talk. they love using the child to break the ice. suffering the same malady - i am extra nice to those people for trying to connect.

btw i didnt know 'oriental' was politically incorrect. i just thought it was a v. old fashioned word that went out with pearl. s buck.

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#9 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 03:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks ladies for the cuteness love!

I know that the lady really didn't mean anything offensive by using "Oriental." And I'm not angry, just really... uncomfortable. I really can't explain why it bothers me so much. But it just does. My son is Eurasian, not Oriental. (I'm not one who gets hung up on labels, honestly! I don't understand why this experience just makes me want to cry!)

It also reminds me of other things, that I've noticed have happened to my dh over the years. Example: He was talking to a customer (back when he did framing) about the Buffalo Riders, which is some type of Army thing/group. The customer said he had seen action w/the Riders. My dh, who used to be in the National Guard, was impressed and asked if the customer had been in Vietnam. (I think he asked about Vietnam based on the man's age and my wonderful DH's horrible grasp of history. It was probably the only war he could remember off hand! lol) The man narrows his eyes, and stares at my dh and hesitates... and then his eyes slide to me, and I just felt like he was thinking, "He's just asking me that because he's Vietmanese." (Which, he's not, but the customer didn't know that.) Then he says, "Yes, in Vietnam," and my DH says, "Oh, that's cool." That may not make a lot sense, but I guess you had to be there. It made me feel really uncomfortable, too.

Blah. I don't know what's wrong with me!

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#10 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 04:19 AM
 
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Some people are just ignorant.

The dental assistant at DS's dentist asked me if my kids were American (but I think she meant what is there ethnic background, but still...)! "Umm...why?" Totally random, unnessesary info IMO...

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#11 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 04:23 AM
 
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sharon these are things happening to your loved ones. of course you want to protect them.

these things are happening to me and my dd. that is why i guess it doesnt phase me. questions like 'how do you speak such good english' has never phased me. mainly coz i knew they were used to seeing only certain groups of people from my country. they werent being unkind.

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#12 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 04:31 AM
 
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Yes,he is cute for sure! I'm not sure why she had to mention his race/ethnic background when saying how cute he was though. She could said "he's cute with that hair and all" or something.

I didn't know that the word Oriental wasn't a nice word to use. It's a word that's confused me though before and I guess still does. I thought that Oriental people were from a certain area and that Asian people were from another area,at least that's how it was explained to me before. What is the real meaning of the word?
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#13 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 04:36 AM
 
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I grew up in Hawaii and people used the word Oriental all the time. No one, even in a really educated liberal family, explained it to me until I was in my 20s. I literally had NO IDEA. "Rugs are Oriental, People are Asian" is a really good quick way to tell someone.

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#14 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 04:47 AM
 
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orient

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#15 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 05:02 AM
 
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i had no clue. i guess i am ignorant but i am so glad i stumbled on this thread because i have never used it in conversation, but had no idea it was not PC. Asian is what i normally use, so i am glad i never made that mistake! s and your little one is SUPER CUTE!

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#16 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 05:09 AM
 
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very cute baby

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#17 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 06:17 AM
 
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Cute baby! No matter what he's called...

At least she didn't ask which country you adopted him from or simply asked "Where did you get him?". My redheaded girlfriend gets this a lot. Her ex is Japanese-American. She has a good answer; "My womb" and points to her belly!

I just had to laugh at this thread. Here in France, "oriental" means anything further east than Europe, like Turkey or even N.Africa. So I'll say I'm going to the "oriental store" and they think I'm buying baklava and pita bread lol! They usually call oriental stores "Chinese" stores but that bugs me as they sell more than Chinese things... I could say "extreme orient" but that's kind of long...

Anyway, it's kind of like Caucasian. I mean, it's not outwardly offensive but I'm not from the Caucasian mountains... We no longer say "Mongoloid" or "Negroid" so I don't know why Caucasian is still used. I'm just uncomfortable with references to facial features, which is what all those terms are...

I heard people in Asia say "half Japanese (or whatever), half American" to meaning that the person was half white. I tactfully corrected them, every time. Funny as I have met Asian-Americans married to Europeans and Asian-Americans with husbands and wives from their parents' country. I even had a Korean-American coworker whose husband was Korean-Japanese. Yeah, all they're kids are "half" American lol! (like the U.S. State Dept. gives out half passports).
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#18 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 07:06 AM
 
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i dont know which one is better 'oriental' or 'chinese'.
What's wrong with chinese? I mean assuming the person is from China, of course.
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#19 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 08:32 AM
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I'm another person who is from Hawaii and grew up with the term "Oriental." My Japanese family members use it, still.

And to be honest, I'm still not sure what's wrong with the term. I only heard of it being a no-no within the past decade, but nobody can tell me why. I don't really see how it's any different from saying someone is Asian. Or why it's offensive to say someone is a "colored person," but it's okay to say "person of color."

Anyway, your baby is adorable, OP.
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#20 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 08:37 AM
 
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I am completely ignorant here (and I don't try to be) but what's wrong with describing someone *oriental* or asian? I don't call people either or, but why is is offensive?

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#21 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 09:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Cute baby! No matter what he's called...

At least she didn't ask which country you adopted him from or simply asked "Where did you get him?"

I heard people in Asia say "half Japanese (or whatever), half American" to meaning that the person was half white. I tactfully corrected them, every time. Funny as I have met Asian-Americans married to Europeans and Asian-Americans with husbands and wives from their parents' country. I even had a Korean-American coworker whose husband was Korean-Japanese. Yeah, all they're kids are "half" American lol! (like the U.S. State Dept. gives out half passports).
LOL Pearl... Once, we all went out to Dim Sum for New Years. It was busy, obviously, and my dh and in-laws said, "Wow, there are a lot of Americans here." I actually said, "You know, I know you mean white people. DH, you were born in SC and raised in VA, and MIL and FIL, you both are citizens, you all are just as American as me!" lol

I wonder how I'm going to act when I get the first "Where'd you get him?" question.

I doubt everyone is offended by the term Oriental. I was just taught, when I was younger, that it was inappropriate. And my DH reinforced that, although it's not like a horrible racial slur.

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#22 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 09:59 AM
 
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I had no clue people would take offense to it...especially since a co-worker of mine refers to himself as oriental.

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#23 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 10:14 AM
 
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if you want to know why it is offensive:
http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/Orientalism.html
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#24 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 10:23 AM
 
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Originally Posted by 2xy View Post
I'm another person who is from Hawaii and grew up with the term "Oriental." My Japanese family members use it, still.

And to be honest, I'm still not sure what's wrong with the term. I only heard of it being a no-no within the past decade, but nobody can tell me why. I don't really see how it's any different from saying someone is Asian. Or why it's offensive to say someone is a "colored person," but it's okay to say "person of color."
I am all for calling people whatever they prefer to be called - just wanted to get that clear.
But I think that ethnic/racial terms go through phases of acceptance and use and then go out of favor because people perceive that negative/oppressive/bigoted attitudes are associated with the words.
I think the attitudes are generally independent of the words we use to describe people.

I just don't get the issue with getting offended over terms when people obviously are trying to be friendly. Sheesh, aren't there real issues in the world?

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#25 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 10:48 AM
 
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OP, your son is adorable. I *did* know that the term oriental was offensive but as seen in this thread, many people do not. Hindsight is 20/20 but I'd use it as a chance to lightly educate. Maybe say that phrase about the rugs and people?

FWIW, my son is blended also (black & white). No one can tell what he is and some do ask. I have no problem with it as long as it's asked repsectfully.

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#26 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 10:53 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post
I heard people in Asia say "half Japanese (or whatever), half American" to meaning that the person was half white. I tactfully corrected them, every time. Funny as I have met Asian-Americans married to Europeans and Asian-Americans with husbands and wives from their parents' country. I even had a Korean-American coworker whose husband was Korean-Japanese. Yeah, all they're kids are "half" American lol! (like the U.S. State Dept. gives out half passports).
This is interesting... I occasionally describe our kids as 'half-American' simply because they have dual nationality!

In our cultural context 'Oriental' is never used unless describing household furnishings. Asian is the norm, & if you want to be specific you can refer to the country (ie. Japanese, Thai, etc.) or more generically 'South-East Asian', 'South Asian' or 'North Asian'.

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#27 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 02:59 PM
 
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I was always taught that the phrase "oriental" was to reference objects like rugs. Not a person.

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#28 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 03:27 PM
 
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saw wha? We always use that term, and Asian too as well.

Heck, practically the first thing my family did after DD was born was analyze to see if she had any asian features. We're always saying "oh look at that asian nose" or "look at that irish hair"

Fortunately I don't think I've ever said it to a random stranger. Phew.

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#29 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 05:21 PM
 
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First off I want to say that your LO is gorgeous. My little girl, Mei Li Jade Wang is half Chinese as well. We'll be welcoming her into the world in July. Already co-workers have been making fun of my Asian/Caucasian baby saying things like why not name her wah-mei (a popular Chinese restaurant here in town) instead of Mei Li. It really pissed me off but I need my job so I didn't make a big deal about it. However, if a random stranger said aw look at your oriental baby I'd say something. I would at least let her know I'm his mom and I'm white so obviously my baby isn't "oriental" and I would use my fingers to accentuate the parenthesis around the word oriental. Without correction she's just going to go on using the term oriental until someone is going to get seriously offended and physically straighten her out. At the very least I would nicely have pointed out that oriental is a derogatory term like the word "colored".
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#30 of 99 Old 02-15-2010, 05:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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First off I want to say that your LO is gorgeous. My little girl, Mei Li Jade Wang is half Chinese as well. We'll be welcoming her into the world in July. Already co-workers have been making fun of my Asian/Caucasian baby saying things like why not name her wah-mei (a popular Chinese restaurant here in town) instead of Mei Li.

Without correction she's just going to go on using the term oriental until someone is going to get seriously offended and physically straighten her out. At the very least I would nicely have pointed out that oriental is a derogatory term like the word "colored".
Congratulations on your little girl! Mei Li is a beautiful name! My ds middle name is Jiwai.

I'm sorry they are being insensitive. I agree that I def need to say something next time. I can just imagine what people would say if a cashier had said, "All, look at your baby, looking all cute and colored and all!"

Hurtful is hurtful.

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