Saturday 20th January 2018,

Asian Americans

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Death to “Oriental” Slur in Department of Energy

posted by Susan Chang


Many of us have probably admonished people for using the term Oriental to describe people instead of rugs. But we probably never thought of correcting the Department of Energy for such usage.

According to Law360, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill on Monday, which replaces the terms  “a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent” in the Department of Energy Organization Act. In its place will be the  less derogatory terms “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Native American, or an Alaska Native”.

Bill H.R. 4238, sponsored by representatives Grace Meng (D-NY) and Ed Royce (R-CA), proposes to strike out the antiquated terms from not only the bill that conceived the Department of Energy in 1977, but also from the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976.

According to an article in the NYU LiveWire , the use of Oriental developed in the 1970s. “With the anti-war movement in the ’60s and early ’70s, many Asian Americans identified the term Oriental with a Western process of racializing Asians as forever opposite ‘others’,” said John Kuo Wei Tchen, director of the Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program and Institute at New York University.

The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) applauds the House of Representatives for passing the bill, according to their press release. “We are pleased that the House of Representatives approved the removal of the derogatory term ‘oriental,’ as well as other outdated terms, from federal legislation once and for all,” said NCAPA National Director Christopher Kang. “Any language the government uses should be respectful and accurate. We now call on the Senate to swiftly pass this bill.”


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