By Ed Diokno
The bill seeks to “modernize” terms in federal laws relating to marginalized groups, and would replace the word “Oriental” with the phrase “Asian American.”
“I thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for understanding that the time has come for our government to no longer refer to Asian Americans — or any ethnicity — in such an insulting manner,” Meng said. “Repealing this term is long overdue. ‘Oriental’ no longer deserves a place in federal law, and very shortly it will finally be a thing of the past.”
According to the census graphic, the 1790 survey offered just three racial options for a household: “free white females and males,” “slaves” and “all other free persons.” By 1850, the available categories were “black; mulatto” or “white.” Native Americans do not show up on the form until 1860 — as “Indians” — the same year “Chinese” first appears. People whose ancestry traces to India don’t have an option until 1920, when “Hindu,” a religious identity and not an ethnic one, appeared for the first and only time. There are no Latino or Hispanic options on the questionnaire until 1930, when “Mexican” appears. But that option went away after that survey, and all Latino/Hispanic choices completely disappear from the form for the next several decades. They don’t show up again until 1970.
The Huffington Post wrote that in one of its more prominent changes, the Census Bureau announced in 2013 it would no longer use the word “Negro” on its forms after almost a century of use.
When Meng was in the New York Assembly in 2009, she authored a similar bill removing “Oriental” from state laws.
To be called an Oriental denotes an “otherness” without giving any indication of your identity or heritage, except to say you are in the “out” group.
By inference, then, who’s in the “in” group? Self-named, self-appointed Westerners, Occidentals or Europeans and their descendants.
Words matter – a lot.
(Ed Diokno writes a blog :Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.)
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