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State of New York Bans Orientals

September 7, 2009

In a historic move hailed by many Asian Americans, the state of New York has recently passed legislation outlawing Orientals….

Or should I say, the term “Orientals.”

New York Governor David Paterson signed a bill in August 2009 banning the use of “Oriental” in reference to people of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage in any state documents.

No doubt, some (White) people will say this bill is another example of “political correctness” run amok.

They would be correct about the political nature of this legislation, but not in the way they think.

Paterson’s bill is a largely a symbolic gesture–not unlike the US Government’s recent “apology” for the enslavement of Blacks (over 140 years after the fact), or the state of California’s apology for racist laws against Chinese Americans during the nineteenth century, or Bill Clinton’s apology for America’s illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893.

These actions are ultimately designed to burnish the USA’s propaganda image. The American establishment loves these kinds of meaningless gestures, as they have very little cost politically and are a great public relations exercise.

Indeed, the election of Barack Obama should be considered a prime example of this type of political rebranding on a grand scale.

They don’t call it poli-tricks for nothing.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Linda permalink
    September 11, 2009 9:07 pm

    Make sure to pass this information onto the older generation of Asians as some continue to use the term Orientals. Sad but true. “Educated” ones too.

  2. September 27, 2009 3:23 pm

    Interesting. I didn’t know “Orientals” was used in state documents in the first place.

    I wish that NY would also ban food products with the term “Oriental”. Then companies would have to stop labeling their food “Oriental style” or “Oriental flavor” whatever to get it imported into NY.

    I think banning of racist terms and giving apologies is a bit more than useless propaganda. It creates a new status quo, where those who still use outdated racist terms or deny that the government did something wrong would be categorized as more backwards than the government.

    When “Oriental” is banned, maybe the older generation of Asians or new Asians learning English would not think that it is the proper term to use.

  3. September 28, 2009 11:18 pm

    Hi Restructure,

    For me, when the government or political establishment bans terms like “Oriental” they are only doing so for their own interests–and not out of any anti-racist sentiment.

    They may be “doing the right thing” in this particular case, but for the wrong reasons.

    After all, the US government and political establishment have no problem engaging in racist profiling, imprisonment, or harassment of non-Whites, as evidenced by the US criminal justice system, anti-terrorism campaigns, or anti-immigration crackdowns. The US government thus cannot be trusted in terms of anti-racist activism.

    I think that’s important to always keep in mind. So insteading of counting upon the government or political establishment to effect political change, it’s ultimately grassroots political movements that must lead.

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