Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it common knowledge, except for the Archie Bunker types and members of a certain older generation who didn't get the PC memo, that we don't use the word Oriental to describe our Asian friends?
Be that as it may, I've been listening to the BBC lately in my car and have heard the term Oriental used to describe people of the Middle East, today it was the people and culture of Iran.
Of course I did a little digging and found that in the United States we adhere to these guidelines:
"Merriam-Webster describes the term as "sometimes offensive," Encarta states when the term is used as a noun it is considered "a highly offensive term for somebody from East Asia."
But ... "In British English, the term "Oriental" is now used to describe one of East Asian extraction, especially the ethnic groups of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and any other pertinent and surrounding countries, and has no pejorative connotations. The alternative is usually to use "Far Eastern," or refer to the specific country from which an individual or family may have originated, if this is known."
Isn't that interesting? In England the term Oriental isn't insulting when speaking of Asian people? But still, does that explain why BBC news reporters are using the term Oriental to describe people of the Middle East? I mean Chinese people and Iranian people are a little bit different, right?
So I'm looking for answers here. First and foremost, why is Oriental considered offensive here in the United States but not in the United Kingdom? And who decides if it's offensive or not? Did all of the Asian people in Great Britain get to vote and say they didn't mind the term? My guess is that some British Asians might like to get rid of the term. But I could be wrong.
And second, is the word offensive only when talking about people or does it also apply to objects like, "Oriental rugs or Oriental Art?" There seems to be more debate on that issue. I for one always feel uncomfortable when I hear folks use the word because I just thought it was a no-no. But always the journalist, I'd like to know why.