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Political correctness: who is Asian?

By Laura Haime
Published: April 2010

The Newton South school profile divides the students’ ethnicity into five different groups.

The student body is currently 3.1 percent Multi-race/Non-Hispanic, 4.3 percent Latino, 4.6 percent Black, 18.9 percent Asian, and 69.1 percent White.

Although the high percentage of Asians stands out in these statistics, the number only represents students from East Asian countries: Japan, China, etc.

If the term only refers to a certain region of the continent, why can’t the school specify more accurately in its description?

In fact, shouldn’t the politically incorrect reality of the term be taken into consideration?
Junior Rongshi Jamir, an Indian immigrant, describes herself as Asian.

“Since I’m from Northern India and lived very close to the border between India and China, I was able to experience a variety of cultures and appreciate all types of Asian traditions, Jamir said.

“But when I describe myself as Asian, people try to correct me and say ‘ËœNo, you’re Indian, not Asian.’

Junior Grace Kim also acknowledges the error in the term’s usage.

Kim was born in South Korea, but she began to travel the world at a young age.

In sixteen years, Kim traveled around the world, living in South Korea, Pakistan, and Bangladesh among other countries.

This cosmopolitan background allowed Kim to gain a more perceptive understanding of the cultures within Asia.

“Generalizing the term ‘ËœAsian’ and using it only to describe Eastern Asians is a social misconception that can offend people from other parts of Asia, Kim said.

“It is definitely an incorrect term, but people have grown to accept it nowadays.

Yet if this term is politically incorrect, what term is acceptable to describe someone from Asia?

This is a difficult task to do without offending someone.

“I don’t like when people assume where I am from, junior Stephanie Weng said.

Other cultures, such as European and Latin American, still use the term ‘ËœOriental’ to describe people from Eastern Asia.

In the United States, however, the term has gained a negative connotation.

In its literal sense, oriental is an adjective that describes something that comes from the from the East.

Upon asking eight different Eastern Asian students why the term has a negative implication, the answer was the same from all students: “I don’t really know.

“[Oriental] is a term that generalizes Eastern Asians, but I don’t find it that offensive, Kim said.

“I mean white people are also sometimes referred to as Westerners.

Senior Silong Yang, a Chinese immigrant, also sees no problem with the term.

“[Oriental] carries the same connotations to me as Asian does, Yang said.

According to modelminority.com, a guide to Asian American empowerment, the word gained a negative connotation because people began associating it with many of the Asian Americans stereotypes.

This provoked Asian American activists to decide that ‘ËœOriental’ was a negative word and that Asian, to them, was more accurate.

18.9 percent of Newton South has roots in Eastern Asia, yet not even officials from the school can use a term to describe this ethnic group without offending somebody.

For now, authors from Model Minority advise the public to simply use whatever one feels the most comfortable with. “But don’t be surprised if someone takes offense.

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