Gov. David Paterson announced last week the word “oriental” is officially deemed offensive and will be banned from all state forms by the year 2010. The law banning this word was sponsored by state Assemblywoman Grace Meng.
If you are one of the New Yorkers, including many if not most Asian Americans, who did not realize this word is offensive, you are not alone. Although it was once commonly used to describe people of Asian descent, Merriam-Webster now defines oriental as a derogatory term.
The new law only applies to official state documents. Private citizens may continue to use the term. That should be a relief to the scores of Asian-run restaurants, groceries and other businesses that use “oriental” in their names.
Why is this word suddenly seen as derogatory? According to Paterson, “the word ‘oriental’ does not describe ethnic origin, background or even race; in fact, it has deep and demeaning historical roots.” It all has something to do with the dominance of Europe in the 19th century, yada, yada, yada .…
Or maybe this is political correctness run amok meeting a governor who does not have a clue. It seems to us a state Legislature that cannot pass a state budget on time must have better things to do.