File this under the “oh shit, I thought they would have done this years ago” category. NY state just signed legislation by State Senator Craig M. Johnson of Nassau County and Assemblywoman Grace Meng of Queens — both Democrats (duh) — that stops usage of the term “Oriental” in state documents. While some say it’s mostly a “symbolic victory”, as “few” documents use the term, it still exists in forms used by State government, public authorities, and municipalities (until January 2010, that is), and is thus associated with this very real imagery:
The words we use matter. We in government recognize that what we print in official documents or forms sets an example of what is acceptable. With this legislation, we take action against derogatory speech and set a new standard. The word ‘oriental’ does not describe ethnic origin, background or even race; in fact, it has deep and demeaning historical roots. I am pleased to sign this legislation and remove the phrase from preprinted forms and documents.
The Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) — of which BCB is a big fan — wrote letters in support of the legislation to state leadership, and successfuly advocated in 2002 for the State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to cut the shit with that wackness. It’s taken seven long but worthwhile years to go statewide.
Props to NY for doing what Washington State did in 2002. Now if only we can get the hyphen removed from Asian-American…
Thanks to ePanda and Wayne