"While watching the news conference given by the family today there was a gentleman at the end of the tent on the right that went out of his way to keep his face off camera. This was an Oriental looking gentleman. I was scanning the crowd knowing that sometimes people who commit crimes like to be in the limelight or on the fringes of an investigation."
First off, it's disconcerting to know that there are still people who will describe a person as being "Oriental" and thinking that's kosher, the status quo. Even in liberal California, I've faced more than a few uneducated comments regarding my ancestry as "Oriental" rather than "Asian" or "Chinese." Besides the fact that the word "Oriental" comes from Western academia, categorizing regions of the world with colonization in mind, the history of the word has been ugly in the United States. "Oriental" is an ethnic slur, akin to "nigger" and I have had experience with that word being used with that purpose. So when "Oriental" is being used in polite company, knowing what I know about the term, why would I not try to speak up on how that makes me feel as a person who is proud of being Asian American and not "Oriental?"
More troubling about the email is how the "concerned citizen" addresses the "Oriental looking gentleman." The tone smacks of an old American stereotype of the Chinese: "Orientals are sneaky and can't be trusted." Bellsouth.net has at least one customer who thinks it's the dirty chink who did something to the innocent white girl. No need to even veil it with the "Oriental looking gentleman" moniker. I hear you loud and clear Mr. Bellsouth.net. You still think race is a divider and that sneaky Oriental looking men should be suspect whenever you see one. I don't even want to know what you think of Oriental looking women. Chancing upon this kind of prevalent attitude on one of my rare moments of levity made me realize why it is important I continue to work on Hyphen.
Besides the uninformed racial term in the email, if the police were to take it seriously, an innocent Asian man would have had to endure a judgment call purely on the way he looks. And sadly, that's a reality a lot of minorities continue to face today.
I think we need to send more copies of Hyphen to the South... I would welcome any comments you have about terms you've come across in our media that made you feel like the outsider when you thought you were just a part of it all.