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What is wrong with describing someone as Asian?

(348 Posts)
ProudAS Tue 30-Jul-13 11:37:17

It's what the person is and not being used in a derogatory manner. My colleague felt he had to whisper though when describing another colleague to me.

I fail to see how describing someone by their ethnicity is any different to describing them by their gender.

Jinsei Tue 30-Jul-13 11:39:04

There is nothing wrong in describing someone as Asian, a)if the person is actually Asian and b)if their ethnicity is relevant to the conversation.

HollyBerryBush Tue 30-Jul-13 11:39:18

Is whisperAsian an euphemism for Muslim?

usualsuspect Tue 30-Jul-13 11:43:03

Nothing wrong with describing someone as Asian if it's relevant.

No need to point it out for the sake of it iyswim.

curlew Tue 30-Jul-13 11:44:09

But so much better to describe her as the "woman in the red cardigan"

ouryve Tue 30-Jul-13 11:44:26

Because they might actually be British? Because it might have nothing to do with the conversation?

FlatsInDagenham Tue 30-Jul-13 11:44:47

There isn't anything wrong with it as far as I'm aware.

But people are not always sure what terms / categories are acceptable because what's acceptable has changed since we were children and may well change again. Resulting in lots of people feeling uncomfortable using any terms relating to colour, race or religion, for fear of saying the wrong thing.

Racism is a hot potato in current society and nobody wants to be caught holding it.

Bowlersarm Tue 30-Jul-13 11:45:06

I think it's fine? I don't see why it shouldn't be used in describing someone.

HorryIsUpduffed Tue 30-Jul-13 11:46:26

Well it isn't particularly meaningful. Would you describe someone as European, or African?

LyraSilvertongue Tue 30-Jul-13 11:47:30

I don't see any problem with calling someone Asian if that's what they are. Or calling someone American. Or Australian.

ProudAS Tue 30-Jul-13 11:47:44

I don't think he would have liked to be described as the woman in the red cardigan LOL

Seriously - it probably wouldn't have happened if he had been present and the other colleague was able to point him out. I'm pretty sure he's not British having spoken to him on the phone.

LyraSilvertongue Tue 30-Jul-13 11:48:02

Horry, why not?

HollyBerryBush Tue 30-Jul-13 11:50:06

I would use white, black African, West Indian depending on context, mind you I'd also use Scandinavian, Mediterranean, Australian and so forth

MissBetseyTrotwood Tue 30-Jul-13 11:51:50

DS's best friend is British Pakistani. His mum uses 'asian' as a brief identifier, eg. 'the asian receptionist at school'. It's a sort of short cut - she's comfortable using it if she has no other way of knowing someone's origin.

lunar1 Tue 30-Jul-13 11:52:07

Asian doesn't really describe anyone, it's not offensive but Asia is a huge continent.

My children have a mixed heritage and I would never describe them as asian/European. The have British/Indian parents.

meditrina Tue 30-Jul-13 11:52:39

I don't think it's a terribly useful term, unless you are specifying where in Asia you actually mean. There is little commonality between say Chinese ancestry, that of the Asian part of Russia, Indonesia and other Malay, and the Indian sub-continent. Yet all those groups have massive populations (and still don't represent all Asians).

BeyondTheLimitsOfAcceptability Tue 30-Jul-13 11:52:44

Well, if describing looks, its better than saying "chinese", spent a few hours the other day explaining what is wrong with that to someone!

Its a bit vague though, east asian "natives" (acknowledging of course that anyone can be born anywhere!) have completely different features to those in west asia

HarderToKidnap Tue 30-Jul-13 11:53:11

It's an accepted term for anyone who looks like their ethnicity is that of the Indian subcontinent. It's fine, unless used in a derogatory way. European doesn't mean the same to us so isn't used in the same way. In language, usage defines meaning.

I think using Asian is so much better than saying the lady in the red cardigan, by the way, which is just awful in a feathery stroker, me, I'd dint even see the colour of their skin, sort of way. It's dreadful and false. As if you noticed their red cardigan before their race (or gender ) for goodness sake. If there is more than one Asian woman who you could possibly be referring to, then you bring in the red cardigan!

Bowlersarm Tue 30-Jul-13 11:53:23

Horry am pretty sure I have described people as French, German, Aussie, American, whatever.

ComposHat Tue 30-Jul-13 11:53:48

I think some people think it is 'polite' not to mention someone's race, as if not being white was some unfortunate disability that they couldn't help.

I shared an office with a colleague who was roughly the same age, build and height as me. The key distinguishing feature between us was the fact that I was white and he was black.

The receptionist used to tie herself in knots trying to describe who visitors needed to see. 'Youre here to see John, take the third door on the left and John's the man with the errr... dark curly hair. '

flipchart Tue 30-Jul-13 11:54:09

Not sure of the problem.
I work in an environment with a few different races of people.
We talk freely to each other about different cultures and traditions.
When we are talking about someone ( not in a mean way) all of us say , you know, the Asian lad who comes in with his mum in the Red Clio or the white kid who likes to draw etc. or ' You know the child I mean, his mum is Chinese and his dad is from Southport'

No whispering.

ProudAS Tue 30-Jul-13 11:54:48

Where I work it's enough of a description - all I wanted was to pick the man out and most of the staff are white british. I'm not trying to gain an in depth picture of his background.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 30-Jul-13 11:55:17

It can be tricky. I remember once hearing someone asking where they could find a certain PhD student (who they hadn't met before, and who wasn't in view). The description was somewhat tortuous as to where she was sitting ... and I wondered why it was so impossible to say, in exactly the same way as 'he's the guy with the beard' or 'she's the one with short fair hair', simply 'she's the black girl', which would have unambiguously identified her.

I feel that it should be possible, as a simple descriptor - the fact that we can't, or like the OPs colleague feel the need to whisper - just seems to imply some 'otherness'. Not sure I'm putting this well.

GoodTouchBadTouch Tue 30-Jul-13 11:55:46

Of course theres nothing wrong with it.

Some people get weird about it though. I remember one conversation where my friend was saying "you know, the guy who works in the kitchen.. tall, ummm, goes out with so and so... short hair..."

Why not just say "the black guy?" (he was the only black guy - so therefore black is a relevant distinguishing feature)

applepieinthesky Tue 30-Jul-13 11:55:56

There's nothing wrong with it. My DP is Asian and DS is half Asian. The only thing is Asia is a huge continent so it doesn't really tell you much.

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