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What is wrong with describing someone as Asian?

(339 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.

lunar1 Tue 30-Jul-13 11:56:27

What's wrong with Chinese, i have used that descriptor before. Now terrified I e been offensive.

GoodTouchBadTouch Tue 30-Jul-13 11:56:27

Snap Grimma!

HarderToKidnap Tue 30-Jul-13 11:56:31

We use south East Asian to describe someone who looks like they have Chinese/Japanese/Korean etc ethnicity. That's a bit a clumsier though, we have a very small population of people of these ehtnicities and there isn't really a term that's widely used. Asian in Australia means people who look like they are from south east asia, they have huge numbers of people of this ethnicity. Asian here means Indian sub continent.

In that case no, no problem

Chinese I would say is okay if factual, not okay if walking past a person in the street who could be from a nearby area but not china. And again, china is rather large, not all chinese people have the same features smile

TabithaStephens Tue 30-Jul-13 11:58:35

In this country "Asian" generally means someone of Indian appearance. In America it means someone of "Chinese"/"Oriental"/East Asian appearance.

There really should be better terms but I don't know of them.

LyraSilvertongue Tue 30-Jul-13 11:59:04

'Asian' would surely be more acceptable than trying to pinpoint exactly which country the person is from and getting it wrong. Same with African. Someone might have an accent that is clearly from somewhere within the African continent but few of us could distinguish exactly where if we weren't too familiar with that continents accents.

Bowlersarm Tue 30-Jul-13 12:00:35

HardedtoKidnap agree with you since the time I was trying point out a (black) man to a (black) friend. I used all manner of descriptions such as the one with the hat, the tall man, I think he has an earring, and determined not to mention his skin colour,. In the end she was the one that said 'oh you mean the black guy confused'?.

I've been, rightly or wrongly, much less coy about my descriptions of people since then. I think people sometimes overthink these things.

HorryIsUpduffed Tue 30-Jul-13 12:01:24

You might use "British" or "Danish" but the equivalent to "Asian" is "European".

Some people mean sort of Indian, or Japanese, or Thai, or Malay, or Chinese. That's as different in looks as "Scottish" and "Portuguese". Which is why I said I don't find it a terribly meaningful descriptor, unless you're pointing out the equivalent of the only white/black/wheelchair-using person in the room.

LyraSilvertongue Tue 30-Jul-13 12:02:57

Bowlersarm, people definitely overthink. People are afraid of causing offense do go to ridiculous lengths to avoid it. But I can't see why someone would be offended by being described as Asian if they are Asian.

lunar1 Tue 30-Jul-13 12:03:01

Oh thank god! I was pointing someone in the direction of my Chinese friend, who I know is Chinese.

grin and I would describe my BIL as Indian!

What about someone who is mixed race.....?

HarderToKidnap Tue 30-Jul-13 12:12:32

Yes, it's like being black/Asian is something to be ashamed of and we mustn't mention it... Black and Asian people are generally not ashamed of being their ethnicity! When I was working in Uganda I would refer to people as "the white girl" cos there were very few white people working with me. Funnily enough no white people took offence.

frogspoon Tue 30-Jul-13 12:12:39

I would normally use Asian to refer to someone of South-Asian (Indian subcontinent) ethnicity/ background, and Oriental to refer to someone of East-Asian (China, Japan, Korea etc) origin.

I thought it was more acceptable to call someone Asian, than Indian, because they may be e.g. Bangladeshi/Pakistani/Sri Lankan etc and might find it offensive. Equally I wouldn't call someone Chinese, as they may be e.g. Japanese or Korean.

Ideally however I prefer to avoid referring to people by their ethnicity anyway.

flipchart Tue 30-Jul-13 12:13:30

Thinking about it, the other week at the summer party at work one Asian worker described me to a visitor as 'The white lady next to the buffet' which funnily enough is where I am usually found!!

GoodTouchBadTouch Tue 30-Jul-13 12:14:46

Talking of unwitting racism.. is this racist? Or ignorant or neither?

I bumped into a sort of friend a while ago, she was with a black guy, I know that her partner is black (Ive never met him, but I know he is black)

I say hello friend, and oh you must be (partners name)

It wasn't - just a random black dude.

Friend repeated this to lots of other friends, apparently its a huge faux pas. Is it? There are mainly white people where we lived, I don't know of any black people personally.

Jefferson Tue 30-Jul-13 12:15:13

As an Asian person (Indian ethnicity, British nationality) I cannot see the problem.

I think the fact people are so scared of causing offence or trying to be PC is getting ridiculous. I agree with the poster who said it is disingenuous to describe the only Asian /black person as for example 'woman with red cardigan' when it would be much simpler to say 'the black lady'. What is the big deal? As if a black or Asian person would be offended by being described as black or Asian confused

meditrina Tue 30-Jul-13 12:17:15

It's not terribly helpful if you are trying to identify which person is meant if you say "Asian" and the general direction indicated leads to a quartet whi appear to be Chinese, Nepalese, Afghani and Uigur.

I do not think at one part of Asia is universally accepted as "Asian" to the exclusion of all other parts of Asia.

Jefferson Tue 30-Jul-13 12:17:47

Goodtouch no I don't think it was either racist or ignorant and your friend is rude to point it out as a faux pas.

If her Dp was white and she was with a white guy you would have assumed the same I'm sure?

tedmundo Tue 30-Jul-13 12:18:17

Well, at least people are aware that using offensive terms are no longer acceptable and are trying their hardest to be neutral.

Surely that is something to celebrate?

Your colleague probably whispered it as he/she didn't feel 100% confident it was the 'correct' term. No offence was intended.

I am really confused about Chinese being considered offensive though? My cousin is married into a Chinese family. They all use the term! So do we!

It's a minefield out there I tell you. grin

stopgap Tue 30-Jul-13 12:19:58

Asian over here (the US) means East Asian. In the early days of living here, I still used "Oriental" to describe people from that region, and was swiftly told by my husband that it's considered an offensive term. People from India, Pakistan etc. are generally lumped under the term South Asian.

curlew Tue 30-Jul-13 12:20:31

Of course it would!'t be offensive to say "the black lady" but it is always better not to use personal physical characteristics to describe people if it's possible. It's just good manners. And "Asian" is so vague- it could mean an Indian looking person, a Chinese looking person...........

Go for the cardigan if you can.

applepieinthesky Tue 30-Jul-13 12:20:40

It's quite strange how people in this country are scared to refer to people as Black or Asian because they think it's offensive or are scared of being labelled a racist. Yet Black and Asian people themselves (certainly the ones I know) think nothing of it. It's usually other White British people that say 'you can't say that'.

JackieTheFart Tue 30-Jul-13 12:21:17

I remember being told off by Canadian friends for using Oriental as a descriptor for a girl who was from South-East Asia. They would use Indian for any one who we would describe as Asian. They see Oriental as akin to carpets apparently confused which doesn't make a lot of sense to me but then I'm white European.

I would have no problem being described as European by the way, I guess if I were a Brit resident in Germany I wouldn't necessarily look inherently British.

I was mocked by a friend for talking about the 'guy in the hat' in a bar once. He was black, we were white - I chose the hat as the descriptor as the first thing that occurred to me!

(Mocked for being PC that is)

tedmundo Tue 30-Jul-13 12:21:57

beyondthelimits .. Apparently it is no longer mixed race it is 'duel heritage'.

Keep up! grin

(Although again, cousin is mixed race married to Chinese lady, so my niece and nephew are actually tri heritage ... Oh now this is getting silly!)

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