‘Asian-American’ may go the way of ‘Oriental’

  • Mon May 31st, 2010 10:24pm
  • News

By Stephen Magagnini Sacramento (Calif.) Bee

Is the term “Asian- American” fading into history, like “Oriental” before it?

A growing number note that Asian-American isn’t a race and say they choose to identify by their ethnicity.

“I’m full-blooded Filipino-American,” said Mae Lopez, 27, of West Sacramento. “Asian-American is kind of a loose term.”

As the race question on the U.S. census form has expanded to 15 categories and write-in options — giving Americans the right to check as many boxes as they want — fewer are embracing the term Asian-American.

Linda Ng, a Hong Kong immigrant who is treasurer of the national Organization of Chinese Americans, said she’s proud to be an American. She added it’s often hard for Asian- Americans themselves to differentiate by ethnicity “in a sea of Asians.”

Chong, 65, grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown when virtually all Asian immigrants were called Orientals — a term that fell out of favor because it was associated with European imperialism and conjured up cinematic racial stereotypes.

Sacramento educators Lee Yang, 40, and his wife, Bo Moua, fled communism in Laos. As they strolled through Old Sacramento, past booths selling savory Thai noodles and barbecue, nan bread and sushi, Yang said: “We look Asian.”

But there are significant cultural differences, he said. While Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans and Japanese were influenced by Confucianism, many Hmong refugees are now Christian. Asia is home to many of the world’s religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism.

On the 2010 census, the couple wrote in Hmong. “That’s mostly how I identify,” said Moua, assistant principal at a Sacramento elementary school.