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Monday, October 4, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 30

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Get it right -- I’m not Asian

Angela Bongat

I'm at Indigo Lounge downtown, when a young man approaches me and asks, "What are you?" I could have blurted out "I am human" or "I am female," but I knew what he was inquiring about.

"Well, I am Filipina," I answered.

For that reply I got the infamous, "Oh, you're Oriental."

In defense of the debate about the politically correct way of referring to those who originate from the continent of Asia, I replied that I was not Oriental because the word oriental is correctly used to describe food and other things originating from Asia. The term "Asian" is used to describe people. I also replied that I was not born in Asia, but rather on one of the islands that comprise the Philippines located in the Pacific Ocean. So I am a Pacific Islander.

Did I find it absolutely necessary to educate this fool on my lineage when he didn't know how to address his curiosity about my origins? Yes! And it wasn't because I would be offended to be recognized as an Asian, because we are all created equal. My thought is when someone asks you about your ethnicity, it is because they are seeking knowledge and think you're the perfect source for knowing about your nationality.

It now seems that people are more accepting of different cultures. I think we all should be proud of where we came from and our origins. It's these variances that make this melting pot interesting. When you are a part of such a group, it's only natural to be curious about the differences of those around you.

So, when someone asks, I want to be as much of a wealth of knowledge regarding my culture as I possibly can. To the man at the bar, I was doing my part to educate the people in the community that needed some guidance.

Don't get me wrong, I don't correct everyone that says Oriental when they should be using Pacific Islander. Most times I know that the word is used with no harm and, if there is a polite opportunity, I will correct the individual.

My mission in this whole politically correct debate is to give as much knowledge as I am qualified to give to those who actually care -- not to rage on with unsolicited information. Since these issues are so sensitive nowadays, I personally think that it would be safer to address the topic in a neutral manner.

Bongat, a junior psychology and political science major,
can be reached at angelabongat@hotmail.com.
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