Back in February of this year, the House passed bill H.R. 4238, which replaces all references to "Oriental" with "Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander" in federal legislation. On Monday, May 9th, the Senate unanimously passed the bill. With the President's approval a foregone conclusion, it's safe to say that, as The Atlantic puts it, "U.S. Laws Will No Longer Sound Like a Vaguely Racist Uncle."
So does the word "oriental" merit total banishment from the legislative lexicon? It is derived from the Latin oriens, which means "east." However, as U.C. Hastings law professor Frank Wu puts it, "It’s associated with a time period when Asians had a subordinate status...'Oriental’ is like the word ‘negro.’ It conjures up an era [of exoticism, old stereotypes of geisha girls, and emasculated men].” In other words, "Oriental" is a convenient label that non-Asians use to describe - and often, disempower - diverse individuals who have little to do with the mythical Far East evoked.
Most Asian Americans today don't have to reach far back in their memories to recall the degradation with which the word "Oriental" was flung at them, complete with facial contortions and mocking faux-Chinese. This, despite the fact that many of these Asian Americans were born in America and had as full a claim to being "American" as those insulting them. H.R. 4328 is a fitting burial for an outdated term that no one should miss.