Monday, November 17, 2008

Spotlight on Oriental Poppies and Koi

Floating Vase of Oriental Poppies with Fluttering Koi on Golden Pond
Limited edition (2 plus 1 artist's proof)

I went to a diversity training yesterday where we discussed why people were called by certain names. It's easy to say, "Oh, that's just politically correct ('PC')" and dismiss these different terms as attempts to hide some truth.
The truth is, calling someone or a group of people what they wish to be called is not about being correct, it's about being respectful. It takes humility not to impose your name on someone and to ask, "What would you like to be called?" or "What is the appropriate term for...?"
There's nothing wrong with not knowing, no matter what anybody says. Learning is your right. What causes problems is when people refuse to learn, or are afraid to appear wrong. No one can move forward with an attitude like that, and it's sad to consider how small the world is for someone who resists understanding and curiosity. The world's a mystery and it continues to surprise, delight, and frighten us. That's what makes it so full of wonder and awe inspiring.
So--"oriental" refers to things like rugs, poppies, furniture, etc. Not people. When they were building the railroads in the West, they had supply lists of things such as buckets, dynamite, Orientals, etc. Essentially, Asians were treated as cheap things (slaves), and it's not a name they gave themselves.
Years ago, I joked with some of my friends that I'll agree not to call them "barbarians" (traditionally what the Chinese have called Westerners) if they don't call me "Oriental." We all have names for each other, but it's nice to listen and show some respect. Political correctness for its own sake, without understanding or explanation, appears stupid.
Make some sense, ask some questions!
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