Is it racist to describe Asians as Asian?

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On the 11th of February, the NZ Herald reported that a group of Asians in an Auckland coffee shop had been identified on their receipt as “Asians”. The newspaper had apparently been alerted to this racism by one of the women in the group. The news report informs the reader that “The woman told Stuff (not the Herald, it seems) they were a “group of ‘Asians’ born in this country, and had visited the restaurant for coffee and drinks.” She went on to say “We were truly shocked at the restaurant for their incredibly racist service.”

By referring to herself and her friends as ?Asian? the woman is obviously as racist as the restaurant waitress (described in the article, mistakenly, as a waiter). While the waitress and the receipt writing person, whoever he or she might be, is rightly condemned, so too should the woman herself be condemned. You know, the one who describes herself as Asian.


The NZ Herald, too, is far from blameless. The newspaper quite often describes Maori people as “Maori” and Polynesian people as “Polynesian”. Will the newspaper hold itself to account? I think not.


I worked for some seven years in a university in China, and was the only European on the staff. I was sometimes referred to, by fellow lecturers and students, as being ?European?. I was born in New Zealand and have never been to Europe, but I was unaware at that time that being identified by my race was racist. I could perhaps contact Stuff with a view to getting some publicity in the NZ Herald, but I can’t be bothered.

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