We are students, practitioners, patients, researchers, and advocates who represent a coalition of stakeholders in the fields of East Asian Medicine and Integrative Health.
Remove the O-Word
"Oriental" is a term rooted in xenophobia and white supremacy. It is imperative that we eliminate it from our lexicon. This important first step is the beginning of a generations-long investment in dismantling colonialism and advocating health diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Calls to Action
Remove “oriental” from all East Asian Medicine* institutions, including in names, acronyms, diplomas, titles, and licensing and accrediting bodies immediately
Begin a dialogue across the community and profession to explore which terms will replace “oriental,” foregrounding the voices of upcoming generations of Asian and Asian American stakeholders
Provide alumni with new diplomas reflecting this change, free of charge, within one year of its adoption
Why Do We Need to Remove the O-Word?
“Oriental” was originally used to indicate any land lying East of an imagined European center. To the original users of the word, it evoked exoticism, foreignness, and the perceived racial inferiority of the “other.” It does not honor heritage but instead centers a European worldview while persecuting those of Asian descent.
Anti-Asian Racism in America
Just as Asian cultures are not monolithic, there is not a universal consensus around the use of “oriental” among Asian or Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) students and practitioners. The most significant divergence in thought is perhaps between those born and raised in Asia and those born in the United States and raised as Asian Americans.
In the United States, orientalism is inextricable from the racism and murderous violence of the “Yellow Peril” in the 19th and 20th centuries which abused and exploited Asian labor for American expansionism. Orientalism also played a role in vehemently xenophobic legislation and social discriminations throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and is still alive today.
In 2016, the term was removed from all United States federal regulations through a bill authored by New York State Representatives Grace Meng (D) and Hakeem Jeffries (D). It received unanimous, bipartisan congressional support and was signed into law by President Obama. The bill also struck the terms “Negro,” “Eskimo,” and “Spanish surname” (to honor Latinx citizens). These blatantly offensive terms are the companions of “oriental.”
We will fail in our institutional anti-racism efforts before they begin
if we persist in using this antiquated term.
Please sign and share this petition with your colleagues and friends outside of the profession. Removing the o-word is the beginning of addressing the systemic and structural racism in East Asian Medicine.