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New nicknames for East

By John Published: November 12, 2010

  • Scarlet Knights

  • Dragons

  • Red Dragons

  • Corsairs

  • Orientals

Those are the nominees that the Akron East High School Alumni Association presented to the Akron School Board Thursday. The association overwhelmingly wants to keep Orientals as the nickname, but school board president the Rev. Curtis T. Walker Sr. says that's not going to happen.

Why is the term Orientals considered antiquated and offensive?

For an interesting discussion with links to various viewpoints on this issue, check out the Stuff White People Do blog, which is written by a white guy "trying to find out what that means. Especially the "white" part."  Last year the blog pondered  a  New York law banning the use of "Oriental" in state documents referring to people of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage.

Or consider the introduction to Orientals: Asian Americans in popular culture by Robert G. Lee, recounting a familiar experience for Asian Americans:

 "Orientals are rugs, not people," says my student, summing up Asian American history. As she knows, it is the common experience of all Asian Americans --recent immigrant or fourth-generation American born, university professor or garment worker -- to be asked by other Americans, "Where do you come from?"

The answer can never be Akron or Chicago or Dallas.  A persistent questioner will want to know where an Asian American really is from.

As longtime booster Clarence Berry explained, the influences referred to the Middle East, not the Far East. But that kind of romanticization of Arabic and Islamic cultures by the West  also has come under critique, most notably in Edward Said's classic and controversial book on the subject, Orientalism.

(By the way, I'm informed by a reader that the dome-like caps on the towers of the original East High School are common elements of  Tudor architecture, a style  Goodyear founder F.A. Seiberling embraced for his own home, Stan Hywet. The domes may have been mistaken for minarets, my reader says, but architecturally speaking, there's nothing "oriental" about them at all).



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