WASHINGTON, USA, May 13, 2016 (by Emil Guillermo, NBC News): On May 9, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would remove the word "Oriental" from the last known laws in the United States Code where it applies to a person. Now the bill is on its way to President Obama for final approval. The legislation changes two laws in Title 42 of the U.S. Code, striking all references of "a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent," inserting instead "an Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Native American, or an Alaska Native." It's origins are in the era of European colonization when the terms "Orient" and "Oriental" were used to describe Asia and Asian peoples as backward, inferior, exotic, and foreign in order to justify colonization and subjugation," says Erika Lee, director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota, and the author of, "The Making of Asian America: A History."
"In the U.S., the term "Oriental" has been used to reinforce the idea that Asians were/are forever foreign and could never become American. These ideas helped to justify immigration exclusion, racial discrimination and violence, political disfranchisement, and segregation." Lee said continued use of the term only "perpetuates inequality, disrespect, discrimination, and stereotypes towards Asian Americans, a group that remains largely underrepresented in American politics despite their status as the fastest growing group in the U.S."