Ask McFartnuggets: “Is There Such Thing as West Asians?”

Dear McFartnuggets: 
I hear Asian people like Chinese and Japanese now calling themselves “East Asians.” Is that the new politically correct term? Is calling people simply plain ol’ “Asian” now racist or something? I stopped calling them Oriental and started calling them Asian and now Asian is a bad word? Isn’t East Asian a little redundant? Is there such thing as West Asians? I’ve never heard anyone call themselves a West Asian before. Is that even a thing? How can you be an East Asian if there’s no West Asian? -- Paula from Madison, Wisconsin

Dear Paula:
Well there is technically a geographical region referred to as Western Asia. Countries that exist in this region of the world are countries like Israel, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, etc. These are people you’d generally identify as “Middle Eastern.” So, there are West Asians, but they don’t call themselves West Asian or even Asian. Obviously if they did call themselves Asian that would be insanely confusing and would highlight the need for people to call themselves West Asian, East Asian, North Asian, and South Asian. Apparently, the reason some Asian people call themselves East Asian is to differentiate themselves from “Southeast Asian.” Southeast Asian people come from countries like Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Phillipines. There’s a much bigger difference between Filipinos and Japanese than there is between Japanese and Korean for example so that’s why there’s a such a distinction made. If you’ve ever called an Asian a different kind of Asian by mistake then you know how sensitive a subject this is and I guess it’s sensitive enough that they come up with specific geographical terms to differentiate themselves even if those terms are not consistent with the continent of Asia as a whole. Thanks for the question.

This of course is a West Asian stereotype.

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