On June 1, 2016, the Los Angeles Times featured a curious article that delves on the sensitive issue of racism in the United States. The article states that the term 'Oriental' is already considered a forbidden word among the list of many derogatory terms thrown at anyone of Asian ethnicity.

The bill prohibiting the use of the term 'Oriental' in any academic literature or discussion was signed by President Barack Obama on May 21, 2016. The H.R. 4238 also includes previously accepted derogatory terms like 'Negro, American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut.' 

In any case, racism cuts both ways. In fact, Asian racism is just as scathing and much of it has a lot to do with the bad history between Western and Eastern contact. Here are some of the East Asian slurs that, ironically, even proved catchy in Western media: 


In Japanese, 'gaijin' is a shorter derivative for 'gaikokujin' which means 'foreigner.' Technically, it does not have to be insulting to Westerners since they qualify in the descriptor. However, Japanese society has a curious way of carrying out the demographic divide even after more than 5 generations of immigration or intermarriage. The term 'gaijin' describing citizens of mixed-heritage, therefore, is just downright hurtful.  


Many Westerners in Hong Kong or other Cantonese municipalities accept the term 'gweilo.' Unbeknownst to mainstream media, this word is literally translated as 'old ghosty.' Apart from describing the pale complexion of Westerners, a ghost is closely associated with a curse in Chinese culture. This term is a product of the mutual dislike shared by the British rulers and Chinese locals in Hong Kong.

Lao Wai

Just like 'gaijin' in Japan, 'lao wai' in Mandarin simply means foreigner. The word itself is not an insult. However, it is important to consider how much a big deal politeness and courtesy is in Chinese culture. Not calling a Westerner in its appropriate adjective 'waiguoren,' which means 'foreign guest' or 'international friend,' would imply that he or she seems a less desirable company.


Of all the East Asian slurs mentioned, one of the meanest reserved for Westerners would be this slang in Taiwan. The word 'a-tok-a' means 'big nose' in Taiwanese. Granted, racism cuts both ways. This one proves just that.