- Avoid: slurs, dialect and the words Asiatic, exotic.
- Use with caution: stereotypes, Asian images, ethnicity and the words All-American, Asia, Asian, Asian gangs, Caucasian, Chinese laundries, community, Hawaiian, illegal alien, immigrant, Indochina, inscrutable, Islamist, Mandarin, martial arts, minority, Oriental.
American – not a synonym for white (pictured above).
Asia/Asian – Vague: most people are Asian. Note that Americans mainly think of East Asia as “Asia” while the British mainly think of South Asia.
Asian gangs – better to use ethnicity, like Vietnamese gangs, and only where ethnicity clearly matters to the story. After all, no one says “Italian American gangs”.
Asian images – The Taj Mahal; the Ganges River; the Great Wall of China; pagodas; the cheongsam (traditional Chinese dress); the conical hat worn in Vietnam and elsewhere; rice paddies; rickshaws; samurais; geishas; Kabuki characters; as well as classical art, such as Hokusai’s “Great Wave” are emblematic of Asia. Use only in context.
Asian religion – temples are often used for meditation, not worship, and meditation is not the same as prayer. Buddha is not a god. Confucianism and Taoism are more guides to living than religion in the Western sense.
community – use the names of the people and organizations in question rather than vague terms like “the Korean community”. After all, no one says “white community leaders”.
dialect – avoid. Better to state that a person’s English is limited and then paraphrase.
ethnicity – only use when it clearly matters to the story and where it can be known for sure.
exotic – avoid: it normalizes whiteness.
eye shape – all eyes are the same shape. Many Asians, but not all, have eyelids with an epicanthic fold. It is found in all races. Only bring it up if it clearly matters to the story, like in an article on eyelid surgery. Do not call it “slanted” or “slitty”.
illegal alien – acts are illegal, not people.
immigrant – like race and ethnicity, only bring it up if it clearly matters to the story. If so, date of entry might be helpful.
minority – not a synonym for people of colour. After 2042 everyone in America will be a minority. Be more specific.
model minority – at best a backhanded compliment, at worst, code for “lacking leadership potential”.
Muslim – not all Muslims are Arabs and not all Arabs are Muslim.
Oriental – condescending, colonialist, vague.
polling – Note that Asian Americans are often left out due to their small sample size.
Sikh – follower of Sikhism, a monotheistic religion with elements of Hinduism and Islam.
slurs – Chinaman, ching-chong, chink, Flip, gook, illegals, Jap, Nip, Paki, slant, slope, Yellow Peril. Avoid.
stereotypes – Charlie Chan, China Doll, Dragon Lady (pictured right), Fu Manchu. Also, “geisha,” “delivery boy,” “manicurist” and “samurai” when used metaphorically are stereotypes.
Taiwanese – Useful to specify Taiwanese or Taiwanese American, as opposed to Chinese or Chinese American.
Third World – a Cold War term. Most experts today use “developing countries”, “emerging world”, etc.
turban – worn, not always with a religious or ethnic meaning.
untouchables – Dalit is more respectful and current.
yellow skin – a sign of disease.
Source: the “AAJA Handbook to Covering Asian America”, where you can find way more.