Mizzou 'Inclusive Terminology' guide calls 'Oriental,' 'urban' offensive terms

In an effort to increase discussion about diversity and inclusion, the University of Missouri compiled a language guide to help students avoid stereotypes.

The Inclusive Terminology guide, available on the Mizzou Diversity website, claims that terms such as Oriental, Ethnic, and Indian are all offensive.

"Sticks and stones are not the only things that may be hurtful," the page informs students. "Words can significantly impact our interaction with others. Regardless of our motive and intentions, they may harm or enhance dialogue."

The guide breaks down its terminology by categories such as ability; faith and religion; gender and sexuality; race, ethnicity, and national origin; socioeconomic status; safety issues; and other related areas. The words in each category were chosen as the most current relevant terms for Mizzou’s diversity initiative.

The faith and religion section of the guide, for example, specifically defines terms related to Islam and Judaism, but fails to delve into other prominent world religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, or Hinduism.

The portion of the guide outlining race claims that, “Oriental is considered offensive and should not be used as a synonym [for Asian],” though no mention is made of whether “Occidental” is equally offensive to individuals of European extraction.

The same is written about using the word “Indian” to refer to a Native American, in place of which Mizzou prefers “American Indian, First Nation, or Indigenous person.”

In addition, the university argues that the terms “ethnic” and “urban” contain negative undertones and should not be used in favor of “person of color.”

Mizzou follows in the footsteps of the University of New Hampshire (UNH), whose Bias-Free Language Guide came under national criticism last summer for calling the word “American” problematic. After Campus Reform reported on the guide, it was quickly removed from UNH’s website.

UPDATE: Rajan Zed, President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, released a statement Tuesday criticizing Mizzou for leaving Hindu terms out of its inclusive language guide, complaining that the omission represents a disservice to the world's third-largest religion and its roughly three million adherents in the U.S. Zed calls on Mizzou administrators to issue an apology and create an "honestly inclusive" terminology guide.

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