PC Culture

‘Long Time, No See’ Is Now Considered ‘Derogatory’ toward Asians

The phrase might be of Asian origin, and so the alarm sounds.

A student at Colorado State University was reportedly told that the expression “Long time, no see” was an example of “non-inclusive” language because it’s apparently “derogatory toward” Asians.

“In a meeting with Zahra Al-Saloom, the director of Diversity and Inclusion at Associated Students of Colorado State University, she showed me an entire packet of words and phrases that were deemed non-inclusive,” student Katrina Leibee wrote in the Rocky Mountain Collegian. “One of these phrases was ‘long time, no see,’ which is viewed as derogatory toward those of Asian descent.”

According to Leibee, “long time, no see” was not the only phrase deemed offensive.

“We were told that the popular term ‘you guys’ was not inclusive of all genders, and we should instead replace it with ‘y’all,’” she wrote. “We were told to use the term ‘first-year’ instead of ‘freshman,’ because ‘freshman’ is not inclusive of all genders.”

“A countless amount of words and phrases have been marked with a big, red X and defined as non-inclusive,” she continued. “It has gotten to the point where students should carry around a dictionary of words they cannot say.”

Both The College Fix’s Jennifer Kabbany and Reason’s Robby Soave have covered this story — characterizing it as an example of political correctness going too far — and I must say that I completely agree. Out here in reality-land, I’m pretty sure that no one hears the phrase “long time, no see!” and hears “I hate Asian people!” As Soave notes, the Wikipedia page for the phrase “raises the possibility that it is of Chinese or Native American origin,” but an NPR article from 2014 — “Who First Said ‘Long Time, No See’ and in Which Language?” — concludes that “it is so widespread as a greeting that there’s nothing to indicate the term’s origins, be they Native American or Mandarin Chinese.”

In any case, I’d wager that most people hear the phrase “long time, no see” and think only “This person is communicating that they have not seen me in a while” or “This person is using a common phrase sarcastically to communicate to me that we have been seeing a lot of each other lately, because I just saw him this morning and I am now seeing him again.” Those are really the only two ways that I’ve ever used the phrase, and the only two ways that I’ve ever comprehended it. I don’t think this is because I am ignorant and uneducated; I think it’s because I’m a normal person. After all, I’ve never met anyone who has been hurt by the phrase “long time, no see,” and I wouldn’t be shocked if I lived the rest of my life without meeting one.

As a woman, I’m also so ridiculously tired of hearing that the phrase “you guys” is something that I’m supposed to find offensive because of my gender. I’m not offended by “you guys,” because I completely understand that when someone uses it to address a group that includes me, they are neither excluding me nor insinuating that I am actually a man. In fact, I even often use the phrase myself — even to describe groups that include women, and I’ve yet to see a woman run out of the room in horror or burst into tears because I’ve done so. In my experience, women are actually stronger than that. The reason I use “you guys” is not that I’m sexist against myself and want to exclude myself, I use it because I’m from the Midwest and that’s what we say instead of “y’all.” What’s more, I actually found Al-Saloom’s suggestion to use “y’all” quite interesting, because I once covered an op-ed written by a student who alleged that the use of “y’all” by people who were not from the South amounted to “cultural appropriation.” You might laugh, and you might even be right to laugh, but it’s also concrete proof that even those who devote their lives to using the most perfectly sensitive language might not be able to avoid offending at least one person. So it might be better for everyone to just chill out about these sorts of things and focus instead on the real instances of racism and sexism that actually do hurt people.


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