Gentle Oriental is a practice about honoring and reinterpreting our history and culture as Asian Americans, as influenced and inspired by the western world we were brought up in. We believe Asian Americans occupy a unique space as cultural ambassadors, having a birthright to reclaim our culture and share it within the context of the West and amongst each other, and to use it as a medium to understand ourselves. Unlike the colonizers who have appropriated our culture for centuries without paying respects to the sanctity of our traditions, we have access to ancestral wisdom and a deeper understanding of our culture and therefore are helping to form the young and ever-evolving Asian American culture. Asian Americans should take up the space that white folks are attempting to take of reinterpreting our culture for their own gains (calling our food "dirty," "purifying" it by making it "clean cooking," creating bad Mah Jong sets that completely disregard the symbolism of each tile because it is "just not their personality"... etc.) Our culture is ours and ours alone to reclaim.
Gentle Oriental pursues one main inquiry: How can we reclaim the term ‘oriental’? Orientalism was originally a term created by the west to refer to the east as “exotic” and “other”. But similarly, we feel so westernized that we could almost consider our own culture as “other”. “Orientalism” in our minds, connotes a directionality in that we are in the west looking to the east, not as “other” but as a distant home. It also implies a shallowness of understanding, but one that we yearn to deepen and widen. It raises a question of how much claim we have to our own culture when we have been thus far removed to the point where we are observers and not participants, and how we can close that gap. But the exciting part is that ones relationship to culture is never clearly defined. It ebbs and flows; it is constantly evolving.