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Poll - Should Oriental Change Its Name?
The word "Oriental" has been banned from use in federal law.
May 23, 2016

B
anned: Oriental. It’s the law now, literally an Act of Congress. Oriental won’t be used in government documents to describe an ethnicity.

The headlines over the weekend shared news that President Obama had signed this in to law. This, after Congress had passed it unanimously earlier this year. (Which misses the bigger story that somehow Democrats and Republicans actually agreed on something …)

In Federal documents, the term to be used instead of Oriental, will be Asian-American.

So, what does this renewed attention on the word mean for the only US town named Oriental? Will Bruce Springsteen refuse to play at the Old Theater? Could we get another Susan Werner song out of it?

There could be PR problems

What’s In A Name?

Oriental, the town, is named for an 1862 shipwreck just off the northern Outer Banks, when the steamship Oriental was carrying supplies for Union troops. Fast forward a few decades to the Inner Banks where a town was being developed at what had been known as Smith’s Creek. The wife of the town’s founder recalled the shipwreck near her childhood home and Smith’s Creek became Oriental.

While Oriental has since embraced an Asian theme — e.g. dragon runs, Duck Pond dragon, dragon eggs — the roots of the town name are actually Spanish. Before being pressed in to work for the North in the Civil War, the Steamship Oriental had been built for the rum trade in Cuba. She took her name from one of the Cuban ports.

Should Oriental be renamed?

Shipwreck is an option. “Shipwreck” would command attention on your business card. Given people’s attraction to disasters, Shipwreck could be a real tourist draw. Travel writers wouldn’t have to change their copy, they could still describe the town’s name as “quirky.”

Shipwreck Advantages:

  • Big business for local sign makers. 3,000 boats would need their new “Shipwreck” hailing port.
  • New traditions. New Years Eve could feature the running of a replica Titanic on Hodges Street.
  • Croaker Festival parades would have a great theme.

There is also the old name, Smith’s Creek. It is the true original name of our town.

Smith’s Creek Advantages:

  • Big sales of popular new baseball cap embroidered with “Make Smith’s Creek Great Again”.
  • There are 2.8 million Smiths in the US. Smith’s Creek could attract annual Smith surname reunion.

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