A New York high school that’s gone by the “Orientals” for more than a century is getting a name change.
When East High School in Rochester was established in the early 1900s, it was one of just two high schools in the city: East High and West High, according to the the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
East High was dubbed the Orientals, derived from the Latin word for “east,” while West High was named the Occidentals, an age-old reference to Western countries. West High School has since been renamed Joseph C. Wilson High School, and there are now 25 high schools in the city, according to the district’s website.
District Deputy Superintendent Shaun Nelms told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that times have changed, along with the meaning of “Oriental.” Many of East Asian descent consider the term disparaging.
“We’re just trying to model for our students what we expect from them,” Nelms said. “Changing the name to reflect our community’s values is important.”
Now, East High will officially be known as the “Eagles” — a name it’s gone by informally for the last several years, which should make the September transition relatively smooth, said principal Anibal Soler.
The name change had been talked about for a number of years, but officials hadn’t gone through with it until now because of opposition from parents and alumni. That’s since changed.
Justin Noye, who attended East High School and is now a football player at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, said he knew the “Orientals” was “kind of a racist term.”
“I began to notice that other teams didn’t call us the Orientals at games, they called us the Eagles. At the end of the day, we don’t need negative attention over a name that’s been there a long time. It’s time for something new anyway at East High,” Noye said.
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