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Ronny Chieng’s joke about Asian identity inspired a compelling debate about labels

"The Daily Show" correspondent's comments were about Rishi Sunak's appointment as U.K. prime minister.

Ronny Chieng on "The Daily Show."

Rishi Sunak made history on Tuesday, October 25 by becoming the first Asian and Hindu prime minister in the history of the United Kingdom. His appointment is seen by many in the U.K. as an important step toward representation in a country that is 7.5% Asian.

Sunak’s grandparents migrated to the U.K. in the 1960s from India and his maternal grandmother was born in Africa.

However, this issue is a little more complicated from an American perspective where people of Indian descent are rarely referred to as Asian. We reserve the label for people of the Far East such as Japan, China, Vietnam and Korea.

To complicate things further, if you go by what the U.S. government has to say, Asian refers to people “having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.”

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Beautiful. Photo by Eric Kilby/Flickr.

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