The federal government will no longer use the terms “Negro” and “Oriental” after President Barack Obama signed a bill into law.
The official terms will be African-American and Asian-American. Welcome to 2016.
In a rare show of bipartisan support, the measure H.R.4238, passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and the Senate earlier this year. Obama signed it into law Friday.
The measure updates the terms the U.S. federal government uses to describe minorities, including American Indian to Native American and “Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent” to Hispanic.
Here’s what the bill states:
Office Of Minority Economic Impact.—Section 211(f)(1) of the Department of Energy Organization Act (42 U.S.C. 7141(f)(1)) is amended by striking “a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent” and inserting “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Native American, or an Alaska Native”.
“The term ‘Oriental’ has no place in federal law and at long last this insulting and outdated term will be gone for good,” said Rep. Grace Meng of New York, who sponsored the bill.
Meng, a Democrat from Queens, encountered the term while doing legislative research and had sought to eliminate its usage from government terminology.
“Many Americans may not be aware that the word ‘Oriental’ is derogatory. But it is an insulting term that needed to be removed from the books, and I am extremely pleased that my legislation to do that is now the law of the land,” she said in a statement.
Meng had similarly pushed a law that eliminated the use of the word when she served in the New York Legislature in 2009.
The H.R. 4328 bill had 76 cosponsors, including all 51 members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. One of the original cosponsors included Rep. Ed Royce, a California Republican.
“Our country is a rich tapestry of cultural backgrounds, and Americans of all backgrounds deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” he said in a statement.