Northwest Asian Weekly
A bill that would remove derogatory racial terms, including the word “Oriental,” from federal language has been passed by Congress. The bill will now be sent to President Barack Obama, who is expected to approve the legislation and sign it into law.
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed H.R. 4238, introduced by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Grace Meng, D-NY, which removes all references to words such as “Oriental” and replaces them with terms like “Asian Americans.”
“Updating derogatory references in federal law is long overdue,” Hirono said in a statement on May 10. “Our country’s diversity makes us strong, so it is imperative that this language is changed as soon as possible.”
Added Meng, “The word ‘Oriental’ is a derogatory and antiquated term, and the passage of this legislation will soon force the United States government to finally stop using it.”
The legislation targets two particular lines in the U.S. code written in the late 1970s that attempted to define minorities.
In the law that established the Department of Energy, a sentence regarding the Office of Minority Economic Impact describes a minority as “a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent.”
Secondly, a line in the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act regarding minority business enterprises establishes minorities as “Negroes, Spanish-speaking, Orientals, Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts.”
Both phrases containing the words “Negro” and “Oriental” will now be replaced with “African American” and “Asian American.” “Native Hawaiian” and “Pacific Islander” will additionally be included in the new descriptors.
“Spanish-speaking” will also be read instead as “Hispanic”; “Eskimo” and “Aleut” will become “Alaska Natives”; and “Indian” will turn into “Native American.”
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