Congress unanimously passed a bill Monday to remove the last pockets of archaic racial terminology such as “Oriental” or “Negro” from federal law, replacing them instead with more modern terms.
The law targeted two anti-discrimination subsections of the U.S. Code that used outdated language to describe racial groups. In one section of the Department of Energy Organization Act, “a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent” will be replaced with “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Native American, or an Alaska Native.”
Another section of the bill erases “Negroes, Spanish-speaking, Orientals, Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts” from a 1976 public-works act and adds “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders, African American, Hispanic, Native American, or Alaska Natives” in its place.
The legislation now goes to President Obama for his signature. Representative Grace Meng, a Democrat from New York who proposed the changes, also previously led a successful initiative to ban the word “oriental” in government documents in the Empire State.
“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,” Meng said in a statement Tuesday after the Senate approved the bill. “Repealing this term is long overdue. ‘Oriental’ no longer deserves a place in federal law, and very shortly it will finally be a thing of the past.”