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House passes bill removing ‘Negro’ and ‘Oriental’ from federal regulations

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The House passed legislation on Tuesday to eliminate dated references to racial minorities, such as “Negro” and “Oriental,” that remain in parts of federal regulations.

Passed easily by voice vote, the bill authored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) targets the use of the terms in two specific regulations regarding Agriculture Department programs for financing loans for properties in rural areas and the 1974 development plan for Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

Any reference to the term “Negro” would be replaced with “Black or African American”; “Spanish surname” with “Hispanic”; “Oriental” with “Asian American or Pacific Islander”; and “Eskimo” and “Aleut” with “Alaska Native.”

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Currently, the sections of the regulations that seek to define minority groups — in the context of an affirmative action plan in the development for Pennsylvania Avenue and racial data on beneficiaries of the loan programs — include the terms now considered outdated or offensive.

“Words definitely matter. They can cause great harm and division, particularly when they are embedded in federal statute,” Jeffries said during House floor debate.

Congress previously enacted a law under then-President Barack Obama last year that eliminated the use of “Oriental,” “Negro” and other racial terms in two other sections of the U.S. code establishing the Department of Energy and the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act.

“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,” Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), the author of the 2016 law, said at the time.

Tags Barack Obama Grace Meng Hakeem Jeffries

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