Congress passed a bill on Monday to remove racist language written into laws. There were a few cases of the words “Oriental” and “Negro” still on a few older laws.
The Department of Energy Organization Act said this:
“…a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent”
That has been replaced by this:
“…Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Native American, or an Alaska Native.”
A 1976 public works bill now looks like this:
“…Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders, African American, Hispanic, Native American, or Alaska Natives…”
Representative Grace Meng had this to say about the term “Oriental:”
“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. 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.”
This is the not only area that is changing racial terms in this country. The U.S. Census Bureau is constantly changing its categories to fit with today’s language standards. In 1790, the categories were: “free white females and males,” “slaves,” and “all other free persons.” In 1850, the race categories on the Census were “Black; mulatto” and “white.” In 1950, the categories were: “American Indian,” “Chines; Filipino; Japanese,” “Negro,” “White,” and “Other.”
This next Census form in 2020 will not have race or nationality. They will be using “categories” instead of racially definitive terms. The categories are constantly changing with our changing society. The Census Bureau sent out a test questionnaire without the race categories removed. Hopefully, they can find a way to compile data without the offensive language.
Here is a chart showing the evolution of the race categories on the Census forms: