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Congress and President ban use of words “Oriental” and “negro” from federal law

U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol

WASHINGTON – Two words will no longer appear in federal law, after President Barack Obama signed legislation banning the use of the terms  “negro” and “oriental”.

President Barack Obama has signed a bill eliminating all known uses of the term “oriental” and “negro” from federal law.

The bill, which was sponsored by Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY), was passed by the House of Representatives unanimously on Feb. 29 and again by the Senate on May 9. It was co-sponsored by 76 members of Congress, including all 51 members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said in a statement that she was “proud to have seen this effort through.”

“After months of advocacy in both chambers of Congress, derogatory terms in federal law will finally be updated to reflect our country’s diversity,” she said. “Mahalo to President Obama for his quick action.”

“Oriental” had still existed in Title 42 of the U.S. Code, which was written in the 1970s. It will be replaced with “Asian Americans.”

In a statement, Congresswoman Meng expressed relief that “at long last this insulting and outdated term will be gone for good.”

“Many Americans may not be aware that the word ‘Oriental’ is derogatory,” she said. “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.”

Replacing “negro” in law code will be the phrase “African American”. The word “oriental” will be replaced by “Asian American”.

Meng’s effort was meant to “modernize terms relating to minorities,” she said. It was first passed by the House in early December as an amendment to the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act. It passed through the House after unanimous vote in late February.

On May 9, the bill was passed, again unanimously, by the Senate.

“The term ‘oriental’ has no place in federal law and at long last this insulting and outdated term will be gone for good,” Meng said in a statement. “No longer will any law of the United States refer to Asian Americans in such an offensive way, and I applaud and thank President Obama for signing my bill to get rid of this antiquated term.”

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