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Dated Minority References Removed from Law
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Grace Meng

Summary: A bill that has successfully gone through the House and Senate just awaits Obama’s signature to remove dated minority terms from federal law.

President Barack Obama will be seeing a bill on his desk to remove all remaining dated references to minorities such as “Negro” and “Oriental.” Congress passed the legislation unanimously Monday night.


Rep. Grace Meng of New York developed the bill, which went through the House without issue in February. The proposed law will exchange the word “Oriental” with “Asian American” in two sections of the U.S. code. Any remaining references to “Negro” will also be replaced with “African American.”

Read Upcoming Court Term Full of Issues Ripe for a Right Sweep to learn more.

Meng said, “I thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for understanding that the time has come for our government to no longer refer to Asian Americans – or any ethnicity – in such an insulting manner. 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.”

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Two specific lines of the U.S. code written in the 1970s attempt to define minorities are the issue. In the sections establishing the Department of Energy, a sentence describing minorities in regards to the Office of Minority Economic Impact says, “a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent.”

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Another reference to the dated terms is a line in the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act is from the part over minority business enterprises. The line states, “Negroes, Spanish-speaking, Orientals, Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts.”

The bill will also add “Native Hawaiian” and “Pacific Islander” to the description of minorities list. “Spanish-speaking” will now be “Hispanic” and “Eskimo” and “Aleut” will be “Alaska Natives” with “Indian” changing to “Native American.”

Read How Minorities Can Select the Best Law School for Their Future.

Meng first took on replacing dated minority references when she was a member of the New York state assembly in 2009. She co-authored legislation that removed “Oriental” from official New York state documents.





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