Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Replacing Outdated Identifiers of Race, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Religion, Disability & Challenge, etc.
In a column in the Journal of the Missouri Bar (here), Professor Douglas Abrams writes:
On May 20, 2016, President Barack Obama signed H.R. 4238, which the Senate and the House of Representatives had each passed unanimously. The bipartisan bill amends two acts that, written in the 1970s, are codified in Title 42 of the United States Code. The acts referred to persons by such names as Negro, American Indian, Oriental, Eskimo, and Aleut. H.R. 4238 strikes these names and substitutes ones such as African American, Native American, Asian American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and Alaska Native.
H.R. 4238 is the latest congressional recognition that names matter and times change. In 2012, for example, President Obama signed similar bipartisan legislation that eradicated the name “lunatic” from federal disability law after several decades. The 2012 legislation also passed by wide margins, unanimously in the Senate and 398-1 in the House.
When these words innocently pop up in class discussion, it’s our job to gently provide correction.