Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Gordon Johnson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to remove outdated and pejorative ethnic terms from existing state statutes was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
The bill (A-3665) would remove the terms "Negro" and "Oriental," as used in reference to ethnicity or race, from state statutes and replace them with African-American and Asian-American, as applicable.
"There's no place for these types of antiquated slurs in modern society," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Quite frankly, these changes should have been made a long time ago."
The bill would also require each state entity to conduct a comprehensive review of all forms, documents, and regulations utilized by that entity in order to find and remove any existing usage of these terms within twelve months.
"These terms are outdated and derogatory," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "Our state laws should promote the respect of all races, ethnicities, and cultures."
Additionally, the bill would replace "Negro" with "African American" in the state statute that requires high school American history curriculum to include materials related to African American history.
"We've made other similar changes to replace antiquated and derogatory language in reference to those who suffer from mental illnesses," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Every constituency should be represented and portrayed with dignity in the eyes of the state."
In recent years, the federal government has taken action to remove these terms from federal laws and documents. In 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau dropped the word "Negro." On May 20, 2016, President Obama signed into law H.R. 4238, which modernizes terms in specified statutes related to minorities, replacing the word "Oriental" with the phrase "Asian American," and replacing the terms "Negroes," "Spanish-speaking," "Indians," "Eskimos" and "Aleuts" in the Department of Energy Organization Act and the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee and would take effect immediately upon enactment.