Congressman Hakeem Jeffries

Representing the 8th District of New York

Rep. Jeffries: Remove Offensive Language From Federal Code

Feb 26, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, the bipartisan 21st Century Respect Act authored by Representative Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08) and Representative Steve Chabot (OH-01) passed the United States House of Representatives as a fully incorporated part of S.47, the Natural Resources Management Act. The legislation requires the executive branch to remove offensive language from the federal code and replace it with appropriate terms of respect.

Instances of outdated language include Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which still uses the term “Eskimo” to refer to certain indigenous Americans from Alaska. People in many parts of the Arctic consider Eskimo a derogatory term because it was widely used to connote barbarism and violence. Title 7 also includes the terms “Oriental” and “Negro”, which are terms of disparagement. The 21st Century Respect Act replaces those pejoratives with “Asian American or Pacific Islander” and “Black or African American”, respectively. These new terms reflect America’s growth and progress.

Representative Jeffries said: “To achieve a more perfect union, all Americans, regardless of origin, identity or gender, should be treated with respect and dignity. It is long past time that deeply offensive and hurtful terms in our laws including “Oriental”, “Eskimo” and “Negro” be eliminated. I thank Congressman Chabot for his work on this critical effort.”

Representative Chabot said: "Our legal system is based on the fundamental principle that all Americans are equal before the law.  However, that basic right is undermined when the language of the law itself demeans or disrespects members of our society.  The bipartisan legislation approved by the House today helps to rectify this inequity by eliminating offensive, disrespectful terminology from federal law.  This is a positive step in the effort to make sure that all Americans are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve, and I thank Congressman Jeffries for his leadership on this important issue.”

The bipartisan 21st Century Respect Act was originally introduced in the 115th Congress where it passed the House unanimously in November of 2017. The bill was reintroduced in the 116th Congress last month and has since passed the Senate as part of a broader legislative package. It is now headed to the White House for signature into law.

###