LEGISLATIVE GAZETTE: ‘Oriental’ elimination bill approved by Legislature

Craig M. Johnson

July 27, 2009



Legislative Gazette Staff Writer

Mon, Jul 27, 2009

A bill that would eliminate the term “Oriental” from official state documents passed the Senate on July 20 and is now awaiting the governor’s signature.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Craig Johnson, D-Port Washington, and Assemblywoman Grace Meng, D-Flushing, would rid the word from state documents, citing it as “insensitive, outdated and derogatory,” according to a statement from the senator’s office.

The bill (S.5048-a/A.7698), which passed last month in the Assembly, calls for the removal of the word, which can be found under the category of race in many state documents. The word, typically used to refer to Asians or Pacific Islanders, would be replaced by “Asian.”

“This is about basic decency,” said Johnson. “The codification of hateful language in official state documents is obviously wrong and, frankly, should have been eliminated long before now. I am proud to have partnered with Assemblywoman Grace Meng to ensure that this legislation has passed both houses of the Legislature.”

Johnson’s sister is of Korean descent.

Meng, D-Flushing, said “Derogatory and insensitive language, like that Craig and I are addressing with our legislation, should not be allowed to linger on official state forms.

“What is on a form is a reflection of our shared values and priorities. For adults faced with such language, it’s a sad reminder of a time when even casual insults of Asian-Americans were accepted and encouraged. There is nothing good about this relic, and it needs to be removed from our official discourse.”

Morgan Hook, a spokesman for Gov. David A. Paterson, said last Wednesday the bill hadn’t been delivered to the governor’s office, and he would not comment on it until it arrived.