‘Negro’ is an acceptable term for black soldiers, U.S. Army says
Color it a confusing command update. One military official says using the word to describe ‘a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa’ might be for people who prefer to refer to themselves this way. But another calls it ‘the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.’
By Ginger Adams Otis | NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
What year is it again?
Army regulations still allow for black soldiers to be labeled Negro — a term that faded in the late 1960s.
The archaic policy was spelled out as recently as Oct. 22, when the Army issued an update to some of its command procedures. But the review failed to strike the term from its books.
Negro is an acceptable classification for “a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa,” according to section 6-2 of the Army’s AR 600–20 regulations.
The same clause — part of the Army’s equal opportunity policy — also gives the OK to use “Haitian” in addition to the more common black or African-American.
The Army said it didn’t know how long the paragraph had been in its directives. It could stretch back decades.
A spokesman said Wednesday that a change was already in the works.
“The racial definitions in AR600-20 … are outdated, currently under review, and will be updated shortly,” Lt. Col. Alayne Conway said.
“The Army takes pride in sustaining a culture where all personnel are treated with dignity and respect and not discriminated against based on race, color, religion, gender and national origin,” Conway added.
The Army regulation sparked outrage on Twitter.
“Sigh … Because what could go wrong?” asked a user identified as Matthew Evanisko, in response to a headline that said the Army was “OK” calling black soldiers Negroes.
“Say what!? One GIANT step backwards for mankind,” tweeted an outraged Fee Khan.
“We said turn clocks back an hr. Not a century,” added Kay Dogon.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, a black Republican, said Wednesday he plans to ask the Army about the policy.
An official familiar with the AR600-20 told CNN that “Negro” might still be included for blacks who wished to identify themselves that way. But a second military officer said acknowledging the term was “the dumbest thing I have ever heard,” according to CNN.
Negro was not a classification used in any of the data collected by Pentagon officials for military and personnel purposes, the initial source said.
One ex-soldier who served for 21 years and saw combat in Vietnam said he was classified as a “Negro” when he joined the Army as a teen in 1954.
“Didn’t bother me then, doesn’t bother me now. I wasn’t always treated with respect, but you got to look forward, not back, and you can’t pay ignorance any mind,” Bishop Leon McClain, a member of the National Association for Black Veterans, told the Daily News.
“If Martin Luther King associated himself with the Negro race, it’s all right with me,” he added. “But we’re not going back to working in any cotton fields, I can tell you that.”
While Martin Luther King Jr. used the term in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, the term was generally phased out of everyday language and most official documents during the 1960s and the civil rights movement.
Still, the U.S. Census Bureau keeps the word “Negro” on its forms, alongside black and African-American. Census officials said some older black Americans still self-identify with the term.
About 21% of active-duty members of the Army are black, according to Defense Power Research.