The U.S. Army found itself in an embarrassing spot when a revised update of its Army Command Policy listed “negro” among acceptable terms to be used in reference to black soldiers.
The Army first published its revisions to the Army Command Policy, which outlines regulations and responsibilities, on Oct. 22, with nothing obviously amiss. On Tuesday, though, a CNN article pointed out some anachronistic language in a section on equal opportunity that contained definitions of various races and ethnicities. The policy definition read, “Black or African American. A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. Terms such as ‘Haitian’ or ‘Negro’ can be used in addition to ‘Black’ or ‘African American.’ “
The Army is not the first to draw criticism for its use of the term Negro in recent years; Harry Reid faced backlash back in 2010 for his remarks that Obama’s success was due partially to his lack of a “Negro dialect” (like the Army, Reid quickly apologized).
Conversation around race, gender, and Army policy flared up with another policy update earlier this year, when a personal grooming policy change banned twists, dreadlocks, and large cornrows, referring to them as “unkempt” and “matted.” Many said the measure unfairly targeted black servicewomen, and after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered that the policy be reviewed, the military eventually lessened the severity of the restrictions.
On Thursday, the Army removed the criticized section of the definition in the Command Policy and issued an apology to those offended. The definition now reads “Black or African American. A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.” Still a bit of a circular definition, but at least it’s been updated for the modern era.