Until last Friday, a newly published U.S. Army regulation stated that a service member could be referred to as a “Negro” when describing “black or African American” personnel. The Army has since issued an apology and removed the use of the term.
According to CNN, the Army confirmed the language was contained in the “Army Command Policy,” also known as regulation AR 600-20. Even though the regulation is regularly updated, the department could not say when the word “Negro” was added to the document.
An official familiar with the regulation said it was possible the word was added so when the forms are filled out, a black or African-American person could choose to identify themselves as a “Negro.”
However, another specialist who works on personnel issues for the Defense Department called the theory “the dumbest thing I have ever heard.” He pointed out that the Pentagon has not used the word in any of its widespread collections of demographic data.
Reuters reported the Army dropped the term the same day as the CNN report and issued an apology.
“The U.S. Army fully recognized, and promptly acted, to remove outdated language in Army Regulation 600-20 as soon as it was brought to our attention,” Army spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Alayne Conway said in a statement. “We apologize to anyone we offended.”
“The Army takes pride in sustaining a culture where all personnel are treated with dignity and respect,” she said.
The Army, as well as the rest of the military, collects extensive demographic data for issues such as equal opportunity and ensuring discrimination does not take place.
The U.S. Census Bureau stopped using the word “Negro” after critics complained it was outdated and offensive and should be removed from the 2014 American Community Survey.