A CNN report with the headline, "Army says word 'Negro' OK to use" makes it seem as if service members were just given the okay to address each other with outdated racial term — a policy that would strike many Americans as backward at best, and deeply offensive, at worst.
Except that's not what's happening.
The updated regulation — the October 22 version of the "Army Command Policy," or regulation AR 600-20 — that is the subject of the report actually has nothing to do with how black soldiers should be addressed, or what constitutes a racial slur in the US Army's eyes.
Rather, it's part a very detailed policy that guarantees "fair treatment for military personnel and Family members without regard to race, color, gender, religion, national origin" and promises to "provide an environment free of unlawful discrimination and offensive behavior." It then lists and defines the racial and ethnic group it aims to protect.
"Negro" is offered as one synonym for "Black or African-American," in what appears to be an attempt to create an exhaustive list of the different ways people who fit into this category could identify themselves.
Not really that exciting. And definitely not a statement about what service members will be called in their actual lives.
However, it's worth asking why the US Army has held onto a phrase that no longer has much of a place in American society outside of history books. After all, the Census Bureau dropped the term from its forms last year.
It's probably safe — and wise — for the Army to follow suit and let "Negro" go, too. And, it sounds like that change is coming soon. Lt. Col. S. Justin Platt, an Army spokesman, told CNN, "The racial definitions ... are outdated, currently under review, and will be updated shortly."
UPDATE: As promised, the US Army announced Thursday that it had removed the term "Negro" from its regulations. "The US Army fully recognized, and promptly acted, to remove outdated language in Army Regulation 600-20 as soon as it was brought to our attention," Army spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Alayne Conway said in a statement reported by Reuters. The statement included an apology to anyone who was offended by the term.