OKLAHOMA CITY -- A Republican Oklahoma state senator is drawing criticism for referring to Asian Americans as “yellow families” during a legislative committee meeting on racial inequity.
Sen. Dave Rader of Tulsa made the comment Wednesday to Oklahoma Policy Institute analyst Damion Shade following Shade's comments during an interim study on racial inequality in economics and the criminal justice system.
“It wasn't until well into your presentation did you go to yellow families, you left yellow families out for quite a while,” Rader said.
“You mean Asian Americans?” Shade replied.
“You use black term, white term, brown term so I was just gonna jump in there with you,” Rader said, then began asking questions about Black families.
The word “yellow,” is considered a derogatory term when used in reference to East Asians. In the late 1800s, Chinese Americans were deemed the “yellow peril,” despite living in the United States for years.
Rader did not immediately reply to requests by The Associated Press for comment Saturday, but in a statement to KFOR said he has worked to remove barriers to success for all types of people.
“I’ve spent my entire life as a football coach and educator, fostering opportunities for individuals of every race and background," Rader said.
Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair Alicia Andrews, who said she lives in Rader's Senate district, said Saturday that it’s frustrating Rader would make such a comment during a study on racial inequality.
“I reiterate the call I made this spring urging all our elected leaders in the Legislature to take diversity, equity and inclusive training,” Andrews said. “I am disappointed that they don't have the vernacular to discuss issues that affect all Oklahomans."
Democratic state Rep. Cyndi Munson of Oklahoma City, an Asian American, told KFOR that Rader's words were upsetting.
“I remember people asking me if my dad had ‘yellow fever’ because my mother is Korean,” Munson said. “While it may not be intentional, that doesn’t mean that harm isn’t caused.”