OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A state senator is receiving backlash after referring to Asian Americans as “yellow families” during a recent interim study focused on racial inequality. Sen. David Rader used the term during that presentation on Wednesday.
Below is the transcription from that interaction between Sen. Rader and Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Damion Shade:
“…Well into your presentation did you go to yellow families? You left yellow families out for quite a while.”
“You mean Asian Americans?”
“You use black term, white term, brown term so I was just gonna jump in there with you…”
“I was just making sure.”
“Because their experience has been totally different than many umm, than many others that have come over.”
Nick Singer with Oklahoma Progress Now says that wasn’t the only upsetting thing the senator said during that presentation.
“Even his word choice, as abhorrent as it is, it’s the ideas underneath it that he tried to articulate in his very brief comments that are in my opinion far more problematic,” he said. “He also makes comments about black family structure, trying to suggest making black families didn’t succeed because they didn’t stay together.”
Chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party Alicia Andrews says she’s most upset that he unapologetically justified his use of the term.
“It’s troubling that he said it but it’s troubling that he doubled down,” she said. “The study was about racial inequities and here we are talking about his misuse of language.”
She says this is another example of why lawmakers need to be educated on what is and isn’t acceptable when talking about race.
“Earlier in the year there were other problematic comments made by sitting legislators, and I asked for the legislators to go through a diversity equity inclusion course,” she said. “They do not have the vernacular to discuss race in a mature inclusive way and this is just one more example.”
Rep. Cyndi Munson was the first Asian American woman to be elected to the state legislature. She says she’s upset with Rader’s choice of words, especially with all of the targeted bigotry Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have received during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I remember people asking me if my dad had yellow fever because my mother is Korean,” she said. “While it may not be intentional, that doesn’t mean that harm isn’t caused.”
KFOR received the following statement from Rader’s office:
“I’ve spent my entire life as a football coach and educator, fostering opportunities for individuals of every race and background. As a legislator, I have continued this important work because I believe each and every person in our state and our country should have an opportunity to pursue the American Dream. As I’ve done throughout my career, I am committed to eliminating barriers that might make the pursuit of that dream more difficult.”SEN. DAVID RADER
News 4 reached back out to the senator’s office for a specific response to his Wednesday comments, and they have not yet responded. News 4 has also reached out to the Senate President Pro Tempore and the Oklahoma Republican Party on their response but have not heard back.