WASHINGTON — A newly published U.S. Army regulation says a service member can be referred to as a “Negro” when describing “black or African American” personnel. The Army confirmed the language is contained in the October 22 “Army Command Policy,” known as regulation AR 600-20. The regulation is periodically updated but the Army could not say how recently the word was added to the document.
In a lengthy section of the document describing “race and ethnic code definitions,” the regulation states under the category “Black or African American” that would include, “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, along with the rest of the military, collects extensive demographic data on the makeup of the military force for issues such as equal opportunity and ensuring discrimination does not take place.
One Army official familiar with the document said it’s possible the word was added so when forms are filled out, a black or African-American person could “self report” and choose to identify themselves as a Negro. But a military officer specializing in personnel issues for the Defense Department called that “the dumbest thing I have ever heard,” noting the Pentagon does not use the word in any of its extensive collection of demographic data.
Lt. Col. S. Justin Platt, an Army spokesman, said the use of the word comes from an outdated section.
“The racial definitions in AR600-20 para. 6-2 are outdated, currently under review, and will be updated shortly,” he said. “The Army takes pride in sustaining a culture where all personnel are treated with dignity and respect and not discriminated against based on race, color, religion, gender and national origin.”