Oklahoma state Sen. David Rader (R) is under fire after he referred to Asian Americans as “yellow families” while discussing a study about racial inequities.
Rader used the phrase on Wednesday during an exchange with Damion Shade, a policy analyst at the Oklahoma Policy Institute, who had just concluded a presentation to the legislature on the racial wealth gap, KFOR reported.
“It wasn’t ’til well into your presentation did you go to yellow families. You left yellow families out for quite a while,” Rader said.
Shade corrected him: “You mean Asian Americans?”
“You use black term, white term, brown term so I was just gonna jump in there with you,” Rader replied.
“I was just making sure,” said Shader. “Making sure I understood.”
“Asian distraction,” Rader added.
“Asian Americans,” Shade repeated.
“Because their experience has been totally different than many um, than many others that have come over,” Rader continued, perpetuating the “model minority” myth, a broad stereotype casting all Asian Americans as likely to achieve socioeconomic success and less likely to experience negative effects of racism and inequality.
Rader was slammed for his lack of education on the subject.
“It’s troubling that he said it but it’s troubling that he doubled down,” said Alicia Andrew, chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, according to KFOR. “The study was about racial inequities and here we are talking about his misuse of language.”
Rep. Cyndi Munson, the first Asian American woman to be elected to the Oklahoma legislature, said the senator’s lack of awareness highlighted the need for more open and honest dialogue on racism.
“I’m Asian American, not yellow,” she tweeted. “The language used by the Senator is highly offensive and unacceptable.”
Rader also suggested Black families were “much more intact” and better off before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Oklahoma Progress Now, a nonprofit that works to support progressive causes in the state, slammed the remarks as racist and ignorant.
“Black poverty has fallen since the 1960’s but is still more than double white poverty. Despite having JUST LISTENED to a presentation explaining why this is, Rader perpetuates racist lies about Black family structure that ignore the systems around it,” the group said in a Facebook post.
“Rader’s comments demonstrate exactly why Critical Race Theory or literally anything about race in America should be taught in our schools. Sen. Rader is both wrong on the facts and racist in their application. His ignorance is writing our laws,” the organization added.
Rader provided a statement to KFOR that did not specifically address his comments but said in part “I believe each and every person in our state and our country should have an opportunity to pursue the American Dream.”
The senator’s office did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment.