Arizona Republican Eli Crane gave a nod to the times of segregation on the floor of the U.S. Congress on Thursday.
“My amendment has nothing to do with whether or not colored people or black people or anybody can serve. OK? That has nothing to do with any of that stuff,” Crane began, prompting shock throughout the floor.
Crane’s comments came as he offered an amendment to the nation’s annual defense spending cornucopia that he said would ban the consideration of “race, gender, religion, or political affiliations, or any other ideological concepts as the sole basis for recruitment, training education, promotion, or retention decisions.”
The amendment was just one of many GOP-pushed amendments dealing with culture war issues, rather than, for instance, reappropriating the destructive and wasteful military spending towards anything that actually serves people.
The comments prompted Representative Joyce Beatty, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, to ask for the words to be struck down from the record. “I find it offensive, and very inappropriate,” Beaty said. “I am asking for unanimous consent to take down the words of referring to me or any of my colleagues as ‘colored people.’”
Crane injected, requesting to amend his comments to “people of color,” but Beatty insisted the words be removed, which they were by unanimous consent.
“In a heated floor debate on my amendment that would prohibit discrimination on the color of one’s skin in the Armed Forces, I misspoke,” Crane said afterward. “Every one of us is made in the image of God and created equal.”
Language is always evolving, and the connotations words hold are grounded in the histories surrounding them. “Colored people” is associated heavily with the times of slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow: times during which the term referred to Black people as property, and then as categories to be avoided or held separately from white society.
Consequently, the term is a relic of the ills in America’s past—and not a term one may use if they’re interested in staying away from that past.
Meanwhile, also this week, Crane’s Senate Republican colleague Tommy Tuberville insistently refused to acknowledge that white nationalism is racist.