A GOP lawmaker in Oklahoma referred to Asian Americans as ‘yellow’ immediately after a presentation about racism

Damion Shade speaks (L) Oklahoma state Sen. David Rader headshot (R)
Oklahoma State Sen. David Rader called Asian Americans ‘yellow’ after a presentation on the racial wealth gap. Oklahoma State Legislature
  • A GOP lawmaker in Oklahoma referred to Asian Americans as “yellow” during a presentation on the racial wealth gap.
  • “Well into your presentation did you go to yellow families?” state Sen. David Rader asked the presenter.
  • The presenter, policy analyst Damion Shade, corrected Rader on his use of the term, which has historically been used as a slur.

A GOP state senator from Oklahoma is on the receiving end of backlash this week after he used the term “yellow” to refer to Asian Americans following a presentation on racism on Wednesday.

State Sen. David Rader, who has served in the state Senate since 2016, made the comments in an exchange with Damion Shade, a policy analyst at the Oklahoma Policy Institute, who had just concluded a presentation on the history of racism in the US and how that history has created the racial wealth gap.

Video of the exchange uploaded by the Oklahoma Senate shows Rader questioning Shade following his presentation.

“Well into your presentation did you go to yellow families?” Rader asked.

“You left yellow families out for quite a while,” he added.

Shade quickly corrected Rader on his use of the term.

“You mean Asian Americans?” Shade responded.

“You use Black term, white term, brown term so I was just gonna jump in there with you,” Rader said in response before Shade once again reminded Rader of the appropriate term.

As NPR’s Code Switch noted in 2018, the term “yellow” is a slur that has historically been used to oppress Asian people and people of Asian descent.

“Asian distraction. Because their experience has been totally different than others that have come over,” Rader said in an apparent nod to the “model minority” myth: the belief that the Asian American community is a monolith and everyone who identifies as such is successful, hard-working, and wealthy, as Sarah Kim previously explained for Insider.

Then, Rader pivoted to a line of questioning about the rate of poverty among Black Americans over time and claimed the “Black family was much more intact and much more able to be together in 1960” before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Rolling Stone first reported.

Rader did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment Saturday.

The reaction to his use of the term was swift and negative.

“It’s troubling that he said it but it’s troubling that he doubled down,” Alicia Andrews, the chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party told KFOR. “The study was about racial inequities and here we are talking about his misuse of language.”

Rep. Cyndi Munson, who is Asian American, told KFOR she was particularly upset due to the rise in hate crimes faced by the Asian American community since the coronavirus pandemic began last year.

“I remember people asking me if my dad had yellow fever because my mother is Korean,” Munson told the local news outlet. “While it may not be intentional, that doesn’t mean that harm isn’t caused.”