Dave Rader, a Republican member of the Oklahoma Senate, was criticized after using an offensive term for Asian Americans during a hearing about racial inequity.
The hearing included a presentation to the legislature on the racial wealth gap from Damion Shade, a policy analyst at the Oklahoma Policy Institute.
The hearing's subject matter appeared to go over Rader's head because he left onlookers stunned after he referred to Asian Americans as "yellow families."
You can watch what happened in the video below.
Addressing Shade after he'd concluded his presentation, Rader said:
"It wasn't 'til well into your presentation did you go to yellow families. You left yellow families out for quite a while."
When Shade corrected him by using the term "Asian Americans," Rader responded:
"You use Black term, White term, Brown term so I was just gonna jump in there with you."
Rader had to be corrected once more after he used the phrase "Asian distraction" instead of "Asian Americans" before appearing to justify his remarks with the following response:
"Because their experience has been totally different than many um, than many others that have come over."
Rader's remarks are indicative of long-held racist beliefs about Asians being the "model minority" in the United States in comparison to Blacks and Hispanics.
That myth has been the subject of much scholarly debate over the years, particularly about how Asians are perceived as having overcome racial barriers by being "smart" and "working harder" than Blacks and Hispanics, who have often been cast as "lazy."
The exchange soon went viral and Rader was heavily criticized.
According to Nick Singer, an activist with Oklahoma Progress Now, these weren't the only offensive remarks Rader made during the hearing.
"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 also makes comments about Black family structure, trying to suggest Black families didn't succeed because they didn't stay together."
Rader has yet to issue an apology for his remarks.
The controversy surrounding Rader's remarks is the second in recent weeks to involve an elected official and their use of language in regard to Asian Americans.
Earlier this month, Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, received harsh criticism for congratulating "you and your people" while speaking to Lucy H. Koh, a Korean-American judge whom President Joe Biden had nominated to serve as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Koh is the first U.S. district court judge of Korean descent and the first female Korean American federal judge in the United States. If confirmed, she would be the first Korean-American woman to serve as a federal appellate judge.