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    Eric Abetz Thinks It's Ok To Use The Word "Negro" Because Martin Luther King Said It

    Conservative senator defends his use of the offensive racial term in a radio interview.

    Liberal backbencher Eric Abetz has defended his use of the word "negro" to describe a U.S. Supreme Court Justice in a discussion about same-sex marriage.

    Stefan Postles / Getty Images

    Speaking on 2UE on Thursday afternoon, Abetz was debating whether bakers refusing to sell wedding cakes to gay couples was comparable to racial discrimination.

    "Those sort of analogies are quite offensive and that sort of analogy was completely debunked by Justice Clarence Thomas, the negro American on the Supreme Court of the United States dealing with this issue … who dissented on the issue of marriage as well," the senator said.

    HIs comments were criticised by opposition leader Bill Shorten, who described him as a "dinsoaur" and independent senator Jacqui Lambie called on him to resign.

    But in a statement issued to ABC Radio on Friday afternoon, Abetz stood by his comments.

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    "The term used by senator Abetz on 2UE yesterday is the same as was in the last U.S. Census by the Obama Administration, by Martin Luther King 15 times in his 'I Have A Dream' speech and by Justice Clarence Thomas himself," the statement read.

    The U.S. Census Bureau dropped the term in 2013 as a classification of race because many people found it offensive.

    Australia's racial discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said many people would still consider the term a racial slur.

    "This is the modern reality of racism," he said. "You can cause harm, even if you don't intend to cause harm or even if you're not motivated by malice.

    "Sometimes racism is the product of ignorance and isn't necessarily motivated by hatred."

    Alexandra Lee is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

    Contact Alex Lee at alexandra.lee@buzzfeed.com.

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