Tongue Tied

Managers in Britain are being told to be on the lookout for "beardism," or discrimination against those with facial hair.

London's Sunday Times found scads of people refusing work to the razor-leery. A reporter applying for jobs at some of London's toniest restaurants and hotels was told he would have to shave before being employed.

The Beard Liberation Front is already on the job. Last year, the group staged a "mass beard waggling" to protest "clean shaven capitalism." A group spokesman laments that "people seem to think men with beards are dodgy or have something to hide. There is discrimination and we need to broaden the opportunities for people with beards." 

The Times reported that beardism has already made its way into American legal lore. In 1998, firefighter Brian Kennedy won the right to wear a beard by arguing that his department's ban on facial hair violated laws prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of personal appearance. 

Lessons in Nouveau Semantics 

Writing in the winter issue of New Politics (summarized here), professor Stephen Steinberg suggests revising some phrases in the lexicon of the politically correct. "Racial oppression" should be substituted for "race relations," he suggests, and "occupational apartheid" should be used instead of "discrimination." 

Steinberg, a professor of urban studies at Queens College in New York City, feels current usage perpetuates the problems of race in America by downplaying their significance. "It is rather like diagnosing a melanoma as a skin rash, and prescribing a topical salve," he writes. "Putting the wrong name on a problem is worse than having no name at all." 

Turning a Blind Eye 

An 8-year-old Colorado girl's science experiment about racism was yanked from a school fair because it might upset the school's minority students, the Denver Post reported. 

Her study indicated that some classmates at Mesa Elementary School thought a white Barbie doll was prettier than a black one. To test how people react to skin color, she dressed up a white Barbie and black Barbie in two differently colored dresses. First, she asked 15 adults which was prettier and they picked the one in the purple dress regardless of the doll's skin tone. But when she asked 15 eighth-graders the same thing, they preferred the white doll regardless of which dress she was wearing. 

She then tried to exhibit her findings at the school fair, but was told it had to come down because school wasn't the best forum for hashing over racial issues. Her father, David Thielen, said the district is afraid to tackle the issue. "I would think the district would want to use the exhibit to discuss race rather than refuse to even talk about it," he said. 

Abusing the Americans 

A British woman protesting U.S. plans to build a new missile defense system has been charged with inciting racial abuse against the American people for dragging an American flag along the ground, London's Independent newspaper reported. 

Lindis Percy, a 59-year-old member of Campaign for Accountability of American Bases, was in front of the U.S. listening post in Menwith Hall in England last November when she draped a flag with the words "Stop Star Wars" painted on it across the front gate of the base. 

In a pre-trial hearing, prosecutors claimed her actions caused "harassment, alarm and distress" to U.S. personnel driving out of the base. The trial has been set for late April. 

No Flags for Confederates 

A new park commission policy banning Confederate flags from a Confederate cemetery in Madison, Wis., on every day except Memorial Day is drawing protests and the threat of a lawsuit. 

The policy bans Confederate flags from the flagpole at the Forest Hill Cemetery, America's northernmost Confederate cemetery, and permits the flags on its 140 graves only on Memorial Day, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. 

Madison resident Dan Bradford, commander of the 61st Georgia Infantry re-enactors, said he will challenge the new rules in court if necessary. The group has been placing Confederate flags on the flagpole and graves on Confederate Memorial Day for 15 years. 

Bradford called it a First Amendment issue. "This is exactly how our rights are lost," he told the paper. "They pick at them a little bit at a time, and people who do not wish to stand and fight are part of the problem." 

Doctors Without Borders 

In a new book, PC M.D.: How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine, author Sally Satel laments that the "long march of political correctness" that began in universities has spread to America's schools of public health and hospitals. 

Satel cites therapists practicing "multi-cultural counseling," the main tenet of which is that a psychiatric patient's symptoms are largely a result of friction between him or her and the oppressive society. She also notes that nursing schools have embraced such techniques as therapeutic touch, which supposedly cures ills by smoothing out patients' energy fields and that one researcher blamed higher rates of high blood pressure among African-Americans on the stress they suffer as victims of racial bias. 

Satel has a word for these folks: "indoctrinologists." 

In many schools and hospitals, she laments, "the quest for social justice seems to overshadow the primary mission of public health — tracking and preventing injury and disease." 

A Win for Nader 

Town officials in Orchard Park, N.Y., have conceded that their ordinance prohibiting political signs is unconstitutional and agreed to kill it. It took a high school student's nudging to make it happen, the Buffalo News reported. 

Town officials told Chris Sasiadek, 17, last fall that the Ralph Nader sign he put up in his parent's front yard was illegal. He did a little homework and decided to complain, but his prodding got him nowhere until he got the New York Civil Liberties Union involved and it threatened to sue. 

Even then, town officials were reluctant. Councilman John Mills likened the anti-sign law to a noise ordinance. "It's a clutter ordinance as far as I'm concerned," Mills said. "The young fellow's making an issue because his freedom of speech is being challenged. I understand that. But I think maybe 10 or 20 years from now, he may have a different attitude when he's a homeowner in the community." 

That's One Crowded Double-Wide 

The principal of a poorly performing middle school in suburban West Palm Beach, Fla., was forced to apologize for trying to get students pumped up about a standardized test by handing out T-shirts with what some said was the wrong message. 

The Palm Beach Post reports that Cheryl McKeever, principal of Bear Lakes Middle School, had shirts made depicting a grinning boy holding a cat by its tail in one hand and a pencil in the other hand with the words, "The Bruins know how to tame the cat." The cat was meant to symbolize the FCAT, a test taken by kids across the state, and the principal said students could wear the shirt instead of the school's standard uniform. 

But one parent was offended. Susan Chick, who has two cats a dog and two ferrets in her double-wide trailer, said the shirts might encourage violence against animals. She roused up enough complaints from animal rights groups that the principal was forced to apologize. 

"Please understand that neither the school, nor I, wish to promote violence against animals, and I apologize that some persons were offended," Principal McKeever wrote in a letter that went out to eighth graders last week. 


Last week, we unintentionally spotlighted this article about attempts to eliminate shamrocks from the Boston Housing Authority because they were considered by some to be offensive symbols of racial superiority. The article originally appeared in the Irish Echo News two years ago, and we failed to note that. Tongue-tied normally makes every effort to stay current. The Boston Housing Authority cordially requests that people stop calling to badger its staff.

From the Central Servers: 

Martha writes: 

I suggest that the old rhyme, "sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me" be required to be recited each morning of the K-6 experience. Maybe by the time we start growing up we will have the preparation necessary to make it in life. 

George B. in San Diego wonders: 

I must not be getting something. On the one hand we have an incident about a cashier having to attend sensitivity training because she didn't want to look at a poster (note: she didn't ask to have it removed) and on the other hand we have a letter about a poster being removed because two students were offended by it. Why weren't those two students invited to attend a sensitivity seminar or why was the cashier's being offended deemed to mean something was wrong with her? 

Bradford K. says

I think we should ban all public speaking, any display of any kind which can be seen out side the home, and paint everything grey because there is always some person or group out there being offended. We are all victims of political correctness. The paradox is I'm offended by political correctness but no one is doing anything for me. 

Peter H. offers: 

The idea that squaw means vagina (to use the polite term) first found its way into print in a polemical 1973 book, Literature of the American Indian, by Thomas E. Sanders and Walter W. Peek. Sanders and Peek, without offering evidence, advanced the theory that squaw derived from the Mohawk word ojiskwa' (sources vary on spelling), meaning vagina. 

This notion appealed to a certain mind-set and was circulated widely in the activist community. In 1992 it was revealed to the world at large on Oprah by Native American spokesperson Suzan Harjo, who said: "The word squaw is an Algonquin [sic] Indian word meaning vagina, and that'll give you an idea of what the French and British fur trappers were calling all Indian women, and I hope no one ever uses that term again." 

This marked the beginning of organized efforts to remove the word squaw from place names, a campaign that continues today, so far with mixed success. 

Hey, free country. Except that squaw doesn't mean vagina. 

"It is as certain as any historical fact can be that the word squaw that the English settlers in Massachusetts used for 'Indian woman' in the early 1600s was adopted by them from the word squa that their Massachusett-speaking neighbors used in their own language to mean 'female, younger woman,' and not from Mohawk ojiskwa', 'vagina,' which has the wrong shape [sound], the wrong meaning, and was used by people with whom they then had no contact. The resemblance that might be perceived between squaw and the last syllable of the Mohawk word is coincidental." 

This comes to us from Ives Goddard, a specialist in linguistics and curator at the Smithsonian Institution, writing in News From Indian Country, mid-April 1997. - from Cecil Adams Straight Dope column 

Reality, of course, doesn't really matter in the face of the illusion of offense. 

Chuck B. insists: 

I would suggest that people with agendas stop citing the Constitution as granting them a right to express their hates, art appreciation, lifestyle preferences, or political correctness. It does no such thing. It especially does not allow for the use of tax dollars to support any of these lunacies. Nor does it allow them to beat anybody over the head with their opinions. People who say it does cannot rationalize any legitimacy for their views any other way. 

Shawn K. in Arlington, Tex., says: 

I often wonder when reading stories about political correctness and the extremes people often go to, how I will relate these events to my children. How does one teach kindness and acceptance of differing ideas when anyone nowadays that disagrees with someone is immediately labeled a racist, gay-basher, chauvinist, religious nut, etc. and vilified severely? 

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