Tongue Tied: A Report From the Front Line of the Culture Wars

Provincial officials in South Africa have removed that country's Nobel Laureate, Nadine Gordimer, from school readings lists (along with Shakespeare) because her fiction is "deeply racist, superior and patronizing," reports the BBC.

Officials in the Gauteng province took the book July's People, about a white family harboring a former servant in their home during the waning days of apartheid, off the lists of required reading for secondary school students.

The same panel also wants many of Shakespeare's plays off the lists, Anthony and Cleopatra and Othello because they are racist and Julius Caesar because it elevates men in a sexist manner. King Lear is scorned because it "lacks the power to excite readers and is full of violence and despair."

Comedy of Errors?

An Asian-American reporter covering the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention was so offended by a comedy routine featuring "white males impersonating a Chinese official and his translator" that she woke up the next morning crying.

Amy Leang, an intern covering the event for the convention newspaper, said she was "deeply humiliated" by the sight of a member of the Capitol Steps comedy troupe sporting a black wig and thick glasses and muttering "Ching ching chong chong."

Members of minority media organizations and Asian-American journalists reacted with indignation, but Capitol Steps performer Mark Eaton told The Washington Post that as long as China is in the news, the skit will stay in the show.

Muzzling the 'Hokey Pokey'

The Charlottesville, Va.-based Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has awarded its annual Jefferson Muzzle winners to, among others, a Louisiana sheriff who confiscated compact discs of rap music, the "Hokey Pokey," and others from a skating because he said they incite violence.

Other winners of the dubious award, given annually to those who go out of their way to restrict free expression, include Missouri Rep. Sam Gaskill for introducing a bill in the state legislature authorizing the use of force against someone who burns a U.S. flag, Varina High School in Henrico County, Va., for banning Confederate symbols on campus and the administration of the Paxon School for Advanced Studies in Jacksonville, Fla., for slicing pages from a textbook that contained a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tony Kushner about the spread of AIDS in America because some scenes were deemed unacceptable for high-school students.

The Grinch's Last Stand

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the case of a Cincinnati lawyer who wanted to abolish December 25 as a legal holiday because it unconstitutionally favors Christianity as a religion, Reuters reports.

Assistant City Solicitor Rick Ganulin said he was not opposed to the celebration of Christmas by Christians. He said, however, he thinks it "terribly unjust to force non-Christians to observe a Christian holy day as a legal holiday." The court’s decision ends two years of legal wrangling on the part of Ganulin.

It's All Darwin's Fault

A state representative in Louisiana is sponsoring legislation there that condemns Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as racist and one of the key reasons for the racial problems in her district, reports the Baton Rouge Advocate.

Democratic Rep. Sharon Weston Broome contends that Darwin's theories promote the idea of superior and inferior races. She wants a resolution from the state legislature stating so and, eventually, disclaimers in school textbooks.

"If evolution has provided the main rationale for racism, and we are teaching our children evolution in schools, then correspondingly we are teaching them racist principles," she said.

Guidance Counselors Getting Touchy

High-school guidance counselors are whining about a new commercial for Jaguar cars that features a sporty car accompanied by the line: "Your guidance counselor said you would never amount to anything. ... Your guidance counselor drove a minivan," reports USA Today.

In a letter to Jaguar, the Montgomery County Counselors Association in Maryland said the ad borders on libel, and the head of one state counselors association called Jaguar officials to explain how the ad hurts counselors in some schools who are fighting for their jobs because of tight budgets. They both said it promotes old stereotypes about people in the profession.

Silencing Stereos Deemed Racist

A proposed Nevada law to prohibit people from driving around with stereos blaring so loud that they can be heard more than 25 feet away from the vehicle is being denounced as racially biased, reports the Las Vegas Review Journal.

"It is going to lead to profiling," Assemblyman Morse Arberry, D-North Las Vegas, said of the bill. "You will find it is the minority kids who will be pulled over. It is another mechanism of going after them."

Democratic Assemblywoman Vonne Chowning, who proposed the bill, said race had nothing to do with it. She is constantly hearing complaints from constituents, she said, that their daily lives are disrupted by sounds coming from passing cars.

No 'God-Given' Rights at Penn

A group of students at the University of Pennsylvania wanting to start a chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom was denied the right to register by both a student panel and a student-faculty panel because its constitution had a phrase that constituted religious "discrimination," writes William F. Buckley in the National Review.

YAF's constitution states that human rights are "God-given" and therefore that human rights "derive from the right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force."

Only after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education complained to university President Graham Spanier that the decision officially elevated non-belief over belief, "to the extent that believers are prohibited from organizing themselves into a group aimed at promoting their religious views," was the decision overturned and the group allowed to form.

'Culturally Sensitive' Books for California Schools

A California state task force recommends that public schools there have textbooks covering sexual orientation issues including homosexuality to increase students' sensitivity to gay classmates, reports The Associated Press.

The panel recommends that schools find "culturally sensitive" books that talk about sexual-orientation issues and mention "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender historical figures, events, concepts and issues." In addition, schools should create positive, grade-appropriate visual images that include all sexual orientations and gender identities for use in school common areas, the report said.

From the Central Servers:

J. Anton says:

Amazing isn't it? Remember the "piss-christ," a crucifix of Jesus in urine? Somehow the liberals stated that it was just an expression of art and it is in a museum now. Now you have a boy who is proud of being straight, and his shirt too offensive to wear? Next thing we will hear is that wearing crosses around our necks is too offensive to wear. Please tell me where are we going.

Vince H. of Bethesda, Md., writes of the Jefferson Davis portrait:

Just to add to this--likely the reason that the picture of Jeff Davis was hanging in the dorm, and the reason that said dorm was named after him is because he actually went to school there. So the school is removing a picture of one the most well-known alumni of Transylvania U.

Michael T. of New York insists:

The term 'Straight Pride' is obviously a joke at the expense of the countless gays and lesbians who fought and still fight daily battles to overcome the ignorance and fear that festers right below the surface of many otherwise reasonable straight people. While I wholeheartedly defend the First Amendment rights of the misguided teenager in St. Paul, let us not dismiss the gravity of his 'statement'. The intent of his tee shirt is clear. A supposedly clever perversion of the powerful notion that there can be pride in identifying your sexuality as being other than the norm. As such his shirt was inherently inflammatory and insulting, and should be denounced as such in the proper forums.

Carole M. of Augusta, Ga., says:

As I was reading this section for the first time, I was amazed that a major news organization would publish material that actually promotes common sense and shows the ludicrous side of the Politically Correct movement. People need to see what is going on out there in our country in the name of diversity! What is so wrong about most of the mainstream media is that they are not showing both sides. Thank you Fox News. You are truly appreciated and READ!

Patrick C. of Columbia, S.C., writes:

Six of the seven stories in the April 8, 2001 column spoke of groups of people who were "offended" or made to feel "uncomfortable" by the actions of another. Exactly where in the U.S. Constitution are the citizens of this country guaranteed the right not to be offended by the actions or opinions of others? We are becoming a nation of cry-babies.

Charles H. in Madison, Ala., says:

I was disturbed to find in today's Scott Norvell compilation Tongue Tied, grouped among numerous examples of PC out of control, the reference to a "book" burning at a church in Pennsylvania. What is he trying to say? Is he likening this event to the others cited in his article?

As a Christian and a citizen, I strongly disagree with this position. I thought Fox News supported the principles of free expression of religion and speech.

Tom S. in Cocoa Beach, Fla., tells us:

I went to high school in Cocoa Beach Florida. Our school symbol is the Minuteman holding his rifle. Well, guess what? Now even the people who founded our country cant be trusted with guns because they removed the flintlock rifle from all the Minuteman images.

Byron P. in Los Angeles writes:

Why would this piece on the internment of Japanese descendent Latin Americans be included in Tongue Tied related to culture wars? Is it the new conservative view of what is called the "left's oppressive PC" that there should be a debate on whether holding innocent hostages is wrong? What's next, challenging whether slavery was wrong.

Perhaps when Scott Norvell is willing to examine how people of color, women, and gays have been silenced by the political culture he exalts I will take him more seriously as a free speech crusader.

Angelique Z. in St. Louis writes:

I am shocked to hear the story about the Minnesota teenager. I am a lesbian, and I can't imagine myself or any of my friends being offended by a "Straight Pride" tee shirt. What were they thinking?

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