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

A handful of AIDS and African advocacy groups are demanding that Andrew Natsios, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, be fired for suggesting that some in Africa don't pay attention to or understand Western means of telling time, the Boston Globe reported.

The comments, in a hearing before the House Foreign Relations Committee on treating AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, were described as "shockingly racist" and "outrageous."

In arguing that complicated AIDS drug regimens might not be appropriate in Africa, Natsios said that in many parts of Africa, "people do not know what watches or clocks are ... They do not use Western means to tell time. They use the sun. These drugs have to be administered in certain sequences, at certain times during the day. You say, take it at 10 o'clock, they say, what do you mean, 10 o'clock?"

The statement elicited what the Globe described as audible gasps in the hearing room at the time.

Sneak vs. Surprise in L.A.

Editors at the Los Angeles Times have officially discouraged use of the words "sneak attack" when describing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in order to avoid conjuring racist images, The New York Times reported.

Assistant Managing Editor Melissa McCoy said it's not that "sneak attack" is not accurate, it's just that that era of California history is particularly painful for the Japanese-Americans who were interned and for their descendants.

"'Sneak' conjures up images" of the racial hatred and racial epithets of the 1940s, she said, "particularly in the western U.S."

The preferred term at the L.A. Times is now "surprise attack."

More Offense in Dixie

A First Amendment battle over the right of students to wear clothing with Confederate emblems is spreading across the South, the Chicago Tribune reported, with legal challenges being filed against more than a dozen school districts that have banned such items.

At least 60 districts from Virginia to Texas have been threatened with lawsuits from the ACLU and other groups or had complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education alleging that the students' free speech rights are being violated.

But school officials defend the bans as necessary to tamp down a potentially "hostile environment." Officials at one school in Georgia said they received at least 10 complaints from people who said they were offended by the clothing.

"The board's position is that the shirts are offensive and disruptive when worn in the school," said Sam Harben Jr., an attorney for one district in Georgia.

All's Fair in the Pubs, Though?

A new law being considered in Victoria, Australia, would subject residents there to penalties of up to $6,000 or six months in jail if found guilty of using racist or religious symbols or protesting with the intent to hurt, the Herald-Sun reported.

Bill supporter Denis Napthine says the state must balance free speech rights with the need to punish people who try to create division in the community on the basis of race or religion.

As written, the legislation will not apply to private conversation or pub jokes. And there is an exemption for "artistic freedom of expression."

First CNN, Now California

A California state senator has introduced a bill that would change the language requirement of high school students from "foreign language" to "world language," the Sacramento Bee reported.

Sen. Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach, a former schoolteacher, wants to amend the state's Education Code in order to transform students into more worldly citizens.

"The word 'foreign' has a connotation that can be perceived as inappropriate in this day and age of a world economy," she said.

Dissing Rappers Deemed a No-No

A Miami Beach planning commissioner was forced to resign from his position after being quoted as critical of the hordes of "hip-hop" tourists that descended on the town over the Memorial Day weekend, the Miami Herald reported.

David Wallack, the owner of Mango's Tropical Café in Miami Beach, resigned in the interest of unity after his comments were decried as "anti-black" on local talk radio. In an earlier article, Wallack was quoted by the Herald as saying of hip-hop tourists: "Their culture is violence. That's their only means of communication with each other."

The comments came during discussion of the way the city handled crowd control over the weekend, when tens of thousands of black tourists were drawn to Miami Beach to attend parties hosted by rappers and sports stars.

Protecting Skinny, Well-Dressed Men

Bosses in California couldn't tell a woman worker to dress in a more feminine manner or harass a male employee because of his slight build under a bill yesterday by the state Assembly there, The Associated Press reported.

The bill would add actual or perceived gender to the state's employment discrimination law, which outlaws bias based on race, religion, color, physical or mental disability, marital status, and sex or sexual orientation.

The author, state Rep. Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, said the bill would help transgender people and those who don't possess traits that are stereotypically associated with his or her gender.

Weeding Out 'Poor Attitudes'

The Providence, R.I., Police Department will begin conducting extensive testing and background checks of new recruits in search of hidden or "early warning signs" of racial bias and "poor attitudes," the Providence Journal-Bulletin reported.

The extra effort comes following public controversy over the accidental shooting of an off-duty black Providence police officer by two white officers last year.

Public Safety Commissioner John J. Partington said the hundreds of applicants for the 60th Providence Police Training Academy will be tested for clues revealing people's true attitudes as opposed to the image they try to present.

For example, when doing background checks, administrators will ask: Did the applicant have problems working with people at previous jobs? They will even check on relationships with neighbors, Partington said.

The ACLU Throws In the Towel

The American Civil Liberties Union has decided not to pursue its challenge to Ohio's state motto, "With God, all things are possible," to the U.S. Supreme Court because it thinks it will lose, the AP reported.

Saying it didn't want to set a Supreme Court precedent, the ACLU said it will not appeal a March ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that the motto is constitutional. "We decided that the potential risk was not worth the gain," Raymond Vasvari, a spokesman for the ACLU's Ohio branch, said Thursday.

The ACLU had argued that the motto amounts to state endorsement of Christianity because it was a quotation from Jesus taken from the Bible's book of Matthew.

'Israel' Storm Over

The World Meteorological Organization has taken the unprecedented step of changing the list of potential hurricane names after Jewish groups protested, Reuters reported.

The name of the "Israel" will be replaced with the name "Ivo." The decision followed complaints from those who feared that attaching the name "Israel" to a hurricane, which then turned out to be violent, could have political overtones.

From the Central Servers:

Greg F. corrects us:

You mistakenly used Hempfield High School in Landisville, Penn. when you were talking about "The Prayer" that was to be banned at their graduation ceremony. The incident actually occurred at Hempfield Area High School, which is located in Greensburg, Penn.

By the way, they eventually allowed to the song to be sung. The superintendent finally actually read the words to the song, which turned out not to be so "offensive" after all.

Andy in Hampton, Ga., writes:

Funny. I grew up in rural Wisconsin fathered by a High School history/political science teacher. My dad taught me that the flag was made up of many colors, and that's what the USA is all about.

Geoff G. chides:

Fox seems intent on alienating ethnic groups with Scott's recent articles. So be it. Good-bye Fox.

Douglas S. says:

I regret that many homosexuals are not satisfied that most of America could care less about their lifestyle. Why do they feel they have the right to influence my kids? I will also shield my children from Jerry Springer, Oprah, and Marylin Manson. This does not make me a hater of idiots, African-American females or demonistic shock performers. I simply do not agree with the views represented by these individuals, and have the right to screen them from my household.

James C. says:

Labor was not stolen from Africa; it was sold by African monarchs. The kings along the Slave Coast were in the lucrative business of selling both their own people and captured foreigners into slavery. And, by the way, there was another major group of slavers: the Arabs. I don't see the activists demanding reparations from the Libyans, Algerians, Moroccans -- or the Mauritanian Arabs, who still keep Negro slaves today.

Joe N. says:

I have been on active duty in the US military for 21 years defending the rights of those such as Ms. Brooks. And though I find her comments repulsive, uneducated, narrow-minded and outdated, I will continue serve this great country so she has the freedom to express her self-centered views.

Doug M, of Altamonte Springs, Fla., writes:

Doesn't it take just a little reflection to see that racism is a CAUSE of slavery, not a result.

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