Inmate IDs, NBA, Homophobia, Snowballs

Requiring prison inmates to wear a photo ID tag that lists race along with their name, date of birth, eye and hair color, weight and height is an egregious example of racial profiling that is inappropriate, illegal and another sad example of how corrupt American values are creeping into Canadian society, reports the Toronto Star.

The Central North Correctional Centre, "run by a U.S.-based private corrections company," the paper helpfully tells us in the second graph, uses the IDs to keep track of inmates.

But Toronto lawyer Julian Falconer, a prominent voice on race relations, called them a "perfect example of systemic racism" and unquestionably a violation of the prisoners’ human rights.

"Compelling inmates to bear their race ... is completely abhorrent to our value system and this is a perfect example of why leaving our jails up to private interests guarantees all kind of injustices," Falconer said.

Barry Scanlon, an official with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said the policy "just shows that they brought America up to our prison system."

"This is another example of what happens when you let a private operator from a foreign country run one of your prisons," he said.

Shaq Attack

A columnist for The Indianapolis Star (along with about a zillion others), insisting that the "NBA is about inclusion and tolerance," is saying Shaquille O'Neal should be suspended and fined for what is being described as a racist mockery of the Houston Rockets' Chinese center Yao Ming.

Columnist C. Jemal Horton said Shaq's racist statements sully the NBA's exemplary history of inclusion. A suspension is "the best way to let Shaq know there's no place in the NBA for hatred" he says.

Shaq said he was joking, not being racist, when he used a mock Chinese accent while talking about Yao on a television show. He said, "Tell Yao Ming, 'Ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh.'"

Shaq apologized.

Meanwhile …

The Portland Trailblazers' Bonzi Wells will not be disciplined by the National Basketball Association for allegedly taunting white players with racial epithets during numerous games, reports WOIA radio.

Wells was suspended for a day for spitting in the face of San Antonio's Danny Ferry during a game, but will not be punished for calling Ferry a "[blanking] honkie" during another game.

Other opposing players have made similar charges. Golden State's Troy Murphy said Wells called him a "cracker" once, and the Mavericks' Nick Van Exel says Wells called his team "a bunch of soft-[bleep] white boys."

NBA Vice President Stu Jackson said the charges were a "non-issue" because he had received no formal complaints.

Hero of the Week

Some University of California students are demanding that Regent Ward Connerly apologize for comments he made about segregation in an interview, reports the Oakland Tribune.

The students are irked that Connerly, in an interview calling for former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's resignation, said someone can support segregation and not necessarily be a racist.

"There's a belief that if you don't utter everything precisely as other people want to hear it, you're a racist," he said. "Segregation is wrong, but for those who have an alternative view, I am not going to say that they are by definition racist."

Mo Kashmiri, a member of the UC Student Association, said such comments only exacerbate student concerns about diversity on UC campuses. The association is formally demanding an apology.

Connerly told them to go to hell. He said the statement was "an intellectual point of view."

Rampant Homophobia

Efforts by campus cops to crack down on non-students who use public restrooms for random gay-sex encounters are being called homophobic by some folks in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ) community, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.

After a number of complaints, officials at Boston University cracked down and began arresting violators on charges of indecent exposure or lewd and lascivious behavior. Other campuses have seen similar crackdowns.

But some gay students say persecuting participants in this so-called "tearoom" culture is discriminatory.

"Heterosexual couples exploring sex on Lovers' Lane is romanticized, but same-sex sex is treated differently," says Luke Jensen of the University of Maryland at College Park. "The question of public versus private can be a shifting paradigm. Why is a bathroom stall considered a private space except when it comes to sex?"

Supporters say the practice also is an integral part of the coming-out process for homosexuals.

"For some men, their whole connection with gay life stemmed from their experiences in bathrooms," says William L. Leap, a professor of anthropology at American University and the editor of the book, Public Sex/Gay Space. "Tearooms became the basis for social interactions, a way of getting into a friendship network."

Pardon Me ...

Students at a school district in Great Britain are now required to ask permission from their target before they throw any snowballs at them, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Students at Fairway Middle School in Norwich have been told they will be punished if they launch sneak attacks.

Head teacher Douglas Gowans said the policy is an extension of normal school rules. "We told the children that if they were playing a game they had to make sure that everybody who was taking part wanted to be in it," he said.

Any Invisible Ones Complain?

Ontario's minister of citizenship is under fire for distributing a Christmas songbook to his constituents containing the Stephen Foster song Way Down Upon the Swanee River along with Dixie, reports the National Post.

Carl DeFaria, a third of whose constituents were described by the paper as "visible minorities," distributed the Sing Along With Carl collection in a community newspaper just before Christmas.

He said none of his constituents complained, but a reporter at the paper took exception to the Foster song, written in 1851, because it uses the term "darkies" at one point and to the Confederate song for reasons with which we are all by now familiar.

"At the time that I reviewed them, I guess I should have been more careful in the review," DeFaria said when confronted with the evidence. "These songs were meant for the holiday season [but] from what I understand, there may be some material that may be offensive and I did not intend to offend anyone and I apologize if anyone has been offended by any insensitive language."

The P-Word

A Massachusetts developer that named a 29-home subdivision in Northampton "The Plantation at West Farms" is being urged to change the name because it is "inextricably linked to Southern plantations and slavery," reports the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Critics are particularly incensed with a billboard outside the development which carries the words "The Plantation" in large pink script.

"We find the name offensive and we really wish they'd change it," said Marjorie Hess, chairwoman of the Northampton Human Rights Commission.

The developer said he named the property because the land was once part of a large tobacco farm called "The Plantation," and that no connection to slavery was intended. "If you look up the word 'plantation' in the dictionary, you'll see that it means a large estate," he said.

Finally! The daily edition of Tongue Tied is here. For those who can't wait until the end of the week for a dose of PC wackiness, head over to the Tongue Tied Web site.


Paul V. writes:

When will it become insensitive to mock and defame caucasians the way it is with blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and everyone else? If this were a poor, rural, (insert race or color here, excluding caucasian of course) family from the south, or anywhere else, you'd hear the hue and cry from here to the moon! Even poor people (no matter what their color) are not allowed any dignity! So much for liberal "tolerance" of CBS! If you are white or poor (and male usually, but that's for another discussion), you are fair game for ridicule, tolerance be damned!

Crystal M. in Manhattan, Kan., writes:

This is in response to the article about the Boulder, Colo., high school that refused to allow a Bible club, even though they allowed a Gay/Straight Alliance Club (claiming it was part of a Health class), and a Multicultural Club (part of a class on diversity). If the school is going to stretch their definition of classes that far, then the Bible Club would definately fit under the heading of a history class.

J. Wasoliek writes:

The case of Bible clubs being banned in schools is nothing new. The case will take a relatively short time to pass through court because a precedent is already set in Good News Club v. Milford Central School. Any voluntary after-school religious organization is allowed under the precedent set by that case.

As long as those two girls aren’t running the club during school hours, all they have to argue is that the club relates to the study of, for example, history (any middle school student can tell of the impact of religion on world history), or of literature (many literary critics consider the Bible to be one of the most important epics and influences on world literature). It should be interesting to see how much fun the 10th Circuit will have with this one.

Bryan S. writes:

I wanted to comment on the story about Martin Luther King Day. I am a high school student in Bemidji, Minn., and we have never had school off for Martin Luther King Day. Call it "racially insensitive" or whatever you like, but the truth of the matter is that many holidays of that stature are not observed by schools. We attend school on Columbus Day and Veteran's Day. So why don’t we honor the founder of America, or those who have fought to protect our freedom? After all, without these, Martin Luther King, Jr. would not have been around to fight for equal rights.

Charles E. writes re the MLK Day item:

More silliness from those who choose to "go with the flow" instead of think. The intentions are not about race. Nor is Martin Luther King's birthday Jan.  20 (he was born on the 15th). These types come across as nothing other than stupid when they whine about this kind of thing. I suppose it's equally insensitive to combine the honor we give presidents Washington and Lincoln into one day (that also always happens to be a Monday), then label it as being about something equally preposterous.

Sherri E. writes:

I had moved to Cape Canaveral, Fla., in 1983 and worked in the hospitality business. The first time I said, "What would you guys like to drink?" and got piercing glazes, I soon changed it to "y'all," which soon changed a lot more of my vocabulary. My family in Idaho freaked when they heard me talk on the phone.

I believe when you're in certain environments, people need to make certain changes, and vocabulary sometimes is one of them, especially if it helps make people around you feel more comfortable. Too bad everyone in the U.S. couldn't be more considerate of others around them. I am back in Idaho saying "You guys," and it didn't take long here (with people looking at me funny) to change back! Thanks for the memories of moving from west to east.

Vernon H. writes:

I've looked high and low and cannot find a provision of the Constitution granting one the right not to be offended or have hurt feelings. Where did this right -- that trumps free speech and a free press -- come from?

Respond to the Writer