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Problematic Parentage, Language Police

Fox Movie Channel has cancelled a planned series of Charlie Chan movie screenings after learning of concerns about their tendency to perpetuate racial stereotypes and offend some viewers, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Among those complaining about the movies, produced in the 1930s, was the Organization of Chinese Americans Inc., which called the films "a painful reminder of Hollywood's racist refusal to hire minorities to play roles that were designated for them."

One of the complaints is that the movies featured a white dude in the leading role of a thickly accented but brilliant Asian detective.

In a statement posted to its Web site, the channel said the films "were produced at a time where racial sensitivities were not as they are today" and expressed hope that "this action will evoke discussion about the progress made in our modern, multicultural society."

Offensive Flier

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has taken up the case of a California Polytechnic State University student found guilty of "disruption" for posting a flyer that some students found offensive.

According to FIRE, Steve Hinkle attempted to post in November 2002 fliers advertising a speech by Mason Weaver, author of It’s OK to Leave the Plantation. Weaver’s thesis is that dependence on the government puts many African Americans in circumstances similar to slavery.

When Hinkle tried to put one of the fliers on a public bulletin board in the Multicultural Center at CalPoly, students who said they were offended by it called the police to report "a suspicious white male passing out literature of an offensive racial nature."

This spring, Hinkle was found guilty of disruption and ordered to write letters of apology to the students. During the hearing, Cornel Morton, vice president for student affairs, told him: "You are a young white male member of CPCR. To students of color, this may be a collision of experience. … The chemistry has racial implications, and you are naïve not to acknowledge those."

Problematic Parentage

The Media Action Network for Asian Americans is irritated because the father character of Lucy Liu in the new Charlie's Angels movie is white when "clearly she is not."

"Lucy Liu is clearly Asian, predominately Asian at the very least, but she is definitely not half," MANAA says. "To now imply that she’s half Asian belittles the pleasure and relief Asian Americans and fair-minded audiences had when they saw an Asian woman standing up for justice and overcoming great obstacles."

MANAA claims to have gotten an early copy of the movie script in which Liu’s father was Chinese and her mother Jewish. They apparently liked this mix, praising it as a "very unique bi-racial couple that is rarely seen in film," but took offense at the final version in which John Cleese play’s Liu’s father and a voiceless extra plays her Chinese mother.

High Ground

A professor at Oxford University in England is under fire for rejecting a Ph.D. candidate solely because he is Israeli, reports London’s Daily Telegraph.

Andrew Wilkie reportedly told Amit Duvshani, a student at Tel Aviv University, that he did not want to take on Israeli students because of the "gross human rights abuses" he claims they inflict on Palestinians.

In an e-mail response to Duvshani’s application, Wilkie wrote: "Thank you for contacting me, but I don't think this would work. I have a huge problem with the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because they [the Palestinians] wish to live in their own country."

A Voice in the Wilderness

The ambassador to the United States from Benin is on a nationwide speaking tour to formally apologize for his country’s role in the slave trade of early American history, reports The Associated Press.

Speaking last week at Southern University in Baton Rogue, La., Ambassador Cyrille Oguin said, "It's so easy to say white man did it to us, but we share in the responsibility.

"The president of Benin, the people of Benin have asked me to come here and apologize for the government, for the Benin people and for Africa for what we all know happened," Oguin said. "Where our parents were involved in this awful, this terrible, trade."

Benin was called Dahomey in the 17th century, when it was a major supplier of slaves for white exporters shipping from what was called the Slave Coast. Some accounts say Dahomey rounded up more than 3 million people for sale to slave traders.

A Beef

An ad by a bank in South Africa imploring potential customers to "beef up" their account has infuriated and shocked the Hindu community there, reports the Press Trust of India.

The online ad by the Standard Bank of South Africa, featuring a cow with a catchline "beef up the way you trade," drew protests from folks who thought it implied they should eat beef.

"It's unbelievable how some companies can be so insensitive, and a bank like Standard Bank should know better," said Ashwin Tikramjee, the president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha.

Further Adventures of the Language Police

Since the publication of her book, The Language Police, Diane Ravitch says she has been hearing from a number of folks in the publishing and education worlds with yet more howlers about how political correctness is dumbing down our textbooks.

In a column in the Wall Street Journal, Ravitch says a text illustrator wrote to tell her that she was not permitted to portray a birthday party because Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in celebrating birthdays, and another wrote to say he was directed to airbrush the udder from his drawing of a cow because that body part was "too sexual."

A contributor to a textbook series on floods could only use photographs in which everyone aboard was wearing lifevests, and Michigan doesn’t allow mention of flying saucers or space aliens on its tests because they might imply the possibility of evolution.

Ravitch has also learned that the specifications for photographs in many textbooks are very detailed. "Men and boys must not be larger than women and girls," she writes.

"Asians must not appear as shorter than non-Asians. Women must wear bras, and men must not have noticeable bulges below the waist. People must wear shoes and socks, never showing bare feet or the soles of shoes, and their shoelaces must be solid black, brown or white. People must never gesture with their fingers, nor should anyone be depicted eating with the left hand. Things to avoid: holiday decorations and scenes in which a church or a bar appears in the background."

Struggle for Civil Rights

An image of an American Indian chief in a headdress on the wall of a high school gym in Wisconsin is making people there sick and tearing the town apart, reports The Associated Press.

The chieftain has been the logo of the Osseo-Fairchild High School gym since 1968. But last year, following complaints that it violated some students’ civil rights, the school stopped using it on school equipment and materials.

The painting stayed up in the gym, though. Now the school is moving into a new gym and the town has been torn as to whether or not to put a chieftain in the new building.

Harvey Gunderson, an anti-chieftain retired professor arrested for disorderly conduct during the meeting on the issue, says popular opinion shouldn’t make a lick of difference.

Human rights issues "shouldn't be determined by referendum," he said.

Can't wait until next Monday for more snippets of politically correct nonsense? Head over to the daily edition of Tongue Tied at the Tongue Tied Web site.

Mailbag:

Stephen T. in Sugar Land, Texas, writes:

Conservative use of the term "political correctness" is not an attempt to mask bigotry and hatred. It is used to refer to the actions and policies of the liberal social engineers which they can't defend substantively. So they make these baseless accusations in hopes that conservatives will spend their time defending themselves rather than exposing the "politically correct" agenda that has robbed this country of it's common sense, among other things. It is the pinnacle of intellectual laziness to ascribe a racist motive to conservatives simply because they don't agree. In fact, it is actually (letters) like these that are trying to shut down the discourse because they know that their positions are defenseless, so they use terms like "bigotry" and "hate" to redirect the debate.

David R. writes:

You report that the Europeans intend to ban television advertising that does not "respect human dignity." Has there ever, anywhere, been an incident of advertising (or anything else on broadcast television) that does respect human dignity?

Chris W. in Philadelphia writes:

Get off your egotistical high-horse already...

You may laugh at PFLAG's objection of the use of "sexual preference" but I can assure you I never made a choice when it comes to the gender to which I'm attracted. Do you remember making that decision (now, assuming you're a straight guy)? "Hmm? I want to be straight, so I'll start looking at women and finding their bodies sexually attractive" or "I think I'll start checking out guys, they are so hot and I am repulsed by women's bodies." Does this make sense to you?

That is the simple angle of being gay. Ignore all the other stuff out there about parades and the other things that make the news, and look at it from this basic perspective. Have you ever thought that you would like to start being attracted to people of the same gender?? Have you ever been at a point in your life where you'd make that decision? Obviously, no. Straight people find this hard to believe, since being straight is the case for the majority of people. When your sexuality isn't called into question (e.g. - being straight), then it's easy to think that gay people are wackos who made some odd choice, like getting a nose ring or dying their hair blue. However, it's not a choice.

The difference for gay people is that they were raised in a world where gay people are generally scorned, so they question those feelings that are natural. I guess it's easier for you to mock than open your mind to see what it is that makes these people so concerned about something that appears to be as minor as wording.

As someone else noted, this column would be fine for a blog, but on a legitimate news site that claims to be fair and balanced, your column is most inappropriate.

Colin B. in Raleigh, N.C., writes:

Thanks for giving us another EU proclamation. It seems that the EU Commissioners are intent on redefining life to fit some definition that is contrary to reality. In doing so they replace one so-called stereotype with another.

Is the stay-at-home mother stereotype replaced with a work-out-of-the-home mother stereotype. What is really happening is that a minority group is trying to redefine standards that are the basis of our existence and the foundation that enabled us to achieve what we have to this point in history.

J. Marra in St. Louis writes:

Jeez, can't you folks at Fox News find anything to complain about other than those PC folks making life oh so difficult for the rest of us? Is that so important? You come across as whiny conservatives.

If you're so concerned about the words, why not take apart a few of Bush's phrases, like "no child left behind" and "every taxpayer will benefit, " or even "weapons of mass destruction"?

Scott B. writes:

I think it is interesting that people object to "traditional family roles" with breadwinner husband and family-raising wife. It is a bit oversimplified, my wife and I share many of the home duties, but I am the sole wage-earner and she is the primary child rearer. No matter how well I do my job, no matter how much money I make and how many things I buy, everything I earn will one day be dust. However, the job my wife does raising our children will affect every generation of our family to come. Tell me who has the more important role. Who has the real power?

My wife is as independent, intelligent, assertive, ambitious and well informed as anyone I know (actually, I believe, more so than myself). Those who de-value her role might want to look at how they assign value.

Glenn R. in Highland Park, N.J., writes:

The claim that PC opponents use the term 'PC' or 'political correctness' as a way of cutting off legitimate debate may be the most galling example of the pot calling the kettle black that I've ever heard. It is the PC crowd that claims you can't say this word or talk about that topic because somebody might be offended. Instead, I believe in free and open debate as the most effective way that has ever been devised for arriving at the truth. When I hear a PC person try to shut off debate about some topic, the first thing that comes to my mind is, why don't you want to discuss it? Do you consider your position too weak to withstand a debate? I know I do.

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