State officials in Tennessee pulled a public health ad from the radio waves there after listeners complained that it played to racial stereotypes by mentioning the word watermelon, reports the Nashville Tennessean.

The ad, placed on 10 stations statewide by the Tennessee Department of Health (search), encouraged listeners to "try baking your chicken, eating a fresh tossed salad on the side and scrumptious watermelon for dessert."

"I don't believe it was intended to have any racial overtones," said Diane Denton, spokeswoman for the department. "We wouldn't want to offend anyone. We want to be culturally sensitive."

But even some African-Americans contacted by the paper thought the reaction was overkill.

"That's a wonderful advertisement. Tell them to put it back," said the Rev. Enoch Fuzz, who heads the health committee of the local NAACP (search).

"African-Americans are dying at a much higher rate than other populations, and we've got to turn that around. That's a stereotype we've got to get past. We can't get sensitive."

Do as We Say, Not as We Do

The president of the University of Central Florida (search) was forced to apologize after a picture of him and a university trustee wearing Afro wigs appeared on the front page of the campus newspaper, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

UCF President John Hitt said he was merely mimicking the many UCF basketball fans who have taken to wearing wigs in support of Dexter Lyons, a black student who wears his hair in a combed-out Afro.

Lyons himself said he was honored that the president wore the wig, but critics on campus accused Hitt of perpetuating racist stereotypes.

Truth Hurts (cont.)

European Union officials who rejected a study that blamed rising anti-Semitism on the continent on Muslims have issued a new version of the report, this one blaming neo-Nazis and white kids for the problem, reports the Daily Telegraph.

While admitting that some violence was committed by young Muslims of North African or Asian extraction, a summary of the new report by the Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia says "The largest group of the perpetrators of anti-Semitic activities appears to be young, disaffected white Europeans."

The summary contradicts the main body of the report, which claims, for example, that nine percent of the anti-Semitic attacks in France last year were by traditional, neo-Nazi-like groups. The figures were similar in Belgium.

Victor Weitzel, who wrote a large section of the new study, told The Telegraph that the latest findings had been consistently massaged by the EU watchdog to play down the role of North African youth.

"The European Union seems incapable of facing up to the truth on this," he said. "Everything is being tilted to ensure nice soft conclusions ... When I told them that we need to monitor the inflammatory language being used by the Arab press in Europe, this was changed to the 'minority press.'"

Molecular Mayhem

A teacher at a high school in Seattle has been suspended and faces disciplinary action for stating sarcastically in class that "I don't like black people," reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The science teacher at Cleveland High School was reportedly fielding students' questions about why he is so hard on them when he used what the school calls "racially inappropriate language." His tone was described as that one would use when mocking a ridiculous assertion.

Columnist Robert Jamieson, however, says the teacher erred grievously because he comes from "a position of white-male privilege" and his audience was "primarily poor teens of color and the space all around them swarms with volatile molecules of race."

Offensive Mannequin

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is hot and bothered about a mannequin in a used car dealer in Rochester, Minn., that it describes as "clearly offensive and insulting," reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

The mannequin, which has stood unnoticed in the corner of the office for two years, is dressed in what is described as vaguely Arabic "ethnic garb." A belt made of rope and wire holds three empty toilet-paper rolls, made to look like explosives, and the character is holding a gas-tank hose.

"These actions do nothing to promote anything positive between cultures and community," said Rabiah Ahmed, communications coordinator for CAIR. A Winona State student from the Sudan, Wail Kailani, brought the statue to CAIR's attention.

Language Lessons

A city official in Jacksonville, Fla., is being called a racist for using the phrase "you people" in response to a contractor's troublesome questions, reports WJXT.

Contractor Bernard Wilson's questions about a blueprint were met with a reply from city engineer Bobby Henderson that "you people are asking too many stupid questions" and that he didn't have time to waste "on your uninformed questions."

Wilson is demanding an investigation and has hired a lawyer.

"'You people' has a history of being a discriminatory remark, and that is how Mr. Wilson took it," said the lawyer, Robin Roberts.

Competitive Sports

A newspaper in England has been banned from reporting on a kids' soccer league because it called a 29-0 defeat in one of their matches a "trouncing," reports the BBC.

The Sheffield and District Sunday League said reporting on such losses in such language is too humiliating for the little tykes. It said that normally, no games with scores more lopsided than 14-0 may even be reported in the paper.

The editor of the Derbyshire Times said he would not abide by either rule. "It's pointless. If you play competitive sport, the scoreline's an important part of it," he said.

League chairman Matt Hardman said such reporting was cruel. "The children know they've suffered a heavy defeat and they don't need to see it in large print with words like 'emphatically trounced,'" he said.

For a daily dose of politically correct shenanigans, head over to the Tongue Tied Web site.

Mailbag:

Heather P. writes:

Okay, so I think that the PC movement is way out of control. But urinals shaped like a woman's mouth? I give that a big ick! Not only is it tacky and ridiculous, but how is peeing into a mouth "fun and hip?" That's just bizarre. Without any feminism or offense attached, it's just plain stupid.

Randall P. writes:

I don't think the story about lip urinals qualifies as an example of political correctness gone wild. It's really quite a vulgar idea that does seem to serve as a form of degradation. I have a six-year-old son and really wouldn't like it if he had the chance to urinate in a faux set of lips. What next? An open mouthed porcelain face staring up at you as you take a seat on the comode?

Colene M. writes:

Urinals that are bright red and shaped like a woman's lips are offensive in any bathroom, period. I am as conservative as they come but for once (and probably just this once) I agree with NOW - this is just plain gross.

However, shame on you for calling NOW's reaction a "hissy fit" rather than using a more professional characterization of objection. It was irresponsible and only served to diminish a legitimate concern by portraying it as just another case of excessive PC.

Nicole A. writes:

Women are wasting their time to make a huge ordeal about lip shaped urinals. Who cares? If the designers made toilets in the shape of a man's face, these same women would most likely laugh while sitting on them.

Shawn C. in Flushing, Mich., writes:

How did we get so far that we call people insensitive towards race for wanting to work rather than take a holiday of which most of the nation isn't even aware? If I want to work during Kwanzaa, does that mean I'm racist now too? It is getting awfully difficult to just live in this country without someone throwing his or her heritage in your face and calling you racist or insensitive. This is not right. What happened to the America our forefathers built?

Patrick and Lisa D. in Albuquerque, N.M., write:

To those people who whine about others not honoring a Cesar Chavez holiday: get over yourselves. Cesar Chavez, while a noteworthy individual, did not accomplish more than many others who worked and died improving labor conditions in many industries in this country. Cesar Chavez should be honored with all those other Americans on a day that is already set aside as a national holiday. It is called Labor Day.

To set him above all the others who sacrificed for the labor movement is an insult to their legacy. Furthermore, we don't even celebrate Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays individually anymore. Is Mr. Chavez really more noteworthy than they are?

Harmon S. in Norcross, Ga., says:

If they really want to return the land in Kurnell, Australia to its original vegetation they will have to go back much further than 1778 -- tens of millions of years in fact. Most of the original vegetation has long since become extinct.

The aboriginal occupants of the land were themselves immigrants to the area. What did they bring with them that changed the landscape, and how many species did they assist along the way to extinction? Whether it's seeds dropped by migrating birds or carried by oceanic trade winds, or carried by man himself, there is no such thing as original vegetation any more. That is, unless Darwin and all the fossil evidence is wrong.

J. Thomas in Nashville, Tenn., writes:

None of the so-called "politically correct" items discussed in your March 29 column fit the billing of "shenanigans." Every item you outlined made good sense to me. What can I say? You are wrong. I am not.

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