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The Power of Language, Hurtful History

Students at the University of Iowa are said to be outraged that a law professor teaching a course about the power of language had the nerve to read aloud passages of text including a certain racial epithet, reports the Des Moines Register.

One student stormed out of class she was so offended. Others were flabbergasted that they were not warned the words were coming and given a chance to shield themselves. Members of the Black Law Students Association said in a letter to the administration that the incident adds to the hostile environment pervading the campus.

Professor Gerald Wetlaufer read aloud two passages, one from Robert Caro's biography of former President Lyndon Johnson and another a 1964 speech by a black sharecropper named Fannie Lou Hamer. He apologized for not warning the students, but said the words were appropriate in the context.

"These were not words I used to oppress anyone in the class or promote anyone else's agenda," he said. "This word appears 49 times in 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' I don't think I have crossed some line here."

Hurtful History

African-Americans in New York are complaining that a reading comprehension question on the state's Regent Exam which asks about the benefits of European imperialism to Africa are racially insensitive, according to the New York Daily News.

A student who took the test says she was outraged by a reading-and-question section that detailed how English colonizers of Uganda built irrigation system and wells. She was also upset by a passage that reads how Europeans were "endeavoring ... to teach the native races to conduct their own affairs with justice and humanity, and to educate them alike in letters and in industry."

The student complained to the exam proctor during the test and failed the test as a result. Now she has to subject herself to the offensive material all over again when she re-takes the test.

Esmeralda Simmons of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College called the passages "beyond the pale.

"It's basically asking students of African descent, and all students, to justify European or British imperialism as if Africans were either culturally or genetically inferior," Simmons said.

Bible Ban

Hospitals in Melbourne, Australia have started removing Bibles from patients' rooms because they consider them inappropriate in this new, multi-cultural era, according to The Border Mail.

Bibles have been removed from the Royal Melbourne, Royal Children's, Austin, The Alfred, Monash Medical Centre, Box Hill, Maroondah, Dandenong and Casey in Victoria. Groups attempting to donate to hospitals in Queensland say they have also been turned away lately.

The Gideons International Australia, which donates the bibles to hospitals, schools and motels, says the excuse from officials they hear most often from those who no longer want the books is "We are a multicultural organisation and we don't want to offend anyone."

Mao's Mobs

Mobs of Chinese students at Massey University are said to be angry over a cover illustration in a satirical student newspaper that features Chairman Mao's face on the body of a female model, according to the Manawatu Standard.

The students say the cover of Chaff, which satirizes the women's magazine Cosmopolitan with the title Commupolitan, is as bad as the dreaded MoToons that inflamed the Arab world earlier this year.

Student Xing Tang was reported to be on the verge of tears. "Chairman Mao is like Jesus to us," he said. "This is discrimination against us."

The students are demanding an apology and that existing copies of the magazine be pulled from circulation.

Pre-emptive Strikes

A reporter with the Metro West Daily News in Massachusetts succeeded in forcing the town of Ashland to remove historical photos of an early 20th century minstrel show showing actors in blackface from an exhibit in town hall even before anyone complained, according to the paper.

Under the headline "Town Avoids Black Eye in Photo Flap," reporter Theresa Freeman says officials in Ashland removed the pictures "after a Daily News inquiry."

The picture showed people in costume for a bank robber play and was part of an exhibit of 11 prints and postcards illustrating scenes around town from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

For more doses of politically correct nuttiness, head on over to the Tongue Tied daily edition.

Mailbag:

Peter in Pittsburgh writes:

Responding to what happened at Syracuse U. according to the Daily Orange: I believe the whole incident is inexcusable. Kyle Galarneau was clearly out of line. However the RA, Melissa Samuels, is equally to blame. There is no faster way to induce backwards prejudice (and defensive) thoughts than to post a 'list' such as this by Dr. McIntosh. And I wouldn't believe for a second that Ms. Samuels posted the list outside her door for any reason other than to cause a stir.

She, in her position, should have not posted it in public. Had I been in Galerneau's shoes and seen the list myself, I would have taken exception as well--but would have expressed my views in a far more constructive manner.

Richard S. writes:

How can Syracuse University force a student out of the dorm for expressing his views, and yet let a female minority post an inflammatory article? What is our world coming to? Come on folks, toughen up!

Steven L. in Johnson City, Tenn. writes:

So, the concept at Syracuse University is that, if your non-white, you can say pretty much any thing you want without being offensive, but if you're white keep your damn mouth shut. If I were Mr. Galarneau I'd have a long talk with the ACLU about the violation of my 1st Amendment rights. Oh, sorry, the ACLU doesn't represent whites.

Terry R. writes:

On the subject of "religion-neutral housing:" Have the owners of that housing complex considered that they can now be sued by the very tenants they told not to hold Bible study meetings, on the grounds that they are violating their tenants' religious rights? Elderly folk holding a Bible study or a Christmas display on common property isn't going to offend anyone except atheists, who don't count anyway.

Scott T. in Atlanta writes:

I think the Boulder, Colo., hotline is a great idea. Every time I see a Hispanic driver weaving across lanes, I can call and complain about being offended by his racist driving. When I see some Hispanic kids harassing some Anglos, which they do anytime they outnumber them, and only when they outnumber them, I can call and complain that a minority group is being threatened and called "hate-filled, racist and demeaning names", then watch as the Hispanics are charged with a hate-crime.

What, you say that's not the purpose of the hotline?? Ohhh, I forgot. Only liberals and minorities can be racist, and commit acts of violence againt non-liberals and non-minorities, and claim that they have a right to violence against non-minoritites.

Laurie S. corrects us:

In your story about banning Bible studies in the apartment complex, you stated, "They said the Bible studies and nativity scene might make tenets feel that one religion is preferred over another." While thinking of Biblical tenets, it was still the tenants who may feel offended.

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