Tongue Tied

A new hotel development in Gulfport, Fla., is raising hackles because its name, the Plantation Inn and Spa, conjures images of slave labor and the Old South, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

The city has received a handful of calls from people worried that the name may not foster the right image for the town's waterfront. The hotel's owner, Alexandra Kingzett, said the connotation never occurred to her.

"How that would be linked to slavery and oppression, I have no idea," she said.

Florida's not the only state with a problem, it seems. The Times said a county commissioner in Atlanta berated a proposal to name a street "Plantation Way" there, comparing it to naming something "Auschwitz Avenue" or "Swastika Boulevard," and also reported that some state officials in Rhode Island want to change that state's official name to something other than the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Controversy Not Allowed in Canton

A high-school English teacher in Michigan faces disciplinary action for letting a student's column critical of Black History Month creep into the high school newspaper she advises, the Detroit News reported.

Mary Lou Nagy, a teacher at Plymouth-Salem High in Canton Township, said she will apologize to staff and students offended by the essay in the February issue of Perspective.

In the column, senior Chris Mackinder wrote that Black History Month makes "race an issue once again." He added: "If it's a race war they want, keeping things the way they are will sure get them one."


A Swedish tabloid reported that the country's gender-equality expert got drunk on a flight from Stockholm to New York and harassed members of the airline's female cabin crew, according to a Reuters dispatch.

Lars Back also vomited in his boss's lap during the flight, confirmed a spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Magareta Winberg, who also holds gender equality as part of her political portfolio. Winberg denied, however, that any harassment occurred.

Flap Over Chicken Ad

Britain's Independent Television Commission, the country's ad watchdog, told Van Der Berg Foods to pull the plug on an ad featuring a woman meditating in front of chicken because it might offend Hindus, The Times of London reported.

The commission said it received 16 complaints, most from British Hindus, that the juxtaposition of a Hindi-style chant, sitar music and a ready-to-cook chicken offended the largely vegetarian Hindu community.

Insensitive in Idaho

Idaho continued to trip itself up in efforts to improve its image abroad when state officials made insensitive comments regarding ethnic minorities, the Idaho Spokesman-Review lamented.

Among the controversial comments is a county commissioner's criticism of a federally funded outreach program for Latinos at North Idaho College as "reverse discrimination."

The paper also cited comments by state lawmakers that the word "squaw" was not offensive to them, so there was no reason to change it. This, during a debate over whether to remove the word from all state place names

'Sordid' State Song Has to Go

A Maryland teenager is on a crusade to change that state's official song, "Maryland, My Maryland," because he says the lyrics glamorize the Confederacy. Ben Meiselman wants to get rid of the song, which the Washington Post called a "lurid Confederate call to arms" because it refers to Lincoln as a "despot" and the Union Army as "Northern scum." The song, written in 1861 — only days after the Civil War first reached Baltimore's doorstep — was adopted as the state song in 1939.

"It doesn't represent us anymore," Ben told the paper.

Negatively Stereotyped as Doctors, Cops and Teachers

A new poll by Zogby International says teenagers are getting negative stereotypes of some ethnic groups from the entertainment industry.

Commissioned by the National Italian American Foundation, the poll found that teens perceived Italian-Americans as crime bosses, Arab-Americans as terrorists and African-Americans as athletes and gang members. Also among the stereotypes perpetuated by the industry, according to Zogby: Italians as restaurants workers; Arabs as convenience-store clerks; Jews as doctors, lawyers and teachers; African-Americans and Irish as police officers.

From the Central Servers:

Patrick H. alerts us to this letter in the Austin-American Statesman:

The term "transient" used to describe homeless people is a misnomer, extremely offensive and highly inflammatory.

In 1997, House the Homeless conducted a statistical survey showing that the average homeless citizen has lived in Austin 7.4 years. These people are not "transient" but rather homeless. Most high-tech companies have been in Austin for much shorter periods of time.

Many homeless people find the word "transient" offensive. It is often used in the same way as other epithets.

The term "transient' has become part of mainstream conversation. It is used to deface our poorest citizens so we can pass laws against their very existence and feel comfortable while doing so. House the Homeless refers to this as "economic cleansing."

Whether used intentionally or thoughtlessly, the word "transient" is unacceptable. We should be attacking homelessness, not homeless citizens.

President, House The Homeless

Glyn D. writes:

The layout of the headline and quote of the week was very apropos.

It's unfortunate that David Horowitz's thoughtful discussion of racial issues doesn't provoke Berkeley professors or the editors of the Daily Californian to say, "We do not always agree with what our [advertisers] say or do, and perhaps they could frame issues a bit more gingerly, but we do not — and legally cannot — attempt to limit their expression simply because someone might find the message distasteful or offensive."

Sadly, such responses are reserved for feminist sex fairs which use public and student money to put pornography on display.

John L. tells us:

I work for an international company who is fond of "tolerance" and "diversity". Me, being an Chinese immigrant, like to call their activities white apologists' views. But that's just me.

We have this group meeting called "People of Color" and it is touted as leading the diversity issues in the workplace.

I recently complained that, being a person of some sort, I feel rather offended by being labeled into a minority group without my consent. I further stated that call me a person of color differentiates me from the rest of the human beings and is not appropriate since all people have color, but the group is clearly aimed at blacks, Hispanics, and Asians.

Needless to say I've not been a popular person among this group. But I still feel that they're wrong. Especially the supposed diversity leadership council is made nearly entirely of white Americans.

To me, this is not about diversity. It is merely how a company can persuade employees to be diverse in a limited scope, thinking that they are indeed a tolerant sort, and be as intolerant to ideals other than their own.

Angela G. on Long Island, N.Y., makes the point:

As one whose ancestors had only come to this country about 100 years or so ago, I reject the notion that I owe any one American any type of financial windfall.

I refuse to pay money for something I haven't done to someone it wasn't done to. Neither I nor anyone in my family owned slaves; in fact my husband had ancestors who were abolitionists, almost rabidly so. Since they endangered their safety to free black slaves, is he — their descendant — expected to pay also?


Michael W. writes:

My father was born on a farm in South Dakota during the 1930's and didn't meet a black man until he joined the armed forces. My mother immigrated from Italy 30 years ago. I'm pretty sure they didn't own slaves in the Confederacy.

Now on the other hand, maybe my mother's ancestors may have owned some Greek slaves back in ancient Rome. I hope the Greeks don't seek reparations.

Mark P. writes:

I point to a recent message you posted on your site from a Dimitrije K.

First of all, because the general tone of your column is not in agreement with his views, your column is labeled as "a grotesque caricature of what professional journalism is."

From what I can tell, you are making people aware of these stories, letting the stories speak for themselves, and leaving it at that. Apparently, the mere fact that you bring these stories to our attention is grounds for being labeled "grotesque". Call me crazy, but this sounds a little intolerant to me.

Douglas H. in Loxahatchee, Fla., tells Dimitrije K.:

You seem to be opposed to morality that differs from your own. And you seem to be intolerant of any moral precepts with a religious base.

As an atheist, I have been subjected to ridicule, animosity, dismissal, and hatred throughout my life. It bothered me at first but I long ago realized that what others think of me is their burden, not mine. I managed to survive with my own [lack of] religious beliefs intact in spite of prayer in school when I was growing up. If you were truly as comfortable with yourself as you should be, what others do or say wouldn't matter a bit ... beyond occasional amusement.

I applaud Christians who stand up for their beliefs, just as I applaud Jews, Muslims, and anyone whose culture or upbringing gives them a strong foundation for treating others with respect and kindness. I have no problem with the Ten Commandments being in courts and in the schools of this country. The concepts contained in them remain admirable after thousands of years and are the basis for law in western civilization.

When you grow up, you may begin to understand that.

Jim P. in New Jersey's been thinking:

A number of people are campaigning against what they perceive to be offensive mascots and team nicknames. I wonder if they are also combating as strenuously the following:

Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (offensive to Greek-Americans)
Cleveland State Vikings (offensive to Scandinavian-Americans)
Hofstra Flying Dutchmen (offensive to Nederlander-Americans)
Idaho Vandals (offensive to German-Americans and Someone-Spray-Painted-My-Car-Americans)
Louisiana-Lafayette Cajuns (offensive to Acadian-Americans)
Michigan State Spartans (offensive to Greek-Americans)
Pennsylvania Quakers (offensive to Society-of-Friends-Americans)
Providence Friars (offensive to Catholic-Americans)
Radford Highlanders (offensive to Scottish-Americans)
Siena Saints (offensive to Catholic-Americans)
Valparaiso Crusaders (offensive to Moorish-Americans)
Washington Wizards (offensive to those who don't believe in magic and witchcraft)
Milwaukee Brewers (offensive to recovering alcoholics)
Kansas City Royals (offensive to descendants of Revolutionary War veterans)
Clinton LumberKings (offensive to environmentalists)
Chattanooga Lookouts (offensive to police officers on sting operations)
Edmonton Trappers (offensive to animal-rights activists)
Kannapolis Intimidators (offensive to the meek)
Quad City River Bandits (offensive to boatjacking victims)

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