An Inclusive Litany


While giving a slide show on the controversial Robert Mapplethorpe, Vanderbilt University art professor Donald Evans slipped in a few nude photos of himself and his wife. A female student in Evans' class promptly filed a sexual harassment complaint. In his defense, Evans said that his work with women's breasts was one of the main reasons that Vanderbilt hired him in the first place.

Bill Clinton's inaugural parade included Elvis impersonators and a precision lawn-chair marching team. Spokeswoman Sally Aman explained, "We wanted to make sure that we chose a cross section of people and performers that would, to the extent possible, represent every sector of society."

Rapper Ice-T's album "Body Count" has gone platinum, he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, he got lead roles in two major movies, and now he has lectured at Stanford Law School.

Speaking about the Los Angeles riots, Ice-T said that "During the riot, I rolled into the neighborhood... I was chilling out, signing autographs. It was the most peaceful time I had ever been in South-Central Los Angeles. Brothers were dancing. Music was playing. It was a very great thing." Ice-T also expressed surprise that "Cop Killer," which includes lyrics such as "die, die, die, pig, die," caused such a commotion. "I thought everybody hated the police," he said.

Ice-T went on to boast "I've got my thumb on the pulse of 50,000 killers" and that he has founded a group of gang members in Los Angeles called Hands Across Watts—"basic killers," he called them, "getting ready to move on the police."

[Ed.: When dissident shareholders of Time Warner sought to force the company to hold a discussion of its artist's rap songs, including a song about violent rape, Time Warner's management argued to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which governs what information must be provided to shareholders, that even though the violent-rape song itself was sold to the general public, the lyrics were "inappropriate" for distribution to shareholders.]

At the 1993 presidential inauguration, Maya Angelou read her poem, "A Rock, A River, A Tree," which decries the evils of "struggles for profit." She does not have to struggle much to make a profit herself, however. Appointed "professor for life" by North Carolina's Wake Forest University in 1982, Angelou holds the title of distinguished professor of American studies. She pulls down a six-figure salary, but has taught no classes in 1993. Angelou's secretary says she doesn't know if her boss will teach again. Wake Forest does not have a department of American studies, and Angelou does not have a campus office. Students cannot elect to take her courses, which have been offered by invitation only; they must "audition." With the same money Wake Forest is paying her to be a figurehead, it could hire four full-time professors.

Andy Lee, sheriff of Benton County, Arkansas, was sued by Ross Chadwell, a prisoner who served as a trusty, performing various chores in the Siloam Springs jail where he was held. As a trusty, Chadwell had been granted increased freedom in carrying out his tasks. Chadwell, who escaped one day and was captured two months later, is suing Lee for failure to know he was going to escape and take steps to prevent it. According to his complaint, by failing to do so the sheriff "violated this plaintiff's civil rights when he permitted this plaintiff to escape." Says Lee, "His reason for suing me is that I should have had the knowledge that he was an escape risk... I don't remember him bringing it to anyone's attention."

Lee has not yet lost any of the 27 suits brought against him by prisoners so far, but it bothers him that each costs the taxpayers $2,000 in court expenses. At one time he was sued for failure to properly check a prisoner for body and crab lice. The sheriff said, "If we could put a U.S. patent office inside of jail [the prisoners] would all come out millionaires... They are the most creative individuals in the world."

The Minnesota Department of Education developed several puppet surrogate characters to teach elementary school children the multicultural virtues: Equality, the Frog; Respect, the Turtle; and Dignity, the Snail. Along with the puppets' positive message, the Department also issued guidelines warning the state's public school students—from kindergarten on up—not to engage in the following displays of sexually harassing behavior:

  • Bragging about the length of one's penis.
  • "Teasing other students about body development (either overdevelopments or underdevelopment)."
  • "Depantsing," a.k.a., "spiking," defined as pulling down a student's pants or pulling up a student's skirt.
  • "Displays of affection in hallways," on the grounds that such displays are "heterosexist."

The Dade County School Board told a computer consulting firm, equally owned by a black and a Hispanic, that it was not a minority-owned business. In the county's definition, a business can qualify as minority owned only if one minority group controls 51 percent of its assets. Because Charles Duval, a black man originally from the Caribbean, and Paul Raifaizen, who came to the U.S. from Argentina, each own 50 percent of Data Industries, the company was ruled ineligible.

Henry Fraind, spokesman for the School Board, says he sympathizes with Data Industries, but insists that "a rule is a rule, and our rule says that there must be 51 percent ownership by one principal minority group." "We're just trying to preserve the integrity of the system," he says, explaining that the county wants a "clear-cut" owner to avoid having minority businesses "sell out to white males."


At Stanford University, in celebration of their annual Condom Week, the school's Ye Olde Condom Shoppe held a condom drive. With a display table set up in the middle of White Plaza, the school-funded organization handed out bags of condoms accompanied with a questionnaire. Students were asked to compare each condom in a number of different categories, including taste.

After staggering towards home drunk from a party one night in Chicago, Sang Yeul Lee felt the need to relieve himself and found a shadowy area in which to do so. An immigrant, he couldn't read signs that said: "Danger," "Keep Out," and "Electric Current." He scrambled over a row of uneven wooden boards laid on the ground as a barrier to deter intruders, wandering onto the grounds of the Chicago Transit Authority's Ravenswood line. He proceeded to urinate on the third rail, which carries 600 volts of electricity, and was electrocuted.

Following his death, Lee's family sued the CTA for negligence, and was awarded $1.5 million. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the verdict, saying that although Lee was drunk and trespassing, and despite the signs and the barrier, the CTA was at fault.

In Highland Park, Illinois, Debbie Lerman took her 6-year-old daughter, Robyn, to the dentist to have a couple of teeth removed. But when the dentist finished extracting the teeth, he refused to give them to the girl, who wanted to leave them under her pillow for the tooth fairy. OSHA rules require him to immediately place the teeth in a closed container and dispose of them.

The Boston Sunday Globe, December 20, 1992:
Seven months ago Steve Lim stood in the New Star Market in blazing South Los Angeles and encouraged his customers to loot the store.

"Take what you need, take what you need," he remembers telling them. "Just don't burn it. Please don't burn it down."

They didn't.

While six Korean-owned markets within a one-mile radius were put to the torch, the New Star Market survived. It is a rarity in its mostly black and Latino neighborhood: A store owned by outsiders that has cultivated relations with the community.

Members of the Black Student Union in Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, were appalled to find three racial epithets stuck on the door of their building. They responded, according to a New York Times report, by "blanketing the campus with posters condemning the act and challenging all students to examine themselves for racist attitudes." Three days later, Gilbert Moore, a junior at the college, revealed himself to be the perpetrator. Moore, who is black himself, said that he had no malicious intent and that his only purpose was "to promote more campus discourse on race relations." The college suspended him for a semester, leaving him, the Times said, "surprised by ... the severity of the punishment" and convinced that the system had failed him.

In a letter to all prospective parents, the Center for Early Education in West Hollywood, California, outlined the desired qualifications for a balanced nursery or grammar school class:

  1. A balance of boys and girls.

  2. Families from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

  3. The integration of different children with different personalities, learning styles and individual needs based on information gathered during interviews.

  4. Children with birthdates equally represented throughout the year.

  5. A mixing of first-, second- and third-born children.

Leonard Tose, former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, countersued the Sands Hotel Casino in Atlantic City after it sued him, attempting to recover more than $1 million they had extended to him in credit for gambling at the hotel. Tose seeks to have his debt canceled, and to have the casino pay him punitive damages for allowing him to lose more than $2 million in 1985 and 1986. Tose complains that when visiting the casino, he was treated well, escorted to his own table, and brought complimentary drinks by his personal waitress. Such treatment caused him to drink too much, leading to losses he would have otherwise avoided.

A Houston couple was convicted and fined $500 for owning six cats. A local ordinance limits cats and dogs to three each per household.

When New York magazine correspondent Dinitia Smith asked feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon how she could justify having become engaged to a man named Jeffrey Masson after having written that equal relations between men and women are impossible in an unequal society, MacKinnon responded somewhat mysteriously, "He's not not a man, and I'm not not a woman."


The CQ Researcher notes that the top problems in public schools as identified by teachers in 1940 were talking out of turn, chewing gum, making noise, running in halls, cutting in line, violating dress codes, and littering. In 1990, teachers identified the top problems as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery, and assault.

73-year-old Sigmund Rothschild, a descendent of the illustrious family and an art appraiser with a modest reputation, is the sole tenant of an eight-room duplex, featuring a 2,000-square-foot living room that has a 22-foot ceiling, plus handcarved woodblock and cathedral windows, all in an ornate building just off Central Park West in New York City. He pays $568.24 a month in rent. Divorced three times, Rothschild said he is fairly certain his last wife married him in the hope of eventually getting the apartment. "When I die," he added, "I just want to be cremated and have my ashes buried right here under my living-room floor." Even in death, New Yorkers rarely want to give up their rent-controlled apartments.

Matthew Gilbert in The Boston Globe, March 21, 1993:
Add to this visual pop lexicon the newest hip eye-opener: cross-dressing. As if to punctuate the end of the socially stagnant Reagan era, a parade of drag images is now crossing screens big and small, mostly men bedecked in wigs, lipstick, and scarfs to hide their protruding Adam's apples... Along with symbolizing self-empowerment, cross-dressers also can remind us that sex roles and costumes are fictional. Men wear pants because American society tells them to.


Thanks to a computer error, no Hartford residents have had to serve on a grand jury for three years. The city's name had been listed in the wrong place on their records, forcing a "D" into the column for personal information. This caused the computer to think all Hartford residents were dead.

Israel's national phone company has established a fax number for sending pleas for divine intervention to Jerusalem's Wailing Wall.

The College of Humanities and Social Science at the University of California at Riverside held a conference on "Unnatural Acts." The program included "Taking on the Phallus," "Beyond the Bathroom Door," "Boys Will Be Girls," "Dreaming Arnold Schwartzenegger," "F***ing (With Theory) For Money," "Michael Jackson's Penis," "Lesbians Who Kill," and "Amelia Earhart in Drag."

Mark Singer in the New Yorker, December 27, 1992-January 4, 1993:
During my first conversation with William Shawn in 1974, he astonished me by extending an invitation to work for the New Yorker. I was twenty-three years old, a bright-green rookie, and far from convinced that I was a writer, much less a writer worthy of Shawn's nurturing indulgence. There have been few, if any, days since when I have not thought of him, always with gratitude and wonder—often with more complicated emotions—and asked myself what the hell this whole thing had been about...

He had an oracular presence, and virtually every encounter with him felt loaded, full of intrigue and possibility. Often, seated in his office, studying his impassive expression as I babbled away about this or that, I had to restrain the impulse to blurt "Mr. Shawn, I love you." I did love him and I still do. I loved him, though I never for a moment imagined that in some everyday, familiar sense, we were actually friends.

Occasionally, late on a day when I had submitted a Talk of the Town story, my phone would ring.

"Hello, Mr. Singer."
"Hello, Mr. Shawn."
"That's an ingenious and wonderful piece you wrote."
"Thank you very much."
"Thank you for doing it."

No, please, thank you. Again, though certainly not for the last time, thank you.

The New York Zoological Society has changed the name of the Bronx "Zoo" to the "Wildlife Conservation Park." As society president William Conway told the New York Times, the word "zoo" can mean a "place marked by 'rampant confusion or disorder.' We are not confused or disordered."

Barbara Rose, writing in the New York Times Magazine to commend the change, explained that those formerly called "zoo keepers" are now more properly referred to as "wildlife friends," and that a "zoo guide" should now be called a "wildlife preservation center docent."


The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency spent more than $420,000 on new furniture in 1992, even though Illinois maintains a warehouse full of furniture for state offices. Most of the money for the purchases came from special funds earmarked for cleaning up the environment.

Although no law forces them to open on Sundays, the 285 members of the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association voted 285-0 to recommend that the legislature require them to be closed on Sundays.

After Governor Pete Wilson declared an end to California's drought, it was determined that rather than being disbanded, the "Drought Information Center" would be renamed the "Water Conservation Center."


According to Donald Kao, the director of Project Reach, a New York City diversity consulting firm, "If you are feeling comfortable or normal, then you are probably oppressing someone, whether that person is a woman or gay or whatever. We probably won't rid our society of prejudice until everybody strives to be abnormal."

Five months after Manuel Noriega was removed from power in 1990, Congress and the Bush administration appropriated $420 million in foreign aid for Panama. But a quarter of the money, dispensed by the Agency for International Development, apparently went to Panamanian banks to repay American loans, provide middle-class Panamanians with mortgages and benefit a few large corporations. "Crazy as it sounds," says Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), "we let Panama use our aid to pay its debts to us so we can say, 'See, they paid their bills,' and then send them more money."

In Philadelphia, where the city's court system had until recently allowed public defenders to use the honor system to bill the city for their work, one public defender submitted bills showing that on 18 days in 1991 he had worked more than 24 hours.

Under a policy issued by the Maryland Department of Education, students suspended for disciplinary reasons are not penalized academically. Instead of failing exams or homework that they may miss, students are considered on "legal absences" and are allowed to make up the work when they return. Students have thus opted for suspension when they need extra time for an assignment.

To allow the Senate to conduct its affairs more efficiently, Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell announced that the 15-minute time limit allowed for senators to cast their votes would be cut, and that the limit would henceforth be 20 minutes. Under the 15-minute time limit, senators had often called from as far away as Washington's National Airport to say that they were on their way, holding things up for up to 40 minutes, so the 20-minute limit was a "cut." Nonetheless, Mitchell said that the voting period could be extended for "extraordinary" circumstances.


The Washington Post, January 21, 1993:
Marshall Hull was too far away from the Capitol grounds yesterday to see Bill Clinton place his hand on the Bible and recite the 42-word presidential oath. But from his wheelchair on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the 52-year-old Hull, who has cerebral palsy, could hear Clinton from a giant, cone-shaped speaker strapped to a light pole—and his eyes filled with tears.

"Bill Clinton, president now. Is he? Is he?" Hull asked.

Yes, finally, he is.

The Fish and Wildlife Service spent $250,000 to purchase copies of the thirty-two page booklet How to Conduct (and Conduct Yourself in) a Bass Tournament.

Jeff Yarbrough, editor of the Advocate, the most influential publication for gay and lesbian issues, recently told the Los Angeles Times that the Advocate is on the brink of "a sort of major [public relations] disaster." Gonzalo Herrera has filed a male-on-male sexual harassment suit, claiming that while working for the magazine in 1989 and 1990 he was subjected to lewd physical contact by his superior. The magazine's legal response was to file court papers arguing that California laws do not cover same-sex harassment, a curious position for a publication that is supposed to champion homosexual rights. The magazine is also bracing itself for a job discrimination case from a former managing editor, Bryn Austin, who resigned along with two other female employees.