An Inclusive Litany


When Raynard Johnson, a seventeen-year-old African American, was found hanging from a tree in his front yard in Kokomo, Mississippi, his parents declared that he had been lynched. Jesse Jackson came to lead marches in the area, and claimed that the honor student was killed by racists angry over his relationship with two white girls. Janet Reno called in the FBI, characterizing Mrs. Johnson as "a very courageous lady" for seeking justice in the case.

But state investigators and a nationally recognized pathologist had concluded that since there were no tell-tale marks of struggle on the body, the boy had committed suicide—the third most common cause of death for teenagers and young adults. Johnson had just broken up with his girlfriend. His parents prevented police from searching his hard disk in search of a suicide note or other evidence. The FBI agreed with local authorities that Johnson had almost certainly committed suicide.

The Washington Post's otherwise ample coverage offered only perfunctory mention of the official autopsy findings, followed by a discussion of President Clinton's proposals for new federal hate-crimes legislation. CBS referred to Johnson as "the victim" rather than using a more neutral term such as "the deceased," and aired groundless speculation from Johnson's friends on what the supposed killers' motives might be. ABC's "20/20" devoted a lengthy segment to the case, which mentioned the official findings only in its final seconds. Even then, that was followed by a new allegation from a family friend that he had seen a bruise on the back of Johnson's neck that might indicate strangulation. Though the report made much of the Johnson family's decision to request a second autopsy from an "independent" pathologist, it aired before the second autopsy confirmed the first's finding of suicide.

[Ed.: At about the same time, President Clinton awarded Jesse Jackson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In addition to all his other activities shaking down corporations and the Democratic Party, Jackson has befriended numerous dictators and terrorists, including Fidel Castro, Omar Torrijos, and Yasser Arafat. More recently, he has allied himself with Charles Taylor of Liberia and Foday Sankoh of Sierra Leone, who unleashed gangs of murderous thugs on their people.]


The British Parliament debated whether to subsidize dietary supplements for cows that would reduce what one MP referred to as their "dreadful belching," which emits methane, a greenhouse gas thought to exacerbate global warming. Agriculture Minister Nick Brown commented that he was always willing to look at new and innovative ways to enhance farm incomes.


A Michigan appeals court upheld the decision by the Farmer Jack supermarket chain to refuse employment to a man suffering from Tourette's Syndrome. Karl Petzold, 22, cannot keep himself from uttering obscenities and racial slurs, yet sought employment as a checkout bagger.

The Food and Drug Administration is considering a ban on some of the world's finest cheeses because they are raw and unpasteurized.

Journalist Stephanie Gutmann observed several female recruits, on an obstacle course in Navy basic training, dangling from steel bars, unable to do pull-ups. Some male recruits helped out by grabbing their legs and pumping them up and down. Officers referred to this behavior as "teamwork."


Unable to board a historical recreation of the slave ship Amistad that replicated the vessel's cramped and inhumane conditions, a group of disabled residents of New Haven, Connecticut, brought action under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

NBC's Tom Brokaw led off a profile of Donna Dees-Thomases, who organized the Million Mom March, "Woman to Watch: tonight an mother who'd never been politically active" until she saw footage of a 1999 shooting. She herself said that "at first, I didn't know the Brady Bill from The Brady Bunch" and that "I couldn't organize a class picnic."

But as the Media Research Center reported, Dees-Thomases had been heavily involved in politics for decades, serving as CBS spokesperson for four years (the same time the Brady Bill was being voted on in Congress), with responsibilities for the Washington bureau and the 1988 presidential campaign. She had previously worked four years in the press offices of two senators. Most recently, she maxxed out as a donor to the senatorial campaign of Hillary Clinton, one of her sister-in-law's closest friends.

[Ed.: Barbara Graham, one of the speakers at the march, was later convicted of shooting and paralyzing the man she thought killed her son, a man police say was not the murderer.]


The Royal Danish Opera staged an adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, a dystopian feminist novel in which young women are forced into slavery to bear children for infertile couples.

When Boston-area teacher and researcher Barbara Wilder-Smith made up a bunch of "Boys Are Good" T-shirts for her class, all ten female teachers under her supervision strongly objected to the message. One wore a button that read, "So many men, so little intelligence."

Judy Logan, a San Francisco middle-school teacher, encourages boys to take up quilting and encourages girls to vent their anger at boys. In one project, Logan required each boy to give a presentation to the class in the persona of an African American woman. After one boy completed his rendition of Anita Hill, Logan exclaimed, "Give her a hand, everyone!"

As part of the goals set for the previously unauditable 1993 AmeriCorps program, which pays "volunteers" competitive wages, members of Mississippi Action for Community Education (MACE) were obliged to "give a reflection and self-assessment" on their own personal growth, the result being measured by "self/diagnosis [sic] in an end-of-year survey." Each AmeriCorps member would be expected to achieve "a 75% increase on average in understanding about self." The Milwaukee Community Services Corps, which concentrates on "Ethical Training," would run Ethical Fitness workshops, after which, "An increase in knowledge by at least 50% is mandatory."

Energy Express, a literacy program run under AmeriCorps' auspices, enrolls 600 college students to teach in West Virginia classrooms each summer. When asked how much training he received to teach children how to read, AmeriCorps member Brian Farar said, "We're not teaching them to read—we are just exposing them [to reading] and getting them to like it. You just want them to think they're doing a good job." AmeriCorps' biggest expense in running such literacy programs is to train its own members on General Equivalency Degree (GED) preparation. Some AmeriCorps programs don't even require high school equivalency, and simply retrain welfare recipients as reading tutors, despite the fact that welfare recipients are among the least literate groups in American society.

Barbara Ehrenreich prognosticates in Time magazine, February 21, 2000:
As long as men're taller than most women, we'll probably keep 'em around for retrieving those hard-to-reach items. But in terms of reproduction, the answer is probably no. With the advent of extensive reproductive technology, there will be an ever-diminishing practical need for male-female sexual intercourse. And on the relationship front, instead of investing in traditional, high-risk marriages, people will contract with partners on a short-term, no-hard-feelings basis—with renewals available if all goes well.


The Supreme Court struck down part of the Violence Against Women Act. Under the law, women who are victims of crimes "motivated by gender" were able to sue their attackers in federal court under the theory that gender-motivated violence interferes with interstate commerce. (The ruling does not affect a woman's ability to sue her attacker in state court.) A previous federal law, also overturned by the court, banned guns from within 1,000 feet of any school grounds because they, too, interfered with interstate commerce.

In another decision, the court overturned Nebraska's ban on late-term "partial-birth" abortions, in which a baby's brains are vacuumed out in mid-delivery, following insertion of a pair of scissors into the base of its skull. The court insisted that an exception be made for the health of the mother, even though the procedure is never used to save a mother's life, and a 1973 law defines health so broadly as to include emotional, psychological, familial, and any other factor "relevant to the well-being of the patient." Extraordinarily, this led to the drafting of another federal law that would make it illegal to kill a baby after it has been delivered, presumably by mistake during the course of a late-term abortion. Dubbed the "Born Alive Infants Protection Act," the National Abortion Rights Action League has come out against it.

AFL-CIO Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson declared Yale University a "sweatshop" because it pays grad students only a modest cash stipend for their part-time duties as teaching assistants, along with free tuition and health coverage. But the The New Republic determined that "extrapolated to a full-time, yearlong, 40-hour-a-week job, Yale graduate students would earn close to $38,000 a year—and that's not even counting the free tuition."

Two parents in the suburban Boston area, Brian Camenker and Scott Whiteman, repeatedly complained to local and state authorities that explicit sexual material had been foisted on students as part of the $1.5 million effort by the Governor's Commission for Gay and Lesbian Youth to promote sexual tolerance, but their complaints were rebuffed. This material, they claimed, precluded parental involvement in the development of their children's sexual identity.

Frustrated, Whiteman secretly took a tape recorder to the 10th annual conference of the Boston chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN, pronounced "glisten"), a national organization whose purpose is to train teachers and students to develop programs such as "Gay/Straight Alliances," student clubs organized around gay issues. In the words of its Boston chapter leader, the purpose of these programs is to "challenge the anti-gay, hetero-centric culture that still prevails in our schools."

The meeting, held at Tufts University and backed by the state's largest teacher's union, was state-sanctioned and open to the public, but it was attended primarily by students, administrators, and teachers. The event included workshops such as "Ask the Transsexuals," "Early Childhood Educators: How to Decide Whether to Come Out at Work or Not," "The Struggles and Triumphs of Including Homosexuality in a Middle School Curriculum," "From Lesbos to Stonewall: Incorporating Sexuality into a World History Curriculum," and "Creating a Safe and Inclusive Community in Elementary Schools," in which the "Rationale for integrating glbt [gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender] issues in the early elementary years will be presented."

Whiteman sat in on a "youth-only, ages 14-21" workshop, led by two employees of the state Department of Education, called "What They Didn't Tell You About Queer Sex & Sexuality in Health Class." The session opened with a discussion of whether oral sex was real sex, and which orifices counted. One of the moderators demonstrated the proper hand position for "fisting," and another described this form of anal penetration as "an experience of letting somebody into your body that you want to be that close and intimate with," praising it for putting one "into an exploratory mode." The moderators advised how to come onto a potential sex partner, explained that lesbians could achieve orgasm by rubbing their clitorises together, and one said that male ejaculate was rumored to taste "sweeter if people eat celery."

After the two men published a transcript of the session and announced their intention to release the tape to state legislators and the local media, GLSEN threatened to sue them under the state's wiretap laws. Another group sued the pair on behalf of the workshop students, and also threated criminal charges. The tapes went out anyway and were prominently featured on talk radio stations. Editorials in the Boston Globe railed against the pair. The state employees who ran the session were sacked.

Astonishingly, a state superior court judge issued a gag order, prohibiting the two men, the news media, and the entire state legislature from disseminating or even discussing the contents of the tapes. When the judge held another hearing the next day to reconsider the order, only members of the Fox News Channel showed up to assert their First Amendment right to air the material. The judge relented somewhat, extending the order only to Whiteman and Camenker, whose legal costs are mounting.

PBS aired a documentary by Ken Burns, Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, that omitted any reference to the early feminist leaders' strong opposition to abortion as "the ultimate in the exploitation of women." Burns explained that he didn't want the film to be "burdened by present and past differing views on choice."


The New York Times reports that, in an effort to protect children's emotional health, New York City officials are likely to seize children from homes in which either of the parents "engage in acts of domestic violence" such as slaps, kicks, shoves, or more serious violence, regardless of whether these acts are directed at the children. This has led to a perverse incentive on the part of battered parents not to report their abuse.

The Boston Globe, July 8, 2000:
Darnell Williams won't be among the millions of spectators who will gather around Boston Harbor next week to view the colorful Tall Ships.

Williams is planning on boycotting the event, because when he looks at the great vessels, he doesn't see majesty; he sees haunting icons of the slave trade. When the trade reached its peak, an armada of sailing ships plied the Atlantic Ocean bound for the Americas, with human cargo chained below deck.

"As a person of conscience, you look at these ships and it forces you to think" of the tens of millions who dies during the Middle Passage, said Williams, who heads the NAACP's Springfield chapter. "These ships drum up negative images of how our people arrived in this country." ...

George Lindsey, 67, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Dorchester... is angered by what he says the ships represent.

"This is a purely symbolic issue for me," he said. "When it comes to black folks, there's a lack of sensitivity for our history and culture. We're still dealing with the fallout from slavery and these ships are just horrible, horrible reminders."

Said Carolyn Richardson, 28, of Jamaica Plain: "It's appropriate that as a society we become aware of the issues that offend people," she said. "It's not a matter of being politically correct. It's about being respectful. If there are some blacks who find the ships offensive, I think they shouldn't sail." ...

Those who will not be attending the Tall Ships festivities said that they will take time to educate their children about the evils of slavery in America.

"The bottom line is that when the average black person thinks of the Fourth of July or these other freedom celebrations, it's not a time for us to celebrate," said Williams. "It is more a recognition of a period of dehumanization and degradation."

Britain's Department of Trade and Industry is considering drafting regulations that would ban "use and abuse" of anyone with eating disorders, such as supermodels, in marketing products.


Officials at the Spartanburg County, South Carolina, jail were sued by a former inmate who alleged they failed to prevent him from engaging in "horseplay" while alone in his cell. While trying to do a back flip off a desk, he fell and broke a vertebra, resulting in paralysis.

From the Fall 2000 catalog of the State University of New York Press:
The most extensive treatment to date of women's experience in team sports, Higher Goals: Women's Ice Hockey and the Politics of Gender provides an ethnographic account of the "Blades," a Canadian team that plays at the highest level of women's hockey. With a vivid depiction of life on the Blades, the book follows the team over two seasons, tracing their journey to a national championship. Key issues in the sociology of sport and gender studies are explored, including the construction of community among women athletes; the "feminine apologetic" and pressures on athletes to conform to feminine ideals; homophobia and the experience of lesbian athletes; physicality and women's experience in contact sports; the contribution of sport to ideologies of gender; the impact of commercialization on women's sport; and the changing relationship between women's and men's sport.


Reporting on the vagaries of Reform Party politics, the Associated Press reported that "liberal activist" Lenora Fulani had withdrawn her support from Pat Buchanan.


A New York City teachers' union thwarted a plan by the principal of the School for the Deaf to replace 35 teachers who are not proficient in American Sign Language with those who are.