An Inclusive Litany


The state of Arkansas is considering hate-crime legislation that would increase by 20 percent the penalties for crimes motivated by prejudice—specifically those based on race, color, religion, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, or disability. Thoughtfully, the bill makes an exemption for hate crimes relating to recognized disabilities such as compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, alcoholism, and substance abuse.

The Associated Press, January 8, 2001:
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt... said he is proud that the administration, through regulations, has accomplished many of the goals blocked by Congress.... "Here we are, having achieved 80 percent of what was sought in legislation, by administrative rule," said Babbitt....

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt... declined to criticize [secretary-designate Gale] Norton, but did denounce an idea Norton and [Rep. Jim] Hansen have supported: compensating property owners when environmental regulations stop them from developing their land.

"The radical property rights crowd are anarchists at heart, and I don't believe the American people will buy into that," Babbitt said.

The New York Times, January 21, 2001:
"I have no doubt that [Gale] Norton is a very decent and capable person," said Senator Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrat acting as the committee's chairman. "But... [f]or over 20 years, she has consistently championed the interests of the individual over the public [and] the states over the federal government."

In Jonesboro, Arkansas, an eight-year-old boy was suspended from school for three days for pointing a breaded chicken finger at a teacher and saying, "pow, pow, pow." Justifying the suspension, the principal explained, "It's not the object in the hand, it's the thought in the mind."

In Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, the Union Intermediate High School suspended a student for fifteen days for causing a teacher to become ill by casting a spell.


The French newspaper Liberation published a Marxist structuralist analysis of the Harry Potter books, concluding that the series is not about the struggle between Good and Evil, but about the "conflict between established and rising classes." The young sorcerer is a sexist neo-conservative meritocrat who perpetuates a "degrading image of women." Young Harry is a "political allegory" of the triumph of the socially ascendant petit bourgeoisie. Progressive, non-sexist and non-elitist children are strongly urged to avoid the books.

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported that one of the city's nonprofit Head Start programs padded its rosters with sixty fictitious children in order to receive an additional $250,000 in funding. Eight employees told state and federal officials that the fraud was encouraged by the day care association's board of trustees, all of whom were local ministers. The ministers responded by suing the employees for character defamation. In a letter, the association informed investigators that records documenting services it provided to approximately 1,600 children in 1997 had been lost, destroyed, or stolen.


The New York Times reports that the Modern Language Association devoted three hours of its annual meeting to discussing the issue of masochism, offering rival gay and feminist interpretations of Venus in Furs, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's 1869 erotic novella that led to widespread recognition of the behavior, which was named after the author.

The book depicts a man's slavish relationship with a woman ("Wanda") who whips him while wearing a fur jacket, ultimately allowing her lover ("the Greek") to whip him as well. According to Ellis Hanson, associate English professor at Cornell University, the latter scene means it can "be read as a gay novel about men who use women to seduce men." Also, the main character dreams early on of a statue of Venus, which is transformed into the image of the hands of his Cossack servant shaking him awake, which Hanson says reinforces the female-to-male erotic transition.

But Sabine Wilke, a German scholar at the University of Washington, suggests the book is really about male dominance over women. Although the masochist is a man, that doesn't mean his female tormenter is really enjoying herself. According to Wilke, "The functioning of the male masochist pleasure in this story rests upon the suspension of the woman's desire." Wilke contrasts Sacher-Masoch's story with those of his real-life wife, who named herself Wanda after his character and administered punishment to him before writing stories of her own. Her stories "seek the fulfillment of their own sexual desires and will not let the masochistic male paint them into a corner." One of Wanda's stories, she said, features "a beautiful aristocratic widow who buys beautiful male slaves, uses them for sexual gratification until she becomes tired of them and then kills them."


Following protests from Hispanic groups, NBC agreed never again to air an episode of "Law & Order" that depicted violence during New York's Puerto Rican Day parade. The story, ripped-from-the-headlines as always, was closely patterned after the actual event, at which many women were sexually molested in a riotous rampage.


Scottish officials are considering a proposal to stop using the newly coined words "firemaster" or "firefighter" to refer to people who put out fires, because the former is offensive to women and the latter is "too aggressive."


From The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning, by Etta Kralovec and John Buell:
Every night Helene dreads coming home to a familiar scene. Her fourth grader sits surrounded by a mess of papers at the kitchen counter, grumpy or weepy, unable to complete her homework and making everyone else share her misery.

Matt is struggling with his math.... In tears Matt throws his math book across the dining room and retreats to the TV.... Both parents occasionally call down to Matt to turn off the TV, but they are more concerned this evening with helping Jesse get his homework right. Finally, giving up in exhaustion, the family goes to bed.

The authors argue that not only is there no evidence homework helps children learn, it also contributes to the disruption of family life, the thwarting of child development, low self-esteem, suicide, high drop-out rates, economic exploitation, racism, and the destruction of democracy and of the world's economy.

Shortly after the book appeared, the New York Times reported, the school board of Piscataway, New Jersey, voted unanimously to restrict homework on weeknights to half an hour in elementary school and two hours in high school. Homework can no longer be graded or used as punishment, and is discouraged on weekends.

The Washington Post reports that J.D. Salinger's classic Catcher in the Rye is being dropped from many high school reading lists because the main character is a privileged white male. According to Michele Bajek, a curriculum supervisor for the Arlington, Virginia, school system, "There are a lot of new books, especially ones with wonderful Latino main characters and wonderful African-American ones that kids can identify with for more than just angst. They can also [bond] with the heritage, which is better, I think."

Extolling the virtues of an exclusive Caribbean cruise offered to readers of the Nation, a leftist weekly, novelist Barbara Kingsolver commented: "It is such a relief to be able to sit at a dinner table and know that you are not going to hear a sexist joke or a racist remark about the wait staff. There are so many Republicans out there. You just don't know where they'll turn up."

In a later issue, Kingsolver wrote: "We now have a new administration that's hostile to the things I love most: human kindness, the dignity of diversity, and the wild glory of life on earth." She warns: "Civil rights and reproductive choice I suppose we could win back in time (though not the lives lost along the way), but the waters and wild lands devastated will never come back."

Britain's Ministry of Defence determined that exposure by soldiers to the sound of regimental brass bands and gunfire during military training exceeded the noise levels allowed under the nation's workplace regulations. "One solution would be to provide ear protectors during training, but then soldiers couldn't hear their sergeant major giving orders," said a ministry spokesman.

A separate proposal would compel Britain's armed services to accept disabled recruits for front-line positions.

[Ed.: Spring brought news that the British military paid for "no more than five" soldiers' sex reassignment surgery, and also paid for servicewomens' breast enlargements.]

The Hartford Courant, one of America's oldest newspapers, apologized for having at one time carried advertising seeking the return of runaway slaves.

Catalog description for Indecent Theology by Marcella Althaus-Reid, published by Routledge:
Examining the dialectics of decency and indecency and exploring a theology of sexual stories from the margins is the focus of Indecent Theology. For the first time, liberation theology, queer theory, post-Marxism, and postcolonial analysis are brought together in an explosive mixture. This is an out of the closet style of doing theology and shows how we can reflect on the Virgin Mary and on Christology through sexual stories taken from fetishism, leather lifestyles, and transvestism. It is based on the sexual experiences of the poor, using economic and political analysis while unveiling the sexual ideology of systematic theology.


A 50-year-old Hispanic woman sued the American Civil Liberties Union for allegedly violating her civil rights when it fired her and replaced her with a 23-year-old white male college graduate.

After a Las Vegas police detective was arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old boy he met in an Internet chat room, prosecutors declined to charge him with a sexual offense because doing so would discriminate against homosexuals under the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Nevada law makes it a felony to solicit homosexual sex from anyone under the age of 18, even though the age of consent is 16 for heterosexual sex.


Officials in Nashua, New Hampshire, a city named after a Native American tribe, are grappling with the issue of whether one of its highways should have an "Indian Head Rest Area."


In official papers filed with the Georgia Department of Education, school districts declared that 112 students were murdered last year. The actual number was zero.

10,000 people were killed and 10 to 15 million people were left homeless when a cyclone hit India's eastern coastal state of Orissa in 1999. CARE and the Catholic Relief Services responded by distributing to thousands of hungry storm victims a high-nutrition mixture of corn and soy meal provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Naturally, this effort led to angry protests.

"We call on the government of India and the state government of Orissa to immediately withdraw the corn-soya blend from distribution," said Vandana Shiva, director of the New Delhi-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. "The U.S. has been using the Orissa victims as guinea pigs for GM [genetically modified] products which have been rejected by consumers in the North, especially Europe." A test of the corn and soy varieties revealed that they had been genetically modified.

Per Pinstrup-Andersen, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute, angrily responded that "the U.S. doesn't need to use Indians as guinea pigs, since millions of Americans have been eating genetically modified food for years now with no ill effects."

Shiva's organization also opposes "golden rice," a genetically modified strain of rice that may be able to prevent blindness in up to 3 million poor children a year and alleviate vitamin A deficiency in 250 million people in the developing world.


After instituting a system to evaluate schools based on student performance, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts started to hand out failing grades to some of its best schools. It seems their students were already performing at very high levels, so the schools were unable to demonstrate much improvement.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp, Belgium, exhibited Cloaca, a large machine designed by Belgian conceptual artist Wim Delvoye that mimics the human digestive process. Each day, the installation is fed human food prepared by a top chef, which passes through various pungent tanks filled with acids and enzymes, eventually producing something resembling human excrement. Delvoye is also known for producing a herd of tattooed pigs, which he displays live and also sells in stuffed and pigskin form.

From "Using Students as Discussion Leaders on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues in First-Year Courses," in the Journal of Legal Education, December 1999:
One of the authors, Nyquist, is a nongay white biologically male law teacher. Ruiz is a heteroqueer evolved male (the now-antiquated term is "transsexual") Hispanic law student. Smith is a gay white biologically male law student. Both Ruiz and Smith are active in the Les-Bi-Gay-Trans Caucus at the New England School of Law and have been involved in LBGT issues for many years.
Further explanation can be found in footnote #1:
Ruiz prefers the term "evolved male" to "transsexual" as a description of his gender. He is a biological female who is in the process of aligning his body with his male gender identity. "Heteroqueer" refers to Ruiz' sexual orientation; "heterosexual" is too simple a term for his situation. "Hetero" refers to Ruiz' attraction to women and "queer" to his evolved male status.
...and more from footnote #22:
For example, when Ruiz first arrived at the school, Nyquist and Smith identified him as a lesbian. In our initial planning session for the class, Ruiz corrected us: "A lesbian is a biological woman who identifies herself as a woman and is sexually attracted to women. Although I have a woman's body and am attracted to women, I identify my gender as male.... The term I prefer, 'evolved male,' implies not only a physical transition, but also a personal journey, psychological growth, and a physical emergence. The term also serves to distinguish evolved males from biological males."


The New Jersey Supreme Court struck down the state's law requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions. Parental consent is still required for other medical procedures performed on minors, such as when school nurses dispense aspirin.


The Virginia Senate passed legislation allowing Fairfax County, in response to complaints about the often crowded living arrangements of immigrants and students, to prohibit its residents from sleeping anywhere but in their bedrooms. Critics say the law makes it illegal to convert a room other than a bedroom for use by an elderly parent or other family member.


In Germany, which now admits women to its frontline military forces, some field commanders are being asked to refrain from using obscenities or breaking wind in front of female soldiers, and to mind their hygiene. The Army is also considering whether to issue olive green bras to make uniforms consistent, and whether to segregate chemical toilets due to male soldiers' faulty aim.


Richard Greist has been an inmate at the state mental hospital in Norristown, Pennsylvania, since 1978 after he killed his pregnant wife and stabbed his daughter and grandmother. Greist filed a lawsuit after being turned down for an in-house job as a clerk, alleging the hospital violated his rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act by not accommodating his severe paranoid schizophrenia.

From a "Teaching Assistant Handbook," posted at the website of the University of Texas at Dallas, and later removed:
Words and Phrases that Offend Students
(Because of limited space, it is not feasible to list all of the phrases that offend minority students. Most of the ones listed here have been found to offend Black students, but they may be just as offensive to all minorities.

An instructor to his class: "With the influx of wetbacks, the welfare rolls will increase."

"You are a good employee, for a minority person."

A white instructor to a Black student: "I don't understand what you people want."

Referring to a Black man: "You know the boy I mean."

A white instructor about Puerto Rican students: "Why should I teach them? They'll never learn."

A white instructor to a Black graduate assistant: "You're different from most Blacks I know."

To a minority student: "A 'C' is a good grade for you. Of all the Black students in the class, you made the highest grade."

A white instructor to a history class: "Slavery was not that bad for Blacks; it was better than unemployment."

"This is a good salary for a female."

A financial-aid officer to a minority student: "You don't look like you need financial aid."

An instructor to a Black student: "Are you sure you wrote this paper? It is well put together for a black student."

Instructor to a minority student: "That's the trouble with you people; you think we owe you something."

A white instructor to an American Indian student: "I think your people have made great progress."

To a work-study student: "Do you like this better than housework?"

Words and Phrases You Should Never Use with Minority Students (you should be equally careful of their use at any time):

[Words/Phrases—Groups Offensive To]
you people—All
spicks—Puerto Ricans
wetbacks—Mexican Americans
half-breeds—American Indians
chiefs—American Indians
greasers—Mexican Americans
Japs—Japanese Americans
chinks—Chinese Americans
boat people—Laotians, Vietnamese

Note—Not all minority students are affected by these items and actions in the same ways and to the same degree. There are many minority students who have strong role models at home and positive self-concepts.