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PC and History

Bill Neinast


The light flicker of common sense early last week was quickly snuffed out by the end of the week.

The flicker of hope was the announcement by the Suffolk, Virginia School Board that it was canceling the zero tolerance policy that eliminated the discretion of administrators in some cases of “misconduct.”

This sensible action was a response to the two day suspension of Driver Elementary School second grader Christopher Marshall on May 3. 

Marshall’s misconduct?  He pointed a pencil at a classmate and made machine gun noises.  The classmate, who was also suspended, then pointed his pencil at Marshall and mimicked a rifle shot.   

In my school days, that every day occurrence was called playing war, cops and robbers, or cowboys and Indians.  No one was ever hurt and many who played those games went on to become The Greatest Generation in defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

The Virginia incident was just one act of craziness in a string of lunacy. 

In January, an elementary school student was sent home for building a gun out of legos. In February, school administrators in another Virginia district suspended a youngster for bringing a toy gun to school.  In the same month, a Colorado grade schooler was suspended for pretending to throw an imaginary grenade and trying to save the world from evil.

The same thing happened in Massachusetts and Colorado in March. In the latter case, a seven year old was suspended because his teacher thought the breakfast pastry he was eating was shaped to look like a gun.  The boy claimed that he was merely shaping his strawberry pastry into a mountain, but the teacher believed it looked more like a gun and took him to the principal’s office.

Calmer, saner heads began to realize the absurdity of the actions about 18 months ago. The first to return discretion to administrators may be the Philadelphia public school system.  In September, 2011, that district removed the "zero tolerance" policy from its student code of conduct.

Other districts began to follow Philadelphia’s lead and the Suffolk, Virginia, board joining the crowd was that flicker of hope welcomed last week.

On Friday, however, political correctness (PC) stormed right back in.  This was the absurdity of the Paula Dean saga.

Dean was born in Albany, Georgia, in 1947 and now lives in Savannah.  Hearing just two words out of her mouth will convince anyone that she was bred, born, and reared in the South.

Through grit and determination, she built a successful business empire of a TV  cooking show and a restaurant chain and has published a number of cookbooks.

Recently, she was sued by a former restaurant employee for failure to promote or  improper termination.  In giving a deposition in that case, she was asked if she ever used the “N” word.  Without hesitation, she answered, “Yes, some years ago.”

Dean’s acknowledgment that she had used a common word of her day that is now taboo went viral on the internet, and her TV contract is not being renewed because of her “insensitiveness.”

This craziness is due to the PC crowd’s disdain for history.

History is a record of facts.  As some facts are unpleasant, those hooked on PC urge that they be ignored.

This is the history or facts of Dean’s early years that some wish to ignore.  

Humanity was considered to be composed of four races:  Caucasoid (white + southwest Asian people), Negroid (black people), Mongoloid (east Asian + indigenous American people), and Australoid (Aboriginal Australian + south Indian people).  

The terms  Black and African-American had not been invented. Both white and black southerners called members of the Negroid race either coloreds or niggers.  With the rare exception of someone saying “Negro,” there was no other reference recognizable for them.  Colored was normally used in reference to a group or organization, such as the Colored Methodist Church.

The fact that this now maligned word was common in every day conversations  is best illustrated by the American literary classic, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.  The book first published in 1885 is a scathing look at entrenched attitudes, particularly racism. 

Nonetheless, and despite the fact that both Huck Finn and the tenor of the book, is anti-racist, because the word “nigger” is used more than 200 times, the unedited book is anathema in public schools today.  Youngsters must not be capable of learning the real history of the country.

With that history, asking anyone who was reared in the South during Dean’s young years if she ever used the word “nigger” is like asking anyone six years old or older if he or she ever used the word Mom or Dad.

Even worse than asking the question, is firing or refusing to renew the contract of someone who admits to using that word when it was common among both whites and blacks and is still in use in the black community.

So here’s the perspective.

This is not an argument to accept the use of words of any kind that are considered offensive to others.  It is an argument, however, that punishing someone today for using a word 60+ years ago when it was a common expression is equivalent to suspending grade schoolers for pointing their pencils at each other.

So let the hackles rise over repeating or acknowledging facts, but let common sense reign when someone admits living through those facts.