Q: I am having a small private wedding. Would it be appropriate to send announcements to everyone else saying it is a private ceremony but let them know that we are registered?
A: Like what? “Your presents, but not your presence, are kindly requested”?
Q: My children attend a public high school where they are two of the eight students in the school who are not African-American. This was pretty much the case in middle school as well, and was never a problem then.
Now, however, the atmosphere seems to be different. They are seldom addressed by their actual names; instead, their fellows call them by monikers having to do with their race. “Whitey” is the most common, and while I don’t think it’s in the best of taste, my children tell me it is usually said casually and often with affection. My daughter is also assailed with “Snowflake” by some of the young men with whom she is not familiar, which concerns me more.
I could deal with all that, but there exists a minority of students who emphatically do NOT speak with affection. They call my son names such as “cracker,” “honkey” and “white boy,” all in a context of outright aggression. My son tries to avoid these people, but they do cross paths from time to time.
I have spoken to the principal and asked him to tell the students in question to mind their manners. He replied that the young men had a right to express their grievances against what he called “the ruling classes,” and that they were simply using the common vernacular. He said it was a sign of prejudice on my part to judge their “simple speech” as less worthy of serious consideration than what he termed “the vocabulary of the privileged.”
He also claimed that I and my children “owe a debt to the black community” because our race oppressed theirs. Therefore we ought to accept any and all recriminations. When I said that that sounded like racial discrimination, he got quite agitated and told me that “racism doesn’t work that way.”
I have always tried to treat people decently. I am not aware of having oppressed anyone, and my children certainly haven’t. I’ve already reported the principal to his superiors and have yet to get a response. In the meantime, what ought I to do, and how should my children respond to racial taunts?
A: Do not let them tolerate it. Racial discrimination does, in fact, work that way.
The solution to the abomination of racism, historic and current, is not to fight back with taunts when none are provoked — especially not with innocent children. This does not promote tolerance on any level.
That this principal is condoning and even encouraging this behavior is appalling and calls into question his agenda, his profession and his morals. Tell your children to respond, “I’m sorry, but I would never call you a derogatory name based on race, and I ask that you treat me as you would want to be treated.” And continue to report this principal until action is taken.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.