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Parents Sue School Over Teacher's Remarks
The State (SC) ^ | 11/18/02 | Chuck Crumbo

Posted on 11/18/2002 10:57:58 AM PST by marshmallow

AIKEN - Nick Hurshman looked forward to his 14th birthday party and a chance to see friends, most of whom he had known since kindergarten.

So Nick invited about a dozen of his buddies from St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic School.

Only three showed up. The others said their parents wouldn't let them come.

After the October party, Nick went home and cried.

That's the price Nick and his parents, Dennis and Regina Hurshman, say they have been paying since September when they sued St. Mary's and the Diocese of Charleston.

Their lawsuit alleges a white teacher singled out Nick, the son of a black woman and white man, during a class and said he is a "Negroid." The word is considered archaic and racially offensive, educators say.

The remark was humiliating, said Regina Hurshman, 40, a building contractor. "It hurt Nick so it hurt me."

The incident also has triggered a debate over who has the right to define a person's racial identity.

"They have stolen Nick's right to establish his own identity," said Dennis Hurshman, 53, an investigator and mediator of employee concerns at Westinghouse Savannah River Co.

The school and diocese have apologized for the remark.

In a letter to the Hurshmans, diocesan attorney Peter Shahid Jr. said the teacher "had misapplied the proper ethnic term to Nicholas without intended racial prejudice."

However, the Hurshmans have sued, saying their son has been harmed by the incident. They also charge the school and church retaliated against Nick after his parents asked the teacher be disciplined.

A GEOGRAPHY LESSON

The incident happened Aug. 27, 2000, about halfway through teacher Jean Cook's seventh-grade social studies class. The word "Negroid" came up during a lesson on the migration of people to North America.

In the 18th and 19th century, European anthropologists used "Negroid" as part of a system of human racial classification.

The term comes from the theory that races developed in certain regions of the world. That theory said "Caucasoids" were from Europeans, "Mongoloids" from Asia and "Negroids" from Africa, south of the Sahara Desert.

Some of Nick's classmates had never heard "Negroid" before and thought the teacher had used a racial epithet. They even apologized to Nick, the lawsuit said.

Stephen Criswell, a Benedict College professor who studies racial language, laughed when he heard "Negroid" had been used in a classroom.

"I was shocked because it's such an archaic term," Criswell said. "But it isn't used just because the word isn't politically correct, it's also incorrect science."

DNA research now shows the origins of all races can be traced to Africa, educators said.

"Negroid" faded from most S.C. classrooms years ago, said Charles Kozacik, coordinator of the S.C. Geographic Alliance.

"It's not an alien term or something people wouldn't understand, but it may not be in favor to use it at this time," Kozacik said. "I doubt we've ever used that term."

The Hurshmans asked St. Mary's principal Keith Darr to discipline Cook, but he refused. Later, school officials said the incident was because of an outdated textbook that Cook used, the lawsuit said.

The school referred all questions about the incident to the diocese. The diocese declined to make either Darr or Cook available to comment.

After lodging their protests, the Hurshmans say they noticed Nick's grades starting to fall. By the end of the school year, Nick - previously an "A" and "B" student - dropped at least one grade level in all but two subjects.

Dennis Hurshman, who holds two master's degrees, said he became convinced the school was retaliating against Nick because of his parents' complaints when Nick brought home "F's" on homework that Hurshman had checked.

Charleston diocesan spokeswoman Maria Aselage denied that. "At no time did the teachers at St. Mary's grade down this or any other students' tests or assignments," Aselage said.

'I'M TAN'

Another question, the Hurshmans said, is just who can assign a racial identity to their son.

Nick said he usually checks "other" when filling out information about his race because he doesn't consider himself either black or white.

"I'm tan," he said.

While the percentage of people who are biracial or multiracial is relatively small - about 2.4 percent in the United States - they represent a growing segment of the population, said Susan Graham, director of Project Race, based in Tallahassee, Fla.

"This is a terrible problem," said Graham, whose son is biracial. "We shouldn't let this happen to any child."

People like Nick should be able to identify with one race or as many as they wish, Graham said.

For example, Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry, daughter of a black man and white woman, identifies as an African-American. Golfer Tiger Woods, son of a black man and Asian woman, calls himself "Cablinasian," a mix of white, black, Native American and Asian.

In Aiken's Catholic community, people offer mixed reactions.

Some disapprove of the lawsuit and the Hurshmans' actions. They give the school the benefit of the doubt and believe the church would not knowingly do anything wrong.

Others, like Shirley Paige, a parishioner at St. Gerard's Catholic Church, a historically black church, thinks it's racist to even suggest a child's race.

"His race shouldn't matter," said Paige, mother of two teenage daughters and graduate of Catholic schools.

Added fellow parishioner Emily Lemme, "He's a human being. His color is not important."

The Hurshmans had picked St. Mary's because they believed Nick could use the religious grounding.

"As a biracial child, he needs a good, moral foundation because he's going to face things most kids don't face," Dennis Hurshman said.

But by the end of last school year, the Hurshmans had decided to pull Nick out of St. Mary's. They enrolled him at Aiken Prep, where he started eighth grade in August.

"It felt like the longest year I've ever been through," Nick Hurshman said. "I was glad to be going to a new school, but sad that I wouldn't be seeing my friends."

Aselage said the diocese attempted in "good faith, in every way humanly possible, to listen, investigate and resolve this matter."

But April Sampson, the Hurshmans' attorney, said she called diocesan attorneys five times and sent four letters seeking to mediate the dispute, but never got a response.

Friends had discouraged the family from taking on the Catholic church "because it's so powerful," Regina Hurshman said.

"This is my kid, and I don't care who they are," she said. "I don't care if I lose every dime that I have fighting it."

For Dennis Hurshman, who was raised Catholic, the incident has become a crisis in faith.

"I knew since the day Nick was born that there was going to be some kind of racial incident," Dennis Hurshman said. "But I never expected it to occur in a Catholic classroom."


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: allyourraces; arebelongtous; biracial
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Remember the recent fuss in a Florida school over a teacher who used the word "niggardly"?

Deja vu all over again.

1 posted on 11/18/2002 10:57:58 AM PST by marshmallow
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To: rdb3; Khepera; elwoodp; MAKnight; condolinda; mafree; Trueblackman; FRlurker; Teacher317; ...
Black conservative ping

If you want on (or off) of my black conservative ping list, please let me know via FREEPmail. (And no, you don't have to be black to be on the list!)

Extra warning: this is a high-volume ping list.

2 posted on 11/18/2002 10:59:06 AM PST by mhking
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To: marshmallow
That's the price Nick and his parents, Dennis and Regina Hurshman, say they have been paying since September when they sued St. Mary's and the Diocese of Charleston.

Evidently these parents believe that lawsuits are just another form of state lottery and should not be taken personally by the people whose money they want lawyers to steal for them.

3 posted on 11/18/2002 11:01:11 AM PST by E. Pluribus Unum
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To: marshmallow
Geesh, I wonder if this kid refrains from listening to Eminem or Rap or whatever, he should be careful, he might hear worse words than "negroid". And I certainly hope he doesn't drink "Negra Modela" beer, nor his father!

How dare the Hispanics use the word "Negra"???
4 posted on 11/18/2002 11:08:38 AM PST by evolved_rage
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To: marshmallow
The parents made that decision when they decided to have kids. The options of the outcome were, in addition to the sex, black, white or, most likely, somewhere in between. Did they expect people not to notice? Is the complaint that the kid was simply misidentified by someone who was not an expert? If there was any harm done to the child it was because the parents failed to prepare him for that likely circumstance.
5 posted on 11/18/2002 11:10:56 AM PST by Mind-numbed Robot
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To: marshmallow
Wasn't Florida. I'm sorry to say it was my home state of NC.
6 posted on 11/18/2002 11:11:51 AM PST by mommybain
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To: marshmallow
much ado about nothin IMO but hey anything to sue right

I liked this one, "They have stolen Nick's right to establish his own identity"

I think I'll be a female Japanese alligator wrestler for the rest of the day. hocus pocus - it be so...
7 posted on 11/18/2002 11:17:46 AM PST by Texas_Jarhead
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To: marshmallow
How can this case have standing if the child and his mommy and daddy don't sue rappers as well? The rappers use the the only form of the word that is truly offensive, and they get a free ride. I don't get it!
8 posted on 11/18/2002 11:18:55 AM PST by DoughtyOne
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To: mommybain
You are quite correct.

Florida was the case of the dude who wanted to wear a dress to the prom. LOL

I'm getting my schools and scandals confused.

9 posted on 11/18/2002 11:20:46 AM PST by marshmallow
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To: marshmallow
The term comes from the theory that races developed in certain regions of the world. That theory said "Caucasoids" were from Europeans, "Mongoloids" from Asia and "Negroids" from Africa, south of the Sahara Desert.

If this 'theorey' is so wrong, and people may be sued for using this classification; why do companies ask me to fill a form out (voluntarily, right??) stating my race as being either Caucasian, Asian, Black, Hispanic or Other?

Besides, wasn't the teacher demonstrating a FACT? Saying that Mary appears Asian, Jeff looks Caucasian, Jamahl may be Arabic and Ken is likely Negroid is not an insult. It's observable fact.

10 posted on 11/18/2002 11:24:44 AM PST by Hodar
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To: marshmallow
From Merriam-Webster Online

Main Entry: ne·groid
Pronunciation: 'nE-"groid
Function: adjective
Usage: often capitalized
Date: 1859
: of, resembling, related to, or characteristic of the Negro race
- negroid noun, often capitalized

 

Sounds like a perfectly legitimate descriptor of the child, given his parentage.

11 posted on 11/18/2002 11:24:51 AM PST by Tree of Liberty
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To: marshmallow
It is down right sad and appalling how dumbed down the "educated" American politically correct parent has become.

This is one of those Frivolous Law Suits a proper judge would and should throw out of court. Mr. and Mrs. Hurshman owe both school and teacher an apology. I am so sorry for their son as he is who he is and what he is and rather than run from it, should be made proud of it. The parents are the ones harming the boy.

12 posted on 11/18/2002 11:26:09 AM PST by yoe
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To: marshmallow
The word "Negroid" came up during a lesson on the migration of people to North America.

In the 18th and 19th century, European anthropologists used "Negroid" as part of a system of human racial classification.

The term comes from the theory that races developed in certain regions of the world. That theory said "Caucasoids" were from Europeans, "Mongoloids" from Asia and "Negroids" from Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. Nick said he usually checks "other" when filling out information about his race because he doesn't consider himself either black or white.

"I'm tan," he said.

Someone needs to explain to the family that both of these designations are correct. In reference to the historical "Negroid", the teacher was giving the correct information. However, the boy is correct in saying that he is "tan", as "black" and "white" are misnomers when applied to skin color. My 5 year old bi-racial son has also stated that he's "tan" and it seems obvious to him and everyone else in the family that this is correct. I don't belive the teacher used good judgement in pointing out any pupil as an example. However, an apology from the teacher seems the appropriate response. The other families are right in distancing themselves from this family in light of the obvious attempt to strike it rich with the lawsuit. Kind of makes you wonder what they would want to do if their son had been called a "mulatto"?

13 posted on 11/18/2002 11:28:06 AM PST by asformeandformyhouse
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To: marshmallow
"Remember the recent fuss in a Florida school over a teacher who used the word "niggardly"?

I remember some blacks made a big fuss when someone in the U.S. government used the word "niggardly" in a budget document, as I recall. These folks should lighten up and invest in a dictionary.

14 posted on 11/18/2002 11:29:35 AM PST by lstanle
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To: asformeandformyhouse
It seems like the kid only started having problems after the parents began raising a ruckus.
15 posted on 11/18/2002 11:34:21 AM PST by stands2reason
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To: asformeandformyhouse
If memory serves (and it fails occasionally as I'm a doltoid as I age), when two races (or in the case of other animals than humans) conceive an offspring, the offspring is often privy to the strongest genetic traits of both! This young man is fortunate in deed!... And it does appear that he has caring parents, albeit they're nitpickers.
16 posted on 11/18/2002 11:34:24 AM PST by MHGinTN
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To: marshmallow
While Negroid is not, IMO, any more a racist word that Caucasiod, I would like to know the context in which the teacher used that word.
17 posted on 11/18/2002 11:40:40 AM PST by Dimensio
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To: marshmallow
People like Nick should be able to identify with one race or as many as they wish, Graham said.

I think I have a very small amount of native american blood in me. Does that mean I can live tax free and leech money off of taxpayers too? My skin is white, but I am a mixture of Swedish, German, English and who-knows-what-else. Funny... I just consider myself to be an American. When is being a plain old American going to pay off for me? Though I feel sorry this young man was reportedly offended and "hurt" by his misunderstanding of the word and the label applied to him, this is another case of people being too darned sensitive for their own good. They all need to get over it and move on.

I believe everything would have been fine had the parents had a talk with the teacher, a talk with their son, and settled the misunderstanding. Instead, they chose to make this a huge issue which probably hurt their son more than the teacher's remark.

18 posted on 11/18/2002 11:42:44 AM PST by SaveTheChief
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To: All
"As a biracial child, he needs a good, moral foundation because he's going to face things most kids don't face," Dennis
Hurshman said.

No he's not, Mama will sue you if that happens. So much for the moral high ground dim-wit.
19 posted on 11/18/2002 11:43:09 AM PST by The Toll
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To: Bear_in_RoseBear; Wordsmith
PING Just thought you'd be interested in this article.
20 posted on 11/18/2002 11:43:28 AM PST by Tired of Taxes
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To: marshmallow
The parents wanted the teacher fired. Nothing less than that would have been acceptable, and probably that wouldn't have been sufficient if the kid's self esteem remained depressed. . Definitely lose-lose for the school. Its now up to a below-average intelligence jury pool to sort this out.
21 posted on 11/18/2002 11:44:00 AM PST by Nonstatist
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"what did you call me????"

22 posted on 11/18/2002 11:46:39 AM PST by KneelBeforeZod
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To: marshmallow
It isn't difficult, is it? We (NC, that is) also had the kindergartener (boy) who was charged with sexual harrassment for kissing a little girl on the playground a while back. It's pitiful.
23 posted on 11/18/2002 11:48:39 AM PST by mommybain
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To: asformeandformyhouse
Our sons are "biracial", too. They're still very young, but even the soon-to-be-seven-year-old knows almost nothing about racial differences. Yet, if someone referred to them in terms of "race", I would just explain it to them. An in-law once gave great advice: He and his wife would tease their biracial children by calling them names in a joking but loving manner, so that, later, when children called them names, they just laughed. That's not something we would do, but parents allowing this incident to get them so upset just teaches the child to be oversensitive.
24 posted on 11/18/2002 11:49:53 AM PST by Tired of Taxes
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To: marshmallow
"I knew since the day Nick was born that there was going to be some kind of racial incident," Dennis Hurshman said. "But I never expected it to occur in a Catholic classroom."

It sounds to me like this father was bound and determined that somewhere, someone, at sometime was going to be a racist and spent 14 years waiting for the "incident" to happen. Almost like willing it into existance so he could point his finger and scream discrimination. Wonder what kind of $$ their asking for in their lawsuit....

25 posted on 11/18/2002 11:51:30 AM PST by NewHampshireDuo
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To: KneelBeforeZod
My buddy who was born in Korea was adopted by a "white" family. His mom was actually born in Germany. He is a captain in the Marines and an all round "American." He was at a local grocery store and got carded for the beer he was getting...he's 30. The Mexican checker said "wow! It must be all that rice you eat." Not as an insult or a joke. Just a moron who was legitimately amazed. My friend was able to see it for what it was, just some ig'nent clock puncher.

This is the same store that the NAACP started looking into last week when a black woman complained about something, asked for a manager and the clerk said something about blacks loud enough for the manager and the customer to hear. sounds like they have a lot of idiots working there.

26 posted on 11/18/2002 11:56:01 AM PST by KneelBeforeZod
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To: marshmallow
In the 18th and 19th century, European anthropologists used "Negroid" as part of a system of human racial classification.

They still do. I took a forensic anthropology course at Colorado State University in the mid 1990s. The textbook that was used for bone identification listed the three distinct types of skulls as "Negroid," "Mongoloid" and "Caucasoid."

27 posted on 11/18/2002 12:01:21 PM PST by Drew68
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To: marshmallow
If his friends since kindergarten didn't come to the party because of the use of that word, they must not have been very good friends. Also, since when do kids that age care what the teacher has to say?
28 posted on 11/18/2002 12:08:24 PM PST by Paul Atreides
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To: marshmallow
"Aselage said the diocese attempted in "good faith, in every way humanly possible, to listen, investigate and resolve this matter." But April Sampson, the Hurshmans' attorney, said she called diocesan attorneys five times and sent four letters seeking to mediate the dispute, but never got a response."

What was there to mediate? A teacher made an insensitive remark in good faith and intended no offense. The schoold investigated, probably told the teacher to be more careful in the future, and apologised. Case closed. There was nothing else to mediate by the school - the family just thought they were entitled to money for nothing. And if this caused the kid the problems the parents are alleging, then he's got a lot more probems than can be caused by an unfortunate remark by a teacher.

29 posted on 11/18/2002 12:14:10 PM PST by joebuck
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To: marshmallow
I'll bet the teacher who said this is getting used to the word *sshole".
30 posted on 11/18/2002 12:17:28 PM PST by pabianice
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To: Paul Atreides
I agree and at the age of 14 for him to go home crying must be a real mama`s boy.
31 posted on 11/18/2002 12:18:08 PM PST by goose1
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To: Paul Atreides
If his friends since kindergarten didn't come to the party because of the use of that word, they must not have been very good friends. Also, since when do kids that age care what the teacher has to say?

Is that why? Or because his parents had sued their school?

32 posted on 11/18/2002 12:19:07 PM PST by lepton
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To: Drew68
Mongolians everywhere are offended!
33 posted on 11/18/2002 12:19:32 PM PST by stainlessbanner
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Comment #34 Removed by Moderator

To: goose1
Also, I stopped having birthday parties a long time before I reached 14.
35 posted on 11/18/2002 12:19:44 PM PST by Paul Atreides
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To: marshmallow
Next time someone says bad things about the French, I am gonna sue.
36 posted on 11/18/2002 12:20:22 PM PST by cynicom
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To: sugarmice2112
The primary issue here is racial insensitivity and violation of civil rights,

I disagree. The primary issue is that mommy & daddy are suing because baby boy got his feelings hurt. If that's the worst thing that happens to him in his life, he's getting off pretty easy.

37 posted on 11/18/2002 12:26:56 PM PST by ZinGirl
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To: KneelBeforeZod
[Not as an insult or a joke. Just a moron who was legitimately amazed. My friend was able to see it for what it was, just some ig'nent clock puncher]

Why is he a moron? Well, the only reason I can see is that he didn't really think anyone would be silly enough to take it as any kind of an insult. When are we going to be able to laugh again in this country? There was time we could joke with each other about our differences and no one was hurt - it was just fun.

I heard one Asian woman on TV complaining because someone said she looked like a china doll. Well, she did - she was exquisitely beautiful - although extremely stupd.

38 posted on 11/18/2002 12:28:13 PM PST by nanny
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To: MHGinTN
If memory serves (and it fails occasionally as I'm a doltoid as I age), when two races (or in the case of other animals than humans) conceive an offspring, the offspring is often privy to the strongest genetic traits of both!

Well then, by your theory, young Nick should grow up to be a world-class architect/construction magnate with multiple PHD's who dabbles in forensic political science while being totally devoid of a sense of humor.

39 posted on 11/18/2002 12:29:49 PM PST by Old Professer
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To: cynicom
You're going to be mighty busy!

L

40 posted on 11/18/2002 12:29:55 PM PST by Lurker
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To: Tired of Taxes
but parents allowing this incident to get them so upset just teaches the child to be oversensitive.

Exactly. And what's ridiculous is that he's being taught to be sensitive concerning something that he has no control over, his race, rather than that which he can contol. It's going to be far more important how this young man lives his life than what color he was when he was brought into this life. The fact that my son is a different color than my other children has never even entered into their minds as being important. How he grows and develops in his life, is important.

41 posted on 11/18/2002 12:30:14 PM PST by asformeandformyhouse
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To: marshmallow
Another amusing example of idiot over-sensitivity! Thanks for the post.

As I recall, it was a political appointee (in Wash., DC?) who used "niggardly", AND used it properly, but was forced to resign because of the woefully deficient vocabulary of idiot overly-sensitive anal openings.

I liked the story of the overly-sensitive idiot who tried to get his white coach in trouble when, during high school football practice, the coach told him to get his "black a$$" back on the line of scrimmage to correct an egregious error in blocking technique. The principle the kid complained to, also a black, asked the kid if he were black. The kid said yes. the principle asked him if that included his posterior. The kid answered, "yes." The principle then told the kid the coach was correct in his assessment of the kid's hind quarters and told him to get his black a$$ back to football practice! I loved it!

Bottom line: There was no ill intent, so these parents are real jerks! By their laughable, idiot over-reaction they've done FAR more harm to the kid than the teacher EVER did, even if the teacher was trying to be demeaning!

42 posted on 11/18/2002 12:31:10 PM PST by mil-vet
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To: Old Professer
He </I>could</I> ... I haven't made up my mind as to the nature/nurture question yet. [Often might have been better as occasionally, but that still is far from always.] LOL
43 posted on 11/18/2002 12:32:32 PM PST by MHGinTN
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To: sugarmice2112
[Calling an African-American person a "Negroid" is vastly different than using the word "niggardly" in a non-racial setting. One is a disgustingly racist epithet used by the decidedly less-ejumacated. The other is a questionable-sounding adjective used by decent, well-meaning folk. I think the parents are right to sue, if the events happened as is alleged. The primary issue here is racial insensitivity and violation of civil rights, but the bigger, more underlying question is: what the hell is this ignorant buffoon doing teaching?? /rant ]

Well, back in the 'unenlightened' days, we studied the races that way. Now, we have to have the government and lots of people educated beyond their intelligence to tell us we can no longer use those words, they hurt someone feelings. Horsefeathers!! It is just a way to attempt to control not only the speech of Americans but their very thoughts. Anyone who buys into the racist, bigot screed is just aiding and abetting the people who would like to keep us divided.

Had the teacher done anything in the past to that child? I doubt it. But you know in this society - words matter more than anything else. It doesn't matter what a person feels or how he acts, if only he says the right things.

Just get over it!! If that is the worse that child has to live with in his lifetime, he will be lucky indeed.

44 posted on 11/18/2002 12:36:36 PM PST by nanny
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To: Lurker
Lurker....

The French and southern rednecks are open season, fair game for all. No one cares. Here I am , a French southern redneck. Wahhhhhhhh

45 posted on 11/18/2002 12:42:02 PM PST by cynicom
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Comment #46 Removed by Moderator

To: cynicom
Us Irish been gettin bashed since our ancestors arrived in this country. It dont bother me, the Pat & Mike jokes are halarious. (My Dad even used an Irish acent to tell them to us kids).
47 posted on 11/18/2002 12:46:54 PM PST by Kev-Head
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To: marshmallow
bump
48 posted on 11/18/2002 12:48:45 PM PST by billbears
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To: marshmallow
I am proud of my race--whatever it is. I am an ethnic mixture. Why is anyone ashamed of who he/she is? I don't understand.
49 posted on 11/18/2002 12:53:29 PM PST by Pushi
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To: SaveTheChief
What am I?

Paternal ethnicity is Italian / Jewish. Maternal ethnicity is German / English.

I agree, I consider myself to be just an American.

50 posted on 11/18/2002 1:03:08 PM PST by PleaseNoMore
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