Posted on May 1, 1993

O Tempora, O Mores! (May, 1993)

American Renaissance, May 1993

The Language of Learning

One out of every eight students in New York City public schools either gets bilingual instruction or is taught English as a foreign language. Ever since 1974, when orders went out to teach all subjects — including math and physics — in foreign students’ native tongues, New York has been desperate for “bilingual” teachers. Since these teachers are hired under special order, they need not meet the same qualifications as other teachers, and are hired under a program that is not subject to ordinary budgetary constraints.

Among the different ethnic groups there are sharply different levels of enthusiasm for instruction in languages other than English. Hispanic and Haitian parents, for example, show little interest in integrating into American society and are pleased that their children are taught in Spanish or Haitian Creole. Those most adamantly opposed to “bilingual” education are Russians and Chinese, who insist on instruction in English. At Public School 247 in the Bronx, Chinese and Russian parents were so unalterably opposed to “bilingual” education for their children that the school’s principal finally disbanded classes that school regulations had required that he establish. [Joseph Berger, School Programs Assailed as Bilingual Bureaucracy, NYT, 1/4/93, p. A1.]

One group of New York City school children fall into a sort of language limbo. They are from the “English-speaking Caribbean,” which includes such places as Jamaica, St. Vincent, and Grenada. These children think they speak English but they do not. There is no “bilingual” education for them, and most do not take English as a foreign language. They go to ordinary classes, where they stumble around with constructions like “I tell she,” or “Him say this.” The Caribbean is a little unclear on plurals, and children are likely to talk about “two house” or “de house-dem.”

Many Caribbean phrases are well-nigh unintelligible. Here are some sample sentences in Jamaican creole with English translations:

Jien mada ben sik wan mont abak.
Jane’s mother fell ill last month.

Di daangki hiez kech de haas anda him nuoz.
The ears of the donkey are larger than those of the horse.Hag a mash up me yam grong.
Pigs are destroying my yam field.

Mi lib rait a di kraas ruod.
I live at the cross roads.

The school district is likely to solve this problem in its usual way. It is considering establishing a program to be called “American Language for Speakers of Other Englishes.” [Deborah Sontag, Caribbean Pupils’ English Seems Barrier, not Bridge, NYT, 11/28/92, p. A1.]

De Gustibus . . .

When West African slaves came to America they brought with them their habit of eating dirt. In the southern United States, dirt eating is still surprisingly common. A survey taken in 1971 in Holmes County (MS) found that one in four adult women sometimes ate dirt, and the practice is known throughout the South. For unknown reasons, in the United States it is only black women who seem to eat dirt, though in West Africa both men and women buy the dirt pellets on sale in markets.

In Mississippi, dirt for eating must be a particular kind — what is technically known as red — yellow podsolic soil. It is a crunchy, clay soil found in many parts of the South. Gourmet soil is found about two miles south of Lexington (MS) on Highway 17. A hill side has been scooped out by dirt-eaters, some of whom send shoe boxfuls to relatives who cannot find the right soil “up North.”

In Georgia, the fashion seems to be for a kind of white clay known as kaolin. Attractive packages of it are on sale in Atlanta grocery stores. One supplier to the trade is Georgia Down Home White Dirt Inc. of Griffin (GA). An Atlanta man who sells kaolin for 25 cents a bag reports that most of his customers are pregnant women. [David Beasley, Trying to stop a dirty habit, Atlanta Journal, Jan. 9, 1993, p. B2.]

At one time it was thought that African women felt a craving for dirt during pregnancy, when their bodies require certain minerals. Studies have since shown that women who eat dirt show no differences in nutritional balance from those who do not. Also, dirt-eaters often crave dirt when they are not pregnant. Dr. Dennis Frate is the director of the University of Mississippi’s Rural Health Research Program and is an authority on dirt-eating. “It’s analogous to eating potato chips,” says Dr. Frate; “A snack food is what it is.” [AP, “Dirt-Eating Custom Fading Out in the South,” Grand Rapids Press, Nov. 24, 1993, p. D1.]

All the News That’s Fit to Slant

The March issue of Esquire has published a long article about the New York Times that includes some things we already knew. “The Times is basically guided by the principles of political correctness,” says a senior reporter; “It’s terrified to offend any of the ‘victimized’ groups.”

Executive Editor Max Frankel has encouraged writers to work “a subtle point of view” into what are supposed to be news stories. Or, as another reporter says, “You’d be given an assignment to do a piece on a conservative personality and [the desk] would tell you, up front, ‘Don’t make it too nice.’” The only surprise is that anyone at the Times ever had to be explicit about it.

The article also describes how the “principles of political correctness” have not saved the newspaper from the agonies that come from trying to “celebrate diversity.” The harder the paper tries to recruit non-whites and the more it does for them the more dissatisfied they get. [Robert Anson, The best of Times, the Worst of times, Esquire, March 1993, pp. 103ff.]

Voting with Their Wallets

Congressional districts, which have been redrawn in accordance with the 1990 census, must now be reshaped to create as many districts as possible in which non-whites are the majority. As a consequence there are now 32 districts with black majorities and 20 with Hispanic majorities. This is 26 more non-white majority districts than ten years ago. One side effect of the racial gerrymander has been to create the poorest congressional districts in the country. In more than half of the districts in which blacks or Hispanics are the majority more than 25 percent of the inhabitants are poor. The poorest district of all is New York’s 16th district where, by federal standards, 42 percent of the inhabitants live below the poverty line. [Poverty upshot of some redistricting, Clarion-Ledger, march 24, 1993, p. 4A.]

White Fright

In many city school districts, whites are a slim and dwindling minority. In Richmond (VA) only ten percent of the students are white, and one of the concessions that some principals had quietly made to them was to keep them together in the same classes rather than scatter them throughout the school. This process, known as “clustering,” has only recently come to light and has been trumpeted as a despicable vestige of segregation. The NAACP and other black groups have ordered the school board to stop this racist practice, and the board has complied.

There seems to be no objection when public schools across the country institute Afro-centric curricula or even when entire schools are set up to teach black pride, as has been done in Detroit. Nevertheless, the idea that white children might be better off in classes with other whites unleashes roars of disapproval. One black principal of an elementary school explained that she “clustered” whites because she thought it “met the social and emotional needs of the white children.” [Erich Harrison, Richmond Will Stop ‘Clustering’ White Students,” Los Angeles Times, Feb. 25, 1993, p. A1.] She should have known better than to worry about the needs of white children.

To the Last Man

Ever since 1905, when they saved it from the wrecker’s ball, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas have maintained the Alamo and run it as a museum. This is a boon to the state of Texas, which is so short on money that it has proposed closing down 11 parks and historic sites that it cannot afford to operate.

Ron Wilson, a black state legislator from Houston has proposed a bill that would take the Alamo away from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and give it to the state to operate. Why would anyone want to do this? “They [the Daughters] have chosen not to highlight a number of Hispanics who helped defend the Alamo,” explains Representative Wilson. “They also have not given the correct historical perspective of the Mexican government,” he adds; “They were opposed to slavery while the Texans endorsed it.” [Alamo II, Houston Chronicle, march 3, 1993; “That’s Foolish, Ron,” Houston Post, 3/3/93.]

Obstreperous Whites

The union that represents the employees of New York City’s Human Resources Administration has filed a suit against the city claiming that whites have suffered discrimination in promotions. Civil service rules clearly state that the most qualified people must be promoted, but blacks and Hispanics have been moved up over the heads of dozens of more qualified whites. Though she now denies it, the agency’s Commissioner, a black woman named Barbara Sabol, once complained that the people on the list of employees most qualified for promotion were “too white and too male.” Her underlings reportedly corrected the problem. [James Bennet, “Union Plans Bias Lawsuit Over Agency Promotions,” NYT, 3/15/93, p. B3.]

Detroit Diary

Detroit, which is 74 percent black, is now the poorest big city in the United States. One third of its residents live below the federal poverty line, whereas as one fifth did in 1979. The next poorest cities are New Orleans (62 percent black and 32 percent poor), Cleveland (48 percent black and 29 percent poor), and El Paso (3 percent black, 69 percent Hispanic, and 25 percent poor). [James Tobin, Detroit poorest big city in US, Detroit News, Feb. 9, 1993, p. 1A.]

Despite its poverty, Detroit finds it must spend its dwindling dollars in unfortunate ways. Students in Detroit schools are killing and maiming each other so frequently that the city has started phasing in a program on violence prevention. This includes “peer mentors, crisis counselling and student teams to mediate disputes.” The program will eventually be extended to all of Detroit’s schools from kindergarten on up, and will cost at least $1 million a year. [Ron Russell, “Schools Draft Plan to fight violence,” Detroit News, Feb. 11, 1993, p. B1.]

The city certainly needs something. After 18-year-old Karlos Rhodes shot and killed 16-year-old Darnell Byrd and stole his leather jacket, the killer blamed the victim for the trouble. “He didn’t do what he was supposed to do,” explained Mr. Rhodes, saying that Mr. Byrd had turned to run rather than give up the coat. [Ann Sweeney, “Victim’s to blame for his death alleged gunman says,” Detroit News, Feb. 11, 1993.]

Hey, Big Spender

A few Californians are beginning to discover that illegal aliens are an expensive habit. Governor Pete Wilson has once more braved public obloquy by pointing out that 11 percent of the state’s prison inmates are illegals (at a cost of $250 million a year to house them), that 300,000 illegals get state health care benefits ($900 million a year), and that in Los Angeles County alone, 250,000 children of illegals go to public schools ($1.2 billion a year). The state as a whole spends $3.6 billion a year on students who are either illegals or who are U.S.-born children of illegals. If Gov. Wilson thinks the border should be better patrolled he is soft-pedaling the idea. He thinks the federal government should reimburse the state for the money it spends on illegals. [31.3 million call California home, Santa Barbara New Press, Feb. 16, 1993.] He has, however, announced that if the state legislature would pass a law forbidding public education for illegals he would sign it. [No state school funds for illegals? Orange County Register, Feb. 6, 1993, p. A3.]

San Diego County has recently been counting up how much money it splashes out on illegals. Over the past 11 years it has spent about two thirds of its budget for indigent health care on illegal aliens and citizens of foreign countries. Over the years, that has added up to $43.3 million. In the first six months of 1992, 36 percent of the poor people who got free medical care were illegal aliens, and 24 percent were citizens of foreign countries. County officials are also asking the feds to help pay. [Rex Dalton, “Most health funds go to migrants,” San Diego Union Tribune, Feb. 6, 1993.]

All this is helpful. When Congressmen from Idaho and West Virginia are presented with the bill for services for illegals, they may begin to wonder how those illegals might be prevented from coming here in the first place.

Can’t Win Either Way

At a recent conference on AIDS in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela said that apartheid helped spread the disease among South African blacks. Forgetting, apparently, that South African blacks have the highest standard of living of all blacks in Africa, he said that whites were responsible for unemployment, disintegrating family life, insufficient health services, and the lack of recreation facilities. He also said that the white government’s campaign to get people to wear condoms as a precaution against AIDS was “viewed with suspicion as a ploy to control the population.” [“Mandela on AIDS and Apartheid,” Populi, Nov. 1992.]

Portrait of the Artist

Maya Angelou, the black woman who recited a poem at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, is perhaps not the ideal role model. In 1982, she was appointed “Professor for Life” at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and she receives a salary of more than $100,000 a year. However, she does not teach. Although her photograph graces many university publications, no one knows when she is likely to offer a course. She has no office, and her telephone number is connected to an answering machine. No one returns calls. She has given a few courses in the past, and says that she likes to teach “whatever comes to mind.” Although she is supposed to teach “American Studies,” Wake Forest has no department or courses of that name.

Miss Angelou describes herself as a former madam, prostitute, burlesque stripper, and advisor to Malcolm X. She likes to talk about how she traveled to Ghana to “teach African dance and music” to the Africans. During Mr. Clinton’s inauguration, Wake Forest’s president had a big-screen television set up in the student center so that all could see her participation in the ceremony. One student observed that this was one of the few times Miss Angelou had even been seen at Wake Forest. [John Meroney, “Angelou a symbol of Clinton’s apathy,” Detroit News, Feb. 20, 1993, p. 6C.]

Rappin’ with the Home Boys

The word “nigger” divides blacks. Older, middle-class blacks hate the sound of the word, but younger, ghetto blacks use it not only for blacks in general, but also as a term of endearment, humor, or solidarity. Ghetto blacks see the word as a sign of their complete alienation from white society, and calling each other “nigger” gives them a sense of camaraderie. According to some blacks, the word should be “nigga” rather than “nigger.” Some even claim that this stands for Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished.

All blacks agree, however, that no matter how much blacks may use the word it is off limits to whites. A Los Angeles rap “singer” who is tired of being asked about the word says this:

People need to stop f***ing with little words . . . Bottom line: If I’m making a million dollars, I’m a million-dollar nigger to black people. To everybody else, I’m a black man. Now, let’s move on.

[Darrell Dawsey, “A Word of Caution,” Detroit News, Jan. 22, 1993, p. 1C.]


After 67 years of being called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the SAT has changed its name to Scholastic Assessment Test. Too many people complained that the old name sounded as though the test measured something inherent, and this the test’s administrators could not bear. [SAT gets new name, Atlanta Constitution, march 27, 1993, p. A12.]

Gringo Dollars

There are at least 50 Hispanic-Americans with net worths of more than $20 million. Four are worth more than $100 million. At the top of the heap is Joseph A. Unanue who, together with his family, is worth $330 million. He made his money from Goya Foods of Seacaucus (NJ), which supplies the Hispanic market. [Hispanic Business, March 1993, p. 40.]

Gifts for All

Schools in Jacksonville (FL), like schools everywhere, do not have enough blacks in classes for gifted children. The problem, it appears, is that in order to be admitted to such classes, a child must have an IQ of 130 or higher, which would put him in the top three percent. A state task force has been set up to figure out how to get more blacks into gifted programs and has hit on the obvious solution: dispense with the IQ test. If the task force has its way, black who score in the top 20 percent on tests of math and reading will be considered “gifted” and will join whites in special classes. [Joan Hennessy, “School Board’s Plan makes more minorities gifted,” Florida Times-Union, Feb. 16, 1993, p. A1.]