Saturday, October 23, 2004


Note for American readers: Western Australia is about the same size as Alaska, California and Texas put together

"When does the word "wog" become a term of endearment? When the West Australian Government decrees it so. Terms such as "pom", "wog" and "ding" will be acceptable in the state after amendments to proposed racial vilification laws passed through the lower house of parliament late on Tuesday. The amendments allow the terms to be used without fear of prosecution, while strengthening punishments for race-related crimes.

Attorney-General Jim McGinty said the Government had no intention of making it a criminal offence to make "light-hearted" references to another person's race. "My best friend is a 'ding' and he has no objection to me calling him that – it's a colloquialism, a term of affection," Mr McGinty said. "Ding" is a West Australian term used to describe people of Italian origin.

Mr McGinty would not be drawn on whether terms such as "nigger", "coon" or "slope" would be deemed offensive under the amendments, saying it would depend on the context in which the words were used.

The Macquarie Dictionary lists "wog" and "ding" as derogatory and "pom" as a colloquialism. However, the dictionary's publisher, Sue Butler, said next year's edition would list "pom" as "sometimes derogatory".... "Over the last 10 years there's been an increased sensitivity to any kind of stereotyping or labelling, which means that many descriptive labels and slang are now equally capable of being used affectionately or angrily," Ms Butler said.

While the federal Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission is responsible for complaints under the commonwealth's Racial Discrimination Act, the states – with the exception of Western Australia – each have their own racial vilification laws. A spokesman for NSW Attorney-General Bob Debus said the use of "low-level" racial insults such as "wog" could lead to civil action but were not a criminal offence. In Victoria, the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act also provides a civil avenue for people who feel they have been vilified.

British People Against Racial Discrimination lobby group founder David Thomason said he had been trying to get the word "pom" outlawed for years. "It's not so much the word itself on its own, it's what comes before or after it – usually 'pommy bastard' or 'whingeing pom'," he said.



The reasoning is a sham. They just hate other people enjoying themselves

A Washington state school district is canceling its annual Halloween celebration, and the explanation has some parents baffled. "Let them have their 30 minutes of dressing goofy and having candy," Silas Macon, a father of two school-age girls, said Wednesday outside Maplewood Elementary School after learning that the grade-school tradition of a party and parade in costume during the last half-hour of class before Halloween night won't happen this year in the district.

A letter sent home to parents Wednesday said there will be no observance of Halloween in any of the district's schools. "We really want to make sure we're using all of our time in the best interest of our students," Puyallup School District spokeswoman Karen Hansen said. The superintendent made the decision for three primary reasons, Hansen said. First, Halloween parties and parades waste valuable classroom time. Second, some families can't afford costumes and the celebrations thus can create embarrassment for children.

Both of those reasons seemed sensible to the parents who spoke to ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle. But the district's third reason left some Puyallup parents shaking their heads. The district said Halloween celebrations and children dressed in Halloween costumes might be offensive to real witches. "Witches with pointy noses and things like that are not respective symbols of the Wiccan religion and so we want to be respectful of that," Hansen said. The Wiccan, or Pagan, religion is said to be growing in the United States and there are Wiccan groups in Puyallup. On the district's list of guidelines related to holidays and celebrations is an item that reads: "Use of derogatory stereotypes is prohibited, such as the traditional image of a witch, which is offensive to members of the Wiccan religion."

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