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Miss Manners: When gifts, not guests, are welcome

Dear Miss Manners: 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?

Gentle Reader: Like what? “Your presents, but not your presence, are kindly requested”?

Principal shows racial bias

Dear Miss Manners: My children attend a public high school where they are two of eight students who are not African-American. This was pretty much the case in middle school, too, but wasn’t a problem.

Now, however, the atmosphere seems 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,” “honkie” 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 said my children and I “owe a debt to the black community” because our race oppressed theirs and that we ought to accept any and all recriminations. When I said that this sounded like discrimination, he got 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?

Gentle Reader: Do not let them tolerate it. Racial discrimination does, in fact, work that way.

That this principal is condoning and even encouraging this behavior is appalling. 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.