Watching ourselves for negative racist or sexist language

Morris Dees, Esq. Civil Rights Attorney, shares advice on how parents can watch themselves from using negative, racist, or sexist language in front of their kids
How Parents Can Avoid Using Negative, Racist, Or Sexist Language
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Watching ourselves for negative racist or sexist language

Parents aren't the only people in a child's life. Contemporaries, teachers influence them and can be role models. But parents are probably the most important role model. And people come with baggage. They come with their own prejudices. Probably 10-15% of the words in our dictionary are words that were devised to talk about describe something like a weakling or gosh, I got a bad deal on that car. I think they gypped me. Gypped me - that comes from gypsies, people who think they're crooks. You can say well, gosh, this is going to be a Dutch treat. Well that's because people think Dutch people are cheap, so a Dutch treat means you bring your own stuff. Some of these words have actually lost their meaning today. My people came from Ireland and they said that we drink a lot. And we were rowdy. I didn't really realize that the Paddy Wagon that comes and picks up people, I thought it had padding on the side to keep people from getting hurt. But no, the Paddy Wagon is because St. Patrick, the drunk fighting Irish are put in these Paddy Wagons. So we have to really think about what we say. There are the obvious n- words. And sometimes parents use the word, don't be so gay. And these n- words and g- words, we are probably more sensitive to those words. But there are so many other words that people say, gosh, that's a man's job. Or, girls today, it's amazing they're saying this and they don't understand the definition of it. They say, okay you bitches, let's go get something to it. Now these are girls talking to each other. It's like African Americans will use the n- word among themselves, and it probably shouldn't be done. I'm not supposed to use it with them, but they use it. Well, it probably shouldn't be used by anybody because of it's really, really negative meaning.

Morris Dees, Esq. Civil Rights Attorney, shares advice on how parents can watch themselves from using negative, racist, or sexist language in front of their kids


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Morris Dees, Esq.

Civil Rights Attorney

Morris Dees was born in 1936 in Shorter, Alabama, the son of cotton farmers. As a young boy he worked the fields with blacks, witnessing first-hand social and economic depravation and Jim Crow treatment at its worst. While at the University of Alabama Law School, he met Millard Fuller. The two formed a highly successful publishing company during their time in law school. After graduation, they moved the business to Montgomery, Alabama.  Fuller left the company in 1965 and later founded Habitat for Humanity. Mr. Dees continued the business and also began taking controversial civil rights cases. Mr. Dees sold his publishing company to a major national firm in 1970 and formed the Southern Poverty Law Center, along with Julian Bond and Joseph Levin. Early Center cases included integrating the Alabama State Troopers and desegregating the Montgomery YMCA. The Center, funded by donations from over 300,000 citizens across the nation, quickly grew into one of America’s most successful and innovative public interest law firms. In 1980, the Center founded the Intelligence Project in response to resurgence in organized racist activity. The project monitors hate groups and develops legal strategies for protecting citizens from violence-prone groups. A made-for-television movie about Mr. Dees aired on NBC; “Line of Fire” describes his successful fight against the Ku Klux Klan. It included the $7 million precedent-setting judgment against the United Klans of America on behalf of the mother of Michael Donald, a young black man lynched by the Klan in Mobile, Alabama. Wayne Rogers portrayed him in the feature film, “Ghosts of Mississippi,” about the murder of civil rights worker Medgar Evers. Other victories against hate groups include a $6 million judgment that bankrupted the Aryan Nations, a $12.5 million jury verdict against the California-based White Aryan Resistance for the death of a black student and a $26 million verdict against the Carolina Klan for burning black churches. Klansmen burned the Center offices in 1983. The arsonists were convicted but not before their leader plotted to kill Mr. Dees. More than thirty men have since been imprisoned for plots to harm him or destroy Center property.  This threat requires a high degree of security during public appearances. To promote acceptance and tolerance, the Center founded Teaching Tolerance in 1990. Over 80,000 schools use the project’s free videos and teaching materials and over 400,000 teachers receive the award winning Teaching Tolerance magazine. The Center has won two Oscars for its tolerance education films and received five Oscar nominations. Mr. Dees believes that it is important to teach tolerance in the classroom as well as fight hate in the courtroom. Mr. Dees has received numerous awards in conjunction with his work.  The U.S. Jaycees chose him as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of America for his early business success.  Trial Lawyers for Public Justice named him Trial Lawyer of the Year in 1987. In 2009, he was inducted into the Trial Lawyers’ Hall of Fame by the American Trial Lawyers’ Association. The American Bar Association honored him this year (2012) with the ABA Medal. Mr. Dees is the author of three books, A Lawyer's Journey, his autobiography; Hate on Trial; and Gathering Storm: America’s Militia Threat. He remains actively engaged in litigation. He and his wife live in Montgomery, Alabama. 

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