The “mainstream” dictionaries reference the phrase as a person or thing that is neglected, unwanted or mistreated.
Urban, or slang, dictionaries give the words an even more ominous connotation given that red hair is rare so that a child born to parents without red hair was often assumed to be the result of an affair. The meaning of the phrase can be derogatory in nature.
It’s doubtful that school board trustee Sam Fant intended to disparage any of the 23,500 Manteca Unified students that happen to have red hair and also be stepchildren.
He used the term at this month’s board meeting in making his case for a Weston Ranch High stadium turf overhaul. Fant’s intent was to paint a picture of Weston Ranch residents being treated with less deference or differently than residents elsewhere in the school district.
Before we consider his inference, let’s dwell on the “red-headed stepchild” for a moment but not as long as Fant did on the Dukes of Hazard TV show in reference to a school district employee’s posting on her private Facebook page of her grandson’s Dukes of Hazard themed birthday party.
To most people, “red-headed stepchild” wouldn’t be considered hate speech or the words that would render the person uttering them a bigot. However if you happen to have red hair and are a stepchild you might just view those three words strung together as hateful, bigoted, or — at the very least — hurtful.
At the same time most people watching the “Dukes of Hazard” wouldn’t consider it a racist show simply because the main attraction is named after a Confederate general and had the Confederate flag painted on the roof. That said those that equate any use of symbols or names from the Confederacy with overt racism aren’t going to take too kindly to the show.
The meaning of words and symbols change as time marches on.
The swastika for centuries had been considered a sacred and auspicious symbol in Buddhism and Hinduism. Thanks to Adolf Hitler it represents pure evil today not to mention overt racism thanks to the while supremacy groups that embrace the symbol.
Words are always being co-opted. It wasn’t too many generations ago when the singing of the line, “. . . And we’ll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home” meant something entirely different than when viewed through today’s lexicon lens.
If you co-opt words and such because you view them as a personal affront or you want to drive home a point or position, then you’d better be super sensitive to all questionable words, phrases, and symbols which in today’s hypersensitive world means just about everything that’s out there.
Politically correct speech is such an overused term, but if you carry the PC torch then it shouldn’t be situational. It should be across the board and you need to refrain from use of questionable worlds and such no matter how insignificant you might view the class being offended such as stepchildren who happen to have red hair.
As for Weston Ranch being systematically dealt a raw deal by Manteca Unified, give it a rest.
Weston Ranch — unlike East Union High — had a football stadium from day one. The East Union community of Manteca had to wait for more than 20 years for their home field. Weston Ranch has never had to share sports facilities with another Manteca Unified school campus as East Union did with Manteca High.
John Holbrook, the trustee at the time that successfully championed East Union finally getting their own football stadium, didn’t cause a big ruckus. He simply pressed consistently and firmly to get the district to deliver on a promise they had made two decades prior.
The South Stockton neighborhood is not Manteca or Lathrop — or vice versa— nor is Manteca Lathrop or Lathrop Manteca. Each community has its own dynamics.
That said the district strives to maintain parity between schools while at the same time embracing the dynamics of the communities they serve that includes French Camp and rural Manteca.
The district has made missteps over the years in all the communities it serves. But at the end of the day Manteca Unified doesn’t shortchange anyone in terms of education because they live in different ZIP codes.
Besides, there is a reason “unified” is part of the school district’s name.
The Measure M bond — passed more than 10 years ago with strong support from Manteca voters — saw the lion’s share of the money generated go to Lathrop to help build Lathrop High. It even included funds to help build the Weston Ranch High School Joint Use Library despite the wording of the bond language meant anyone in a Mello-Roos district — of which all of Weston Ranch is — would not see a net increase in their property taxes.
The Measure M school bond gave everyone in Weston Ranch as well as the district’s two other Mello-Roos districts a credit toward their Mello-Roos tax bill to offset what additional charges the bond would add.
In other words, Measure M didn’t increase the tax bills of Weston Ranch residents one cent yet they got money for a library out of it.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.