Student suspended for classifying himself as White-African American

Sara - posted on 03/08/2010 ( 14 moms have responded )

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MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (AP) -- A former student claims in a lawsuit that the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey discriminated against him for the way he described his background in classroom discussions on cultural diversity.

Paulo Serodio said that, he told a professor and classmates that he was "white, African, American,'' which he says accurately reflects the fact that he was born in Mozambique but later became a U.S. citizen.

He said some classmates and staff members at New Jersey Medical School found it offensive that a Caucasian man would call himself "African-American'' and that the fallout led to harassment and eventually his suspension from the school.

Serodio, who lives in Newark, said some school employees and students told him not to describe himself as ``African-American.'' In the aftermath of his comments, Serodio said, flyers were hung around the school mocking him, he was assaulted and his car was vandalized.

His lawyer, Gregg Zeff, said Serodio eventually was suspended for ``conduct unbecoming'' a student.

The suspension came directly from his remarks in class, Zeff said.

Serodio filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Newark on Monday. He is seeking damages from the university and several faculty members and administrators.

University spokesman Jeffrey Tolvin said he could not comment because the university had not seen the lawsuit.

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Kathy - posted on 03/09/2010

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i understand that unfortunately there are still somewhat valid reasons for having to note what "race" someone is when filling out paperwork. but, won't it be a grand day when that box is not needed anymore? or even the need to reference someone's "race" when describing someone? that time won't come in my lifetime, but i can dream.

yeah, i know...that type of utopia will probably never exist...i am being too naive to real life, but there are so many other things in this world to "fix" - why do we have to keep having the same old arguments...oh yeah, because we haven't "fixed" the old arguments yet. very discouraging...

BTW, even though we may not have ALL the facts from this one story, if the pertinent basics are included, i hope Paulo gets a good payday. stupid school, inconsiderate classmates!

Esther - posted on 03/09/2010

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If that is all there is to the story, then absolutely he should win his law suit. That is ridiculous. He's completely accurate. As others have pointed out there are many different races in Africa. In South Africa for example there is a HUGE Indian population in the Durban area (I would say they are the majority but that is not backed up by research, just by what I saw).

La - posted on 03/09/2010

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My best friend growing up is from Kenya but she is not black. Her family looks more like they are Indian or dark middle eastern. In Kenya they were referred to as "asians" by the black Kenyans. She is 100% african-american but she is not black...but she is not asian or white either. She says she usually checks the "other" box for race when asked.

Amanda - posted on 03/08/2010

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Gasp a TRUE African American calling himself that, what the heck is wrong with people today?? It is actually one of my pet peeves, that people think the only people that are African American, are black people who have lived in Usa/Canada for generations now. I have a female friend who is also a White African North American, I love it when she tells people shes African, the looks she gets are great.

[deleted account]

The student is identifying himself 100% accurate and I doubt the university has much of a lawsuit. I had a former student born and lived in South Africa for 10 years. White skinned mom & dad, but mom was from America. So technically yes, she is a white African-American.

Jess - posted on 03/08/2010

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I think he is going to win that case !



In Australia, we don't have the same racial issue's as american's. But we have issues. We the problems from the past were Aboriginal Australian's were treated very badly by the British settlers. And our government is still paying very dearly for that. I know somone who is like 1 26th aboriginal.......... so a teeny tiny bit and they qualify for full aborignal benefits from the govenrment. This friend, is seriously no more aboriginal than I am, ( i mean that figurativly) but they still qualify......... seems like you have to prove your "africian-american" over there and its certainly not benefiting this guy !

Rosie - posted on 03/08/2010

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have we become so PC that when somebody actually IS african-american they get kicked out of a school because they don't have black skin? effing ridiculous i say, effing ridiculous!!

Tah - posted on 03/08/2010

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they may as write him a check..and it just goes to show how deep the ignorance and racism goes that they would go to these lengths. I mean what about that angers you so..he seems to be very correct in the way he identified himself...

Krista - posted on 03/08/2010

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They really do need to start using a term besides "African-American", as many people in that category are not from Africa, nor are their parents, nor even their grandparents. Plus, like in this guy's case, there are a lot of people who were born in Africa who are white. Are they not allowed to say that they're African?

[deleted account]

I find the whole "African American" description to be not entirely true for many people. When I taught in a mostly "African American' school, we did a family tree project. Probably 80% of my students had a race other than "African" in their genealogy. They were all black (but that is not PC, so we say AA) but most had Caucasian, American Indian or Asian in their ancestry. So describing them as "African American" would not be correct. THIS man, could correctly identify himself as "African American" as that is where he comes from.

Amie - posted on 03/08/2010

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Right because being African automatically makes a person black? I'm assuming that's what they mean by telling him to not call himself African American? What about all the white people born and living in Africa? What should they call themselves should they ever come to America then? /:)

Iris - posted on 03/08/2010

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He should win this lawsuit. He is describing his cultural background and this is what it is. Africa is a continent and has variety of races just like other continents. He is born in Africa and is now an American citizen. He has every right to call himself African-American, and if he wants to throw his color into the mix then logically he is White, African-American.

[deleted account]

Who cares what someone considers themselves!? We obviously don't know all the facts here but I find it quite alarming that he was suspended? If what Paulo and his lawyer are saying is true then I would definitely file a lawsuit but I have a hard time believing that they suspended him just because he considers himself a white African American!? I wish we had all the facts?!!

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