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    Kitty renamed to duck debate

    By ABBIE VANSICKLE
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 17, 2002

    TARPON SPRINGS -- The tiny kitten rescued from a pool of asphalt early this week got a name change Wednesday after Humane Society workers worried their original choice may spark controversy.

    After choosing the name Tar Baby on Tuesday, workers began to question whether the name, considered by some as a racial slur, was a good choice.

    Although the workers meant the name to be a reference to the puddle of liquid asphalt where the kitten was found, some were concerned the name would be taken the wrong way, said Rick Chaboudy, executive director for the Humane Society of North Pinellas.

    "Tar Baby was the first name that popped into our minds," Chaboudy said. "But now we've rethought it."

    The new name, he said, will be Licorice because of the kitten's black fur.

    Local historian and Pinellas County Schools curriculum specialist Randy Lightfoot said the name change was probably a wise move.

    Tar Baby, he said, gained a negative connotation during the period of American slavery. The nickname was given to African children living on slave plantations. It was a degrading term that implied a lack of intelligence and uncivilized behavior, he said.

    "Tar Baby was used to signify blackness," he said. "In those times, all of the black things were considered bad."

    Lightfoot said the term has lost many of its negative connotations for today's young people, but it is offensive to many older people who know the history of the expression.

    "For those who know what it means, Tar Baby is very offensive," he said.

    -- Abbie VanSickle can be reached at (727) 445-4224 or at vansickle@sptimes.com .

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