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Kids' takes

They give thoughtful spins on PETA's tactics, rapper Eminem and a boy wearing a baseball cap a certain way in the mall.

By Compiled by ALINE MENDELSOHN and PAMELA DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 31, 2000


Vocal animal rights campaigns, controversy over dress codes and violent rap lyrics all have been in the news this summer. To see what real kids were thinking about these subjects, we gave some of our X-Team members a chance to express themselves in a round table discussion.

Participants were Derek Connolly, 12, St. Petersburg; Chris Davis, 15, New Port Richey; Eric Tridas, 13, St. Petersburg; Rye Mason, 13, Citrus Springs; Jessica Richardson, 13, St. Petersburg; and Andy Wright, 11, Largo.

Here's what they had to say:

'Unhappy Meal'

A Ronald McDonald doll holding a butcher's knife, his yellow jumper splattered with blood. A plastic chicken, bleeding from the neck. A photograph of a cow ready for slaughter, underneath the words "Want fries with that?"

Appetizing, no. But that's the point. All of those items are included in "Unhappy Meals," created by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as part of its campaign against McDonald's. PETA, which accuses the restaurant chain of treating animals inhumanely, has begun distributing the Unhappy Meal boxes outside of McDonald's restaurants around the country and, in the fall, also plans to hand them out near elementary and middle schools, including some in St. Petersburg and Miami.

* * *

What is your reaction to the Unhappy Meal? Would this stop you from eating at McDonald's? Jessica: I think McDonald's is gross in the first place and I don't like eating there. I like places like Chick-fil-A and Wendy's. The meat McDonald's uses doesn't look real, it doesn't look right. I care about animals and everything, but the whole reason they raise cows is to kill them.

Rye: I'm a vegetarian, but I think it's kind of gross the way they put (Unhappy Meals) all together, and if they gave it to really little kids, what would they think? I think they should have stuff to read about it rather than showing it. Sometimes what you read can really paint the picture.

Andy: Little kids might have nightmares about Ronald McDonald doing crazy things to the animals.

Chris: I don't even know if (the information in the Unhappy Meal) is true or not. If somebody gave one to me I'd give it right back.

Eric: I like McDonald's. If someone gave it to me it wouldn't stop me from eating there.

Dress code confrontation

Recently a teenager and his hat were the source of controversy in St. Petersburg.

Fifteen-year-old Ephraim Sykes was shopping with friends at Tyrone Square Mall when a security guard told him to straighten his baseball cap, which he was wearing sideways, a style violating the mall's dress code. Sykes says he straightened the cap, but the security guard later found him with the cap slightly angled and threw him out of the mall.

Ephraim and his family, who are black, say the act was racially motivated.

And although mall officials say the incident had nothing to do with what was written on the cap, others in the community had a problem with the word embroidered on the hat. It was "pimp," a term for a person who controls prostitutes.

What are your thoughts on this situation?

Rye: I think that he shouldn't have worn the hat to the mall because he knew of the dress codes and everything. My parents wouldn't let me (wear that kind of hat).

Derek: My parents probably wouldn't approve of that hat, but if they did I would wear it.

What about the word 'pimp'? In today's culture, does it have another meaning?

Jessica: Sometimes you'll say, "I'm pimping" and it'll mean, "Oh I'm really cool." I think a lot of people dismiss it as just another word.

Derek: And there's that Jay-Z song (Big Pimpin).

Jessica: Kid Rock says he's the "pimp of the nation." But I think he means it in the (literal) way.

Do you think the incident was racially motivated?

Eric: I was at the mall Saturday. I bought a hat and I was wearing it sideways and nobody said anything. I've never seen those rules. I think it might have been racially motivated.

Chris: If someone had walked in with a green Mohawk they might have done the same thing.

Jessica: I know they've had problems at that mall with gangs, so if they feel that it's necessary to keep those rules then I think that people should abide by them. If you're wearing a hat like that to show individuality, that's great, because everybody needs to have that. But if they ask you to put your hat back the right way because it might cause something, then I think you should.

Does he have a message?

Teenagers go crazy over this bad boy. But rapper Eminem makes a lot of adults nervous. Critics argue that his songs promote homophobia, sexism and violence. Bonnie & Clyde describes killing his wife. Kill You is about his mother.

Should kids -- or anyone, for that matter -- support this guy?

Eric: Eminem is a sociopath. I don't like him. But I think his lyrics are pretty funny.

Derek: I like Eminem, and I have his new CD. You try not to get caught into his lyrics. At the end of each song, he says, "Oh I'm just kidding." I don't know if that's what he's thinking. I just like rap in general.

Jessica: My brother owns the CD. He is 12, and he plays it non-stop. I have a problem with a lot of the lyrics. I think Eminem has problems he's trying to get rid of through rap and it's not working.

Chris: He's not a musician. I don't like how he makes fun of gay people.

Andy: It's good that he grew up to become famous and all after growing up in that type of (dysfunctional) family, but now he's taken control of the fame in the wrong way.

- Compiled by staff writers Aline Mendelsohn and Pamela Davis

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